Thursday, January 29, 2004

And the Award Goes to...

Is it too early for this? Not when it's so good. This year's Honorary Nick Nolte Award for Best Hair and Makeup in a Mug Shot goes to... you got it... James Brown! (And speaking of smacking around women, some day I'll post my Ike Turner experience here for those who don't already know it.)

Okay, I was just ragging on McDonald's a post ago, and I found this guy online was ragging on them a few months ago, kind of about the same thing. Curious that their "I'm lovin' it" slogan works as an anagram for "ailing vomit." Seems appropriate. (I have to say, I find this guy's website hilarious, but it may offend my more sensitive friends, so beware. I have been accused of being on the crass side. Props to Greg for pointing it out - sickos unite!)

A Little Bit O' Poison, A Whole Lot of Stupid

Overindulgence is in, baby! It's the new black!

I have heard many stories lately of people overindulging in various things... food, drink, drugs, the usual trouble spots. The weekend after Thanksgiving in this town (LA LA Land, CA, US of A) displayed an awesome array of come-downs within its city limits, and I even had an incredible experience of a good one from out of state. The holiday season itself is always an extravaganza of eating, or else all those gym memberships wouldn't shoot through the roof the first week of January. And a friend of mine just told me a story about some co-workers of hers who are out of town on business, and racked up a $750 booze bill in one evening at the bar. There were only 6 people drinking. That averages to $125 worth of alcohol per person! Now, unless there was a $200 bottle of wine involved (which I doubt because they were at a sports bar), that's a hell of a lot of drinking. I can pack it away myself on a good night, but I can't even imagine drinking $125 worth of liquor in a sports bar and not winding up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

Which brings me to a documentary I keep hearing about, and am very much looking forward to seeing even though I bet it'll freak me out. It's a little something called "Super-Size Me" and it's all about our country and fast food. The guy who did it, Morgan Spurlock, was inspired by the court case involving two obese girls who went after McDonald's, blaming their food for making them fat. I don't know, I still think that the decision to eat one hamburger instead of four may have helped them out more, but Spurlock decided to go an entire month eating only McDonald's, and not to turn down the "Super Size Me!" option if it were offered. He also interviewed diet autors, weight reduction guys, and "obesity" surgeons, among other folks.

But, of course, the kicker of this flick is what happens to a healthy guy who switches to a diet of fast food. Within a week he's having chest pains and headaches, and three weeks into it his doctors tell him his life is in his own hands... evidently his liver is so fouled that even someone drinking $125 of booze every couple nights couldn't compete.

It's all over, and I guess that Spurlock is okay now. His girlfriend is a vegan chef and I bet she helped clean him up after his traumatizing experience, and he's been making the rounds at Sundance and all that. I've never been a big fan of the Mickey D's - love the fries and apple pies - but the idea of eating one of their hamburgers isn't super appealing. And even though they are touting their new "healthy" lines of veggie burgers and salads, I still don't think "I'm lovin' it."

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Yo No O.C.

So, what's up with "The OC?" I have loads of friends who love it... Is it the new BevNiner? (That'd be "Beverly Hills, 90210" to you non-East Bay All Stars. It's an Oakland thang.) I didn't get into "Beverly Hills, 90210" till the summer season which started the whole Brenda-Dylan-Kelly love triangle. Dishy! And now I work in Beverly Hills. I'm still waiting for my chance to clobber Shannen Doherty. I even still have my "I Hate Brenda" newsletter.

Anyway, it seems that the kids on "The OC" are into the indie rock. A bunch of the young stars were spotted at a recent Death Cab For Cutie gig, and the show is releasing a soundtrack featuring bands like Spoon, the Dandy Warhols, and the 88. And then my brother, Gooby, forwarded me this message from Insound which was encouraging the cordouroy pants & vintage t-shirt wearin' crowd to do some shopping (all grammatical/punctuation errors belong to the Insound guy, I ain't editing him!):

******************************************

So, maybe it's just me and maybe you all don't see what's going on here but every week I am completely enthralled and baffled by Seth Cohen's storyline in 'The O.C.' I mean, this kid is like knee-deep in tail. He's literally fighting off the hottest girl in school and some other totally adorable, but maybe a little clingy, punk rock girl who has definitely bought the new Belle & Sebastian DVD to impress him. Not that the show explicitly says that. But I think it's kind of implied. Anyway, my point is that the whole Ryan/Marissa love story is really the 'red herring' of 'The O.C.' and that the real story here is the triumph of the indie rock kid in the face of high school superficiality and materialism.

And so all this reminded me that real life isn't like this except for on Valentine's Day, which is coming up soon. On Valentines Day, the indie rock boys totally get rewarded for their mix tapes and their hack poetry and that's sort of why all you guys need to buy pretty much every new release below. Air. Notwist. Numbers. Stereolab. Seriously, you've got mix tapes to make. And really, how many times can you recycle the same Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes songs. Plus, I'm dreadfully afraid that because of 'The O.C.' that the jocks are onto us and then what happens if they start making mix tapes with like Death Cab and American Analog Set on them. See where I'm going with this? We must advance and evolve. Constantly coming up with new songs for the mix tapes. Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee. Look out prom queens. It's our time to shine. Our time.

****************************************
Somebody, please drop me a line and tell me what this "OC" is all about. Is it actually entertaining, or just worth it to hear a snippet of Phantom Planet (post Rushmore guy) on TV? Thanks.

Duran Strikes Back

Okay, this is what I get for ranting about Duran Duran. If I weren't going to Disneyland on Superbowl Sunday, I could watch them perform on TV. But YOU can instead! They are going to play at the Official Superbowl Tailgate Party before the game starts, and CBS is actually going to show some of the performance ON TV between 2:30 and 3pm. And then after that, you can watch huge men beat the crap out of each other, and hopefully some really funny commercials. (But not the winner of MoveOn.Org's Bush in 30 Seconds contest - a really great anti-Bush ad dreamed up by an average Joe and voted on by the public. The Superbowl doesn't do politics.)

Of course, that isn't the only thing the Pre-Fab Five are doing to get the world ready for their comeback. Besides the fact that they have been touring since last July, including a stint with Robbie Williams in the stadiums of Australia and Japan, they've got a dance track coming out soon. On the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" soundtrack (speaking of the Fab Five). I love Duran Duran, and I love those queer boys, but I don't even want to get into how wrong a career move I think that is. I don't know a single Duran fan who thinks that is gonna give them any cred, because they were almost on the path of getting some back when Roger Taylor returned to the fold.

My pal Scotty always referred to them as "white disco trash." Yes, and I loved it! Still do. I'll buy the damn soundtrack. To a TV show. Ugh. I'm such a junkie.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Sugar In The Road

Because I am having a very hectic weekend, but am determined to post something just about every darned day here on the "blog," (someday I'm going to have to rant about the inherent sexiness of the word blog),
I am going to give you all the opportunity to read (or re-read) an interview I got to do with one of my heroes, Kristin Hersh, back in September of 1999. My hair was purple and red at the time, but that didn't affect the interview too much.

Anyone reading in the LA area should know that the residency of 50 Foot Wave, Kristin's super-rockin' new band, comes to a close this Tuesday, January 27th at the Silverlake Lounge. Opening will be the Dick Slessig Combo,which features members of Acetone and the Radar Brothers.

Surf on!

*****************************************************

Rolling Stone has referred to her as the “Godmother of Alternative” while calling her former band, the Throwing Muses, “the Velvet Underground of the 90’s.” The 90’s? Kristin Hersh first picked up a guitar when she was nine, formed Throwing Muses with her step sister Tanya Donelly when she was fourteen and released their first album on the gauzy British label 4AD in 1986. They had a few influential releases out before the 90’s even hit…

The Throwing Muses were indeed one of the most influential bands of the 80’s and 90’s, becoming part of the foundation that college radio built itself upon. Kristin Hersh began her solo career by releasing Hips and Makers in 1994, an album of sparse and delicately painful songs that won her critical acclaim. 1998’s Strange Angels, another stripped down acoustic venture, was declared one of the 10 college albums of the year by Entertainment Weekly. That same year, she also put out Murder, Misery & Then Goodnight, a CD of Appalachian folk songs as interpreted by Kristin and her kids (who play piano and sing back up on a couple tracks). 1998 also was the year that the Throwing Muses officially declared that it was over: the band had seen the departure over the years of key members like Leslie Langston and Tanya Donnely to pursue other projects. While Tanya hit the alternative world running with her group Belly, Kristin continued to create melodically complex and lyrically intense music with the Muses and on her own. Her current release, Sky Motel, is a full band album with Kristin playing most of the instruments. “Well, I wasn’t playing, like, harps and bagpipes,” she laughed. “It’s all instruments I’ve always worked with.”
•••
Kristin: I’m an underground musician and this (KALX) is underground radio and we should celebrate that. I actually find that the worse Top 40 gets, the better the underground gets. When Nirvana was selling millions of records, it was tough… People thought, "I could be good- AND a millionaire! So, I’m gonna sell out just this little bit - oh, that didn’t work! I’m gonna sell out a little bit more! And, I’m just gonna suck now!" And they all sucked trying to be millionaires. What they don’t realize is that there are thousands and thousands of bands who suck and are not getting famous. It’s not a guarantee that you’re gonna do well. You might as well be good in the closet.

Mo: What would you do if suddenly a song of yours became a huge top-10 smash? How would you feel if suddenly that happened and you were being played right next to like, Ricky Martin? My friend and I joked about if your song was being "tap-danced" to at the start of the Grammy Awards… What would you do?

K: (cackling) I don’t think there’s much danger of that! People don’t realize the amount of ambition involved in that kind of success. There are people who will say, "I hate this! I didn’t ask for it!" But a lot of it has to do with your image and your outfit and the kind of song that you’re willing to write, the kind of production that you’re willing to have, what you’re willing to do to sell that, and just, the seed of ambition that I was not born with. A lot of people are extremely ambitious people - whether or not they have a reason to be and usually it’s the ones that don’t – it’s not the ones that are driven by music. But they’re still driven and they don’t really know what to do about that so they sell themselves and that’s exactly what you have to do. Even if I decided I was gonna do that - like for my kids or something - I would be so bad at it that it wouldn’t work.
•••
Image is something that does concern Kristin, but not in the way one might think. “It would be better if I could really stick by my theory that music is for blacks, whites, gays, straights, males, females, young and old alike and my fans tend to reflect that, but the fact that I’m a straight, white female, I think, probably gets in the way. My face is on the record cover, it’s in the press, and it’s hard for people to get passed saying, ‘Well, men write music about people and women write music about women. So, go girl! You know, do women now!’ And I don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing.”

One way that Kristin has tried to bypass the images the industry creates about her is by working with her husband and manager, Billy O’Connell, to create and maintain the Throwing Music website (www.throwingmusic.com). The site contains history, news, messages from Kristin and fans, discography and order information for hard to find import titles or internet only releases like Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight , and MP3 files. The site has even earned a nomination for Kristin as a “Pioneer Artist on the Internet.” Kristin enjoys the community that has developed around the website. “They just like each other and they keep it going and they buy tickets for each other and give each other rides and they meet up at shows. I’m starting to just kinda disappear from the website,” she laughed. “Which is cool. They’re gonna forget what I ever looked like and then I really don’t have to be ‘straight, white woman’.”

Kristin Hersh is someone who remains surrounded by community; whether it be her cyber fans or her family or her band. She was born on a commune with a hippie dad who played Neil Young, the Carter family, and Patti Smith on his guitar to her unsuspecting ears. His Tennessee mountain roots and folk songs led to the Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight collection of Appalachian traditionals. He also wrote songs, influencing Kristin to pick up a guitar and start a band with her sister. The Throwing Muses were an extremely young group of music enthusiasts… “Somebody said once that it sounded like we were all playing different songs at the same time,” Kristin remarked. “But we wanted to be fascinated every measure. And it made us a little, you know, not groovy - literally ‘not groovy’ - you can sit in a groove and let it become hypnotic and we didn’t really do that. We just kinda went ‘baaah!’ (she makes an explosive sound with a funny face) . I just thought it was a lot of melody.”

The Throwing Muses had a long and illustrious career spanning 12 years and they were critics’ darlings and college radio mainstays. The group stayed together in some form when Kristin began her solo work, but just couldn’t hold out. “I adored my band. I spent more than 10 years living on a bus with those people and every morning I would wake up excited to see them,” she recalled. “They opted off of the American tour (laughing) because we’re all in our thirties and touring is a very hard life. So, I don’t blame them, we’re all pals and everything. They kinda said, ‘Hmm, no, but we’re still friends. Come up with your own set now!’”

Much has been said or written about Kristin Hersh and her songwriting inspirations: family, mental illness, personal trauma… all these things have crept into her lyrics. She found songwriting an unnerving experience at times. “I just would hear songs as if someone was playing a Throwing Muses record in the next room. And that was way too kooky for me. I didn’t want to be a crazy person and it disturbed me so I blocked as many songs as I could. I just thought: ‘No, no, no - please, no more songs.’ And it
would make me sick. I could have seizures from it and I’ve since found out that there’s such a thing as musical epilepsy - where a seizure is associated with a piece of music. Some people have the same piece of music every time. For some people, it’s something they heard on the radio and for some people its music they’ve never heard before. So, I just hated it. It was awful and for two years after the band ended I wasn’t hearing songs and it was just wonderful. Other people would call that ‘writer’s block’, I just called it ‘real life’ and it was so lovely. I just thought, ‘Yay!’ Before this happened, I wanted to be a vet, you know… I was like a little 13 year old kid and, (in a play voice) ‘I’m gonna go be an animal doctor now! This is great!’ But I realized that I was still under contract and I couldn’t keep playing Appalachian folk songs forever… So, I thought, ‘Well, I’m just gonna invite them (songs) while I’ve got this guitar in my lap and I enjoy playing it like the way a runner enjoys running. I like the feel of it.’ So, I played chord progressions I enjoyed and hummed along and thought, ‘Well, Hell, that counts!’ and it actually did. They didn’t suck. They were the same songs I’d always written. I just wasn’t fighting them so they didn’t have to scream at me.”

The result of Kristin’s invitation was Sky Motel. A full fledged rock album with radio friendly pop songs, perhaps the next Throwing Muses album… if there were still a Throwing Muses. The strong melodies, anguished howls and clever phrases abound, mixed with crickets and thunderstorms as a result of her recent stay in the Mojave Desert. “Quiet makes you listen more than noise does,” she commented. The release is on 4AD, the label the Throwing Muses started with in 1986: “I’m the oldest person there - well, not the oldest, but I’ve been there longer than anybody but one guy. And yet their ethic is incredible, I mean, stupid! To care about music as a record company is not very bright, but what they do is wonderful. “

“I’m not offended by the idea of record companies like many artists are. I understand the ‘Sugar Daddy’ aspect of giving bands money to make records. You’re lucky to get the money to make a record. So what if you can’t live off it? On the other hand it would be nice if ‘working musician’ wasn’t a contradiction in terms. If you could actually be like someone’s plumber and say, ‘Alright, fixed your pipes, gimme 20 bucks’ and that’s what we do. You play music and they say ‘Alright, good music - here’s 20 bucks. Go home.’ And then you would actually have a home to go to.”
•••••
Kristin: My dream job is to be someone who can mail out songs and not have to put my name and my face on them and not have to tour - talking about them. Because I do months and months and months of promotional touring all over the world.

Mo: You just get tired of it?

K: Well, plus, I’m nobody! I mean, I’m not famous!

M: Oh, that is SO NOT TRUE! (Mo and K laugh)
•••••


Friday, January 23, 2004

Dean's Screams

I am actually a fan of Howard Dean's - he seems like a good enough guy. But I am a bigger fan of his because of this.

I suspect he'll have a sense of humor about it, and if you do too, check this out and have a listen. Fun stuff!

Thanks to my cool boss, Jeremy, for making me laugh all frikkin' day because of this...

Back in the Closet

Hmmm... another thing to do behind closed doors - especially because kids may be involved. Downloading music, that is! Now, I can't say that I do such things, working in the music publishing business (copyright, no less), but I will say that I'm all in favor of being able to hear something before you buy it. Why? There's a lot of crap out there! And sometimes something is a limited edition and you don't buy it in time, or it was only released overseas, or it's out of print... what about those times?

Anyway, here's some of the latest news on the subject. Lock up your daughters; the RIAA may be coming for them and all their babysitting money!
********************************************

From the Washington Post… Wednesday, January 21st:

The recording industry reignited its legal campaign against online piracy, filing four lawsuits that target 532 people accused of illegally swapping copyrighted music on the Internet. The Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) legal salvo is the first since a federal appeals court ruling last month restricted the group's ability to track down the identities of suspected file sharers.

"The message to illegal file sharers should be as clear as ever: we can and will continue to file lawsuits," said RIAA President Cary Sherman in a telephone conference with reporters today. The recording industry started taking action against people who trade music online after determining that Internet piracy was contributing to a dramatic drop in album sales. Compact disc sales fell from $943 million in 2000 to $803 million in 2002.

Despite the early success of legal services like Apple's iTunes and Wal-Mart's discounted music downloads, sharing illegally copied files for free remains a popular online pastime.

The lawsuits were filed after a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled on Dec. 19 that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not grant the RIAA special subpoena power to obtain the names of several Verizon Internet customers believed to be trading files online.

Ahead of that ruling, the RIAA used the subpoenas -- which it obtained without a judge's order -- to demand that several major Internet service providers reveal the identities of thousands of suspected file sharers. Information provided by some companies led to copyright infringement lawsuits against 382 people last year and 233 private settlements. The average settlement amount has been $3,000, even though copyright holders can seek as much as $150,000 per song.

The new lawsuits filed make good on the RIAA's promise last month to continue going after suspected music pirates despite a loss in the Verizon case. Unlike the lawsuits it filed last fall against individual Internet users, the RIAA filed a handful of "John Doe" lawsuits targeting 532 unique "Internet protocol" numbers of Internet customers believed to be sharing music online. The RIAA plans to subpoena respective Internet service providers to obtain the names of people using those IP numbers.

"People should not be confused. Some people think the Verizon case means that you can go ahead and get back on a service and trade files," said Mitch Glazier, the RIAA's senior vice president for government relations. "We're not going to just sit and do no enforcement while the courts are figuring out the Verizon case."

Greg Bildson, chief operating officer of LimeWire, a New York-based file-sharing company, said the John Doe lawsuits are preferable to the glut of subpoenas issued before the Verizon ruling."They're at least getting closer to being appropriate, but they're still abusing the music enthusiasts with these lawsuits, which in the long run can't be good for business," Bildson said.

LimeWire is among a handful of file-sharing services that have petitioned the RIAA and Congress to create a licensing program that would make copyrighted file sharing legal. Gigi Sohn, president of Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties group Public Knowledge, said that the RIAA sees "the handwriting on the wall."

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who opposes the legal campaign, said, "While the industry has every right to protect its intellectual property, lawsuits should not be the primary means by which they do so."

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the number of American Internet users who said they downloaded music online fell from 29 percent in the spring of 2003 (before the RIAA campaign began) to 14 percent in November and December. But that does not mean that the numbers are on the wane, said Eric Garland, chief executive of Big Champagne, an Atlanta-based company that tracks activity on the peer-to-peer networks that people use to trade files. “What a great finding from the Pew study is that downloading music has joined the ranks of social taboos," said Garland. "What it means is not that they're not doing these things, but they've wised up and they're not talking about doing these things."

The number of American households downloading digital music went up 14 percent between September and November 2003, according to a report released earlier this month by the NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y. The findings were based on NPD's MusicWatch service which monitors the computers of 40,000 online "panelists."

********************************************

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Always a Bridesmaid... Thank God!

This post is brought to you by my friends at So Says I and "Sex & the City."

I don't plan on getting married. I have plenty of fun as a single gal and have become far too selfish to get involved with anyone on that intimate a level. Don't get me wrong, I'm a really nice person, I just don't want to compromise with a "partner" anymore. I've always traveled alone because I don't want to bother with someone else's itinerary... I don't even like shopping with other people. So just imagine what a joy I would be to live with (and I'm a neat freak too).

A LOT of my friends are married, though, and having kids and everything. That's what you're supposed to be doing when you're in your thirties, right? Well, I don't want to. And there are plenty of other ladies who are just going ahead with their lives and not waiting for their frog prince to come. 57% of us own our own homes! (I am not one of them, though.)

I'm gonna be the old lady on the corner, cats swarming around my ankles, yelling at the neighborhood kids: "Get off my lawn!" Alright.

I'm going to another wedding this weekend. Good times, good times. I need a new dress, though, and new shoes. I literally have no nice clothing left for a wedding of this caliber. Then there's buying the present. Ugh! I love my friends, but if I start to look back on all the weddings and wedding showers and babies and baby showers, I've racked up quite a lot on gifts. And since I don't plan on having kids or getting married myself, it seems that I'm missing out on the presents! Man! The single gal gets screwed again. Ahem.

Which brings me back to So Says I and "Sex & the City." Check out this entry for Wednesday, January 21st. And the particular "Sex" episode I'm thinking of deals with exactly this issue. Carrie - having had a $400 pair of shoes stolen at a shower after she was forced to take them off - "registers" for a new pair via a marriage to herself. So I'm trying to figure out what I can do in the future in order to collect all sorts of goodies from my loving pals in exchange for doing something society considers momentous. When I buy a house, maybe? Thing is, I've lived on my own for a really long time and I don't really need much for the home. Damn!

Well, don't worry. I'll think of something.

G'Day LA!

It's Australia week here in LA. This is the first time that Australia has had an official "week" here in the US, and they are trying to promote their sophisticated selves to us Angelenos. They had a family BBQ, wine tasting (they've got good wine in Oz, my friends), an aboriginal art exhibit, and a film festival. They also had a game of Aussie Rules. If you don't already know what that is, just take the most violent parts of football and rugby, take away any protective gear, and make sure the large men playing can only grunt as a form of communication. And that they won't notice when they break a limb till after the game. That's more or less Aussie Rules.

I was lucky enough to get to go to Australia a couple years ago, and it was a wonderful, wonderful place. I only traveled a bit on the East Coast (Sydney & Melbourne and a spot here or there near those cities), but I think about it all the time. It was an easy trip. It was just like California. The country is about as old as this state, they speak English but there are a lot of immigrants (and the culture that comes along with them), there's a big gay community, the beaches are beautiful, the food is great, and the people like to party. And everyone is ridiculously friendly.

Of course, there are more things per square inch that can kill you in extremely nasty ways in Australia than anywhere else in the world too. And really bizarre wildlife. And desert for eons... just waiting for you to get lost in it. Australia is truly a fascinating place - filled with creatures that don't exist anywhere else. Of course, there are the kangaroos and wombats, the bandicoots and bilbies, echidnas and cassowaries... but the most amazing thing, if you want to travel to the west coast for it, is a living colony of stromatolites. You may have no idea what I'm talking about, but my dad is probably wetting his pants about now. Stromatolites are lichenlike formations that perfectly replicate what our little ole earth was like back in the day... waaaaaay back in the day, before anything slithered or breathed. They are sort of like living rocks. They gave rise to life on earth. Some of the oldest fossil formations in the world are fossils of these things. And they still LIVE in Shark Bay in Australia. (My dad is a science guy - this is why he may care about this more than anyone who may be reading.)

I went to Australia mainly because I liked a bunch of bands from there. And I never met an Australian I didn't like. One of my favorite bands ever, You Am I, had just played when I got there and I missed it. Damn! If you aren't familiar with You Am I (who are HUGE in Australia; friggin heroes, I tell ya) they started out kinda grungy in the early 90's and went the power pop route, and their love for the Rolling Stones (always evident in Tim Roger's lyrics) has presented itself in more rootsy rock offerings of late. I love them. They've been to California twice that I know of, and I got to go once. Tim Rogers grabbed me out of the crowd for a waltz - I guess he does that every show - it was just too bad I'd been in a slight car accident the night before and couldn't move my neck very well. But I still waltzed, baby!

The Australian film festival featured a movie called "Dirty Deeds," for which Tim Rogers did all the music and You Am I even appeared in the film as a sort of psychedelic bar band. I know, because I have the video. I found it for a dollar at a random store up the street. It came out in Oz in 2002 - I never thought it was gonna get released here. It was the "invitation only" screening for the film festival though - heh heh.

I think Australia is a bit of a forgotten country, so I hope that Australia week does a little for 'em. I mean, did you know that in 1967, they lost a prime minister? He went for a swim and never came back. I know that having all those cheap Australian wines at Trader Joe's helps for a little recognition, and the recent proliferation of big name actors coming out from down under is pretty amazing too (Nicole, Naomi, Heath & Russell - my favorite).

But how about those bands? How many bands do you know that are from Australia? Besides AC/DC? Well, I hope you know some. In the 80's we had Inxs, Hoodoo Gurus, and Midnight Oil.... Fans of the Oils were so into them that they once swam shark infested waters to crash a show being held on an island. But pretty much all waters in Australia are shark infested, so maybe that really wasn't a big deal to them. There's also Nick Cave, the Celibate Rifles, Regurgitator, the Church, the Earthmen, the Clouds, the Saints, Blue Ruin, Ben Lee, and Ed Kuepper. TOFOG - Twenty Odd Foot of Grunts. Russell Crowe's band. A bar band, basically, except with Russell Crowe singing and playing guitar. Someday, I'll tell you all about how I got to DJ at his gig in San Francisco. Guess what? He was an asshole.

Oh yea, and Kylie Minogue.

So music these days? My recommendations would be You Am I, the Vines (I think they're like the Kinks, and so cute!), and the Dirty Three (always beautiful). And I'm sure there's more that I just haven't heard yet.

And the other great thing is that Australian radio actually plays all this stuff.

Ah, I'll make it back there one of these days. Have some tasty seafood, swim far away from the shark nets, and go see some music. And maybe dance with Tim Rogers again. Without whiplash. Sigh...

Monday, January 19, 2004

Life Lessons Learned From the Give Up Club

That is the topic assigned to me by my pal Kevin. Last night, we were at the Bigfoot Lodge here in Los Feliz, which is a bar that uses the Disney Country Bear Jamboree theme throughout as decor. There is, sadly, only one animatronic creature in the place; a badger popping out of a tree trunk. There are stuffed dead things on the walls and plastic wildlife (some of it lifesize, even the Smokey the Bear) on the ground for drunk hip kids to pet, if they feel like it.

The DJ night was presented by the kids in the Jealous Sound and Postal Service, and the evening was called the "Give Up" club. I think the email said something about "beautiful music to make you cry." The music was all sad, slow, pretty and somewhat reflective. Stuff like My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500, Velvet Underground & even a lovely dose of Neil Young ("Helpless" almost made my friend and I weep). The only other time I've ever heard Dead Can Dance in a drinking establishment, there were people in leather corsets and fishnets also flailing about.

I guess it may sound like a bummer of an evening, but it wasn't. People were having a good time: talking, drinking, singing along... Supposedly, Luke Wilson was there making out with some girl at the bar, but I didn't see him. Isn't that always the way?

I asked Kevin what I should write about in the oh-so-sexy blog, and he says (after some thought): "Life lessons learned from the Give Up Club." I think for me to have picked up a life lesson, something more important should have happened while I was there. BUT, I can say that making me think about that made me think about some other things too.

At this time last year, I was convinced that I was going to die. I had been having some very serious health problems and was going through some major life stuff at the same time. Not fun. There were far too many doctors involved for it to be fun. I was also very heartbroken, which wasn't being helped by the health and lack of employment issues. I couldn't listen to music. Not at all. And for me, that's pretty bad. I felt like every song hit too close, or was full of lies, or meant too much, or was too pretty or too sad to be heard. Music itself actually hurt my insides. (At this time, I watched a hell of a lot of E! - nothing more mindnumbing than that, I think!)

But time went by, my friends kept telling me nice things, and eventually, it got better. I got really into Iron & Wine's The Creek Drank the Cradle. I got to hear some new Actionslacks tunes, and the first time I heard "Close to Tears," a wonderfully beautiful & uplifting song, I actually sat on my bathroom floor and cried for like, 15 minutes. I felt like Tim was telling me to get off my ass and get over it already (which he's thankfully done before, but that wasn't really the case this time).

And then one day, I was driving up to a friend's house in the Hollywood Hills listening to a compilation I had just made for myself. It was a beautiful day in March, and my sunroof was open, and Big Star's "Watch the Sunrise" came on. The guitar was sparkling, the air was crisp and fresh, the sky clear... it was one of those magical moments you have with a song that you know you'll never forget as long as you live. And I crossed whatever bridge I needed to cross while that song was playing, and I knew it really was gonna be okay.

I guess my Life Lesson Learned from the Give Up Club was just a reinforcement of the power of a song. When my friend heard "Helpless," I think he went back in time to a high school memory, and I know when I heard "Ceremony" I went somewhere else too. A certain song, or a smell, can suddenly whip you back to a place and time in your life - whether or not you want to be there. Last night was okay though, cuz we wanted to be there.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Lipstick & Rouge

"I love him, I worship him. I masturbate to Duran Duran videos." (Andy Warhol, responding to a reporter on Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.)

Quoting Mr. Warhol two days in a row... Well, I found some good quotes. And this one couldn't be passed up.

I am a Durannie, and proud of it. There are still lots of us out there, and we wear our hearts on our shoulder padded sleeves. Well, the shoulder pads may have gone with the decade, but our love for the boys did not. I still wear the occasional Duran Duran pin to work, if I'm feeling frivolous. I have not one, not two, but five Duran Duran t-shirts, although my John Taylor-esque fedora is long gone. Only just today I picked up a greeting card with a sexy pic of Jane Fonda from the film "Barbarella" plastered on it's face, and this quote on the back: "Barbarella, your mission: Find Duran Duran and use all of your incomparable talents to preserve the security of the stars..."

I've seen Duran Duran live 8 times, and three times with the original lineup. The first time was when they were touring for Rio, again for Seven & the Ragged Tiger, and lastly this past July. They played six days after my birthday. I didn't get to see them play at the Roxy in July, which was their first club date in like, twenty years, but I waited outside the place for tix to go on sale for 6 or 7 hours. And it was 80 degrees or so, with the sunlight bouncing off the asphalt burning everyone in sight. I saw them in an ampitheatre from the 30th row, and danced my ass off for a couple hours. It was rad. They sounded... right.

I was 13 when I fell in love with Duran Duran a couple decades ago... John was my guy. There were three of us girls at St. John's who loved them madly, and we each had a favorite - I loved John, Angie loved Simon, and Maria loved Nick. We made nicknames for ourself based on their names: Tay, Bon and Rho. Dorky, I know, but who cares? We were young and obsessed. We even wanted to start a band and call it Bontayrho. That has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

My bedroom was plastered - floor to ceiling - with posters and articles and snippets of info about Duran Duran. I think that's where all my babysitting money went. My poor high school sweetheart... years and years of having all those mascara'd eyes staring down at us when we would just try to make out. (Don't worry, I got mine a few years into it when he got really into the Dead Kennedys and hung the Penis Landscape poster which came with an album up on his bedroom wall. Ick.) I bought the music too, because - believe it or not - I loved the music first. So I got the import singles of everything I could get my hands on, and the Japanese versions, and the remixes (which in those days were actually different recordings instead of just elongated versions, although that came along shortly). I only just got the last missing piece of my collection a couple years ago in a record shop in London: the UK single of "Rio" with "Blue Silver," the acoustic version of "The Chauffeur," on the B-side. I think I may have squealed loudly when I saw it.

I credit my obsession with Duran Duran for my obsession with music in general. I would listen to the songs so closely in order to pick out each instrument and learn all the words. The first time that Simon & Nick hosted MTV for an hour, I taped it and discovered new music I wasn't familiar with yet since I didn't hear it on my radio, like Japan and Kate Bush. And I blame John Taylor for the fact that I seem to keep getting involved with guitar players, but I'm working on that.

I even got to tell John Taylor that when I met him a year ago. That was after I had finished hyperventilating, of course. (I know someone who goes to AA at his house out in Santa Monica, but I'm not quite ready to fully realize my stalker tendencies just yet.) He was actually very sweet to me, and I got to talk to him about the reunion of the band before they played that show in July, and about the stuff they were recording and all that. And he said that if I were truly a fan, I'd be dating bassists and not guitar players. Heh heh.

When the boys came to the US for the first time, the publicity manager at Capitol records asked them what they wanted to do. Nick Rhodes responded, "Go up the Empire State Building and meet Andy Warhol." She called the next morning and said they were going to the Empire State Building, and then Andy's studio. The publicist, Doreen D'Angelo, said, "I rang Andy up at Interview magazine and said, 'There's this English band that wants to meet you.' I might have mentioned one was into lipstick. Nick & Roger came, and Andy asked Nick if he shared his girlfriend's lipstick. After that, Nick and Andy became friends. You'd see them in the DJ booth together at Studio 54."

And I guess Andy really, really liked Nick a lot.



Friday, January 16, 2004

Social Diseases

"I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs." - Andy Warhol.

Well, my cats are getting sick of me, so I'm heading out. This evening, the entertainment would be some good ole honky tonk with Mr. Mike Stinson. You may not know him, but you might know some of his songs, as Dwight Yoakam has had some success with them lately. Sometimes famous people show up at his gigs, so maybe I can dork out and do a little celebrity spotting. And damnit, I didn't wash my hair!

It seems I have some addendums to some of my previous posts.

There has been further development in the Elliott Smith saga, sort of. The mysterious girlfriend, who pulled out the knife, reappeared - to MTV. She had some things to say on behalf of the family, only the family didn't ask her to say anything. Of course, Elliott's legend will continue to grow, as will his musical influence, hopefully.

A couple cool radio stations which are truly independent and filled with character: KEXP, Seattle. Formerly KCMU, the University of Washington's station, till they linked up with the Experience Music Project and continue to provide creative and hip programming to their community. And my old KALX pal Poptart DJs there on Friday nights. Hi Poptart! She rules; check her out.

And if you like the country music, AND western, and more sorta rootsy kinda stuff, I cannot reccomend highly enough a little station located in Freedom, California called The Pig. It's 2,850 watts of down home goodness and independent - yet commercial - programming that allows the DJs to more or less choose the music themselves, KPIG is a refreshing and always interesting change of pace. And hey, they are usually ranked #1 in their market of 25-54 year olds. Where is Freedom? Well, it's out by Santa Cruz and San Jose, so hitting #1 with that small of a signal says alot.

And how in the HELL could I have forgotten one of the most wonderful stations ever, especially in the wee morning hours? KPOO in San Francisco, the only African American owned and operated non-commercial radio station west of the Mississippi, mixing up the soul and blues and hip hop and reggae and loads of other cool things. A total gem. We honkys can learn from them.

Speakin' of rootsy stuff... I have to thank my pal Kerry for this one. There's this guy here in LA who likes to tell us all what to with our bad selves, and sometimes he gets a hold of some interesting shit. Check out the entry for January 5th, cuz it's hilarious. It's Jim Derogatis vs. Ryan Adams . A critic for the Chicago Sun Times writes about how Ryan Adams is a diva, and a actual voicemail message Mr. Adams left for Jim telling him where to stick it. Why do I never tire of this?

I was also told, following my bachelor party rant (see the entry from January 11th for that), that I was supposed to have actually been invited to one of those early parties that passed me by! I was living in the Bay Area at the time, and I'm going to guess there was just a slipup, because I learned there were indeed CHICKS at this party, and they weren't paid to be there and be naked! Ah, I feel much better.

And last but not least, let's all have a little peace and love this long weekend. It's been a lovely, consistent 72 degrees here in So Cal. I plan to sleep, as well as babble on the blog...

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Nostalgia Kills?

Here it is, the "Indie 103.1" rant... and who would of guessed that my home town would be responsible for the next big shift in radio? I moved away from San Diego because there was no music there! Sigh.

What the hell am I talking about? Anyone reading this in LA already knows: Indie 103. It's a new station that just started up around the holidays and everyone has an opinion. I've listened to it mainly because they don't have DJs yet, and they haven't played any commercials for the last couple weeks, and I'm intrigued by it, and I've done a little research...

103.1 has long been a hot spot, or rather, cold spot on the LA radio dial. About 12 years ago, it was the brief home of MARS FM, a techno dance station started by the Swedish Eagle from KROQ - LA's almighty, groundbreaking alternative station. He wanted to get in on the start of something new... the rave scene. The underground hits were all there - but nobody cared. Hey, unless it was 4am and you'd had the right drugs, that music wasn't really gonna do anybody any good. Don't get me wrong - I was a raver kid - and MARS FM is the only radio station that actually made me want to work out. But it was a bit ahead of it's time.

So most recently, 103.1 has been the current version of that - a dance music station with a unfortunately small playlist, making it very repetitive. It was still a shock to listeners, though, to wake up on the morning of December 21st to no DJs and Christmas music. It did this till Christmas night, when it started playing "alternative." But cool alternative: lots of the Pixies, X, Nirvana... and also the Postal Service, Polyphonic Spree, Bright Eyes, Interpol... Very interesting.

I grew up in San Diego (Encinitas, to be exact) and in 1983, 91X hit the airwaves. It changed my life. Actually, the English Beat's Just Can't Stop It and Berlin's Pleasure Victim changed my life. Then came Duran Duran - but you don't even wanna get me started on that. When I look back on my radio youth, I like to think that I learned much about music from them. I heard a mix of rock (like Led Zeppelin, the Who and the Beatles) with weird ass new wave stuff (your B52s, Devo, Sparks, Talking Heads) and the punk that scared the parents (X, Dead Kennedys, Toy Dolls) and newer rock (Tom Petty) and ska (Specials, Untouchables, Selecter), and don't forget the goth (Cure, Siouxsie). Pretty much a grab bag o' fun. It was wonderful.

I moved away in 1987 to San Francisco, which had just started Live 105, an alternative station which was more dancy than I was used to (Erasure, New Order) but worked out okay. I swore by 91X, and then in the mid 90's, it was sold. And sold again... eventually to the evil Clear Channel, who ditched a bunch of the DJs and program director, Mike Halloran. Halloran moved on to another station (the Flash, I think), which was sort of a 80's station, and started reworking that too. Then it was sold and flipped to soul or something. Eventually, Halloran turned up at FM 94.9, and created a format that is staring to ripple down through the world of radio.

It's called "Classic Alternative," and it's industry nickname is actually "the San Diego format." Basically, it's the music I grew up with, tossing in compatible new stuff. So they're gonna play Interpol since it has such a heavy 80's influence, or Hot Hot Heat cuz they sound like Gang of Four. It'll be the music alternative kids thought was cool and didn't get to hear so much anymore... Soundgarden, the Pixies (never in my life have I heard the Pixies in such heavy rotation, not even at college radio "back in the day"), even Temple of the Dog, mixed in with the Specials and the Cure and the B52s and lots and lots of X.

It's pretty much the same thing that has happened to every generation of music. When I was a kid, I remember my dad listening to the "oldies" station - you know, the Archies and the Beach Boys and Elvis and that fun 50's & 60 fluff. In the mid-80's, the "classic rock" stations arrived... Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple. Now it's my turn; the nostalgia is here.

I am resisting change, but it's happening all around me. When San Diego's 94.9 started this format change just a year ago (I actually applied for a job there during a bout of unemployment - my sister called to tell me that they were asking for DJs over the air), they were rated at #18 in the market of 18-34 year olds. Now they are #5. They've beaten 91X, and 91X ain't happy about it.

And other stations are swapping too. Up in Seattle, not one, but TWO stations are changing to this format. The End had started out like 91X, except in 1991, and they stole Marco - the host of 91X's local and underground band show Loudspeaker - to do it. But then they also went the skater route... in creeped the screamo stuff and away went the adults with the cash to spend. So in December, the End (and also Seattle's "The Point," now "K Rock," along with Atlanta's 99X) all flipped to the classic alternative format.

This format is causing a stir mainly because of it's demographics: the 18-34 year olds spend, and the stations can buy time from liquor and beer companies if they can prove that 70 percent of their market is over 21. And the liquor and beer people bring a lot of cash to radio stations.

San Diego's 94.9 has prided itself on it's independent status - not just for its unique programming format, but also because it is independently owned. The interesting thing about "Indie 103" is that it's basically a Clear Channel station, and they already own the maximum number of stations allowed in Los Angeles. They are actually leasing the signal from Entravision, a huge Spanish language broadcasting company. And they swear they have nothing to do with the programming, but the new Program Director for Indie 103.1, Michael Steele, comes from Clear Channel owned KIIS FM, LA's pop (Britney, Christina & Justin!) station. Leave it to Clear Channel to find a way around the already decimated/deregulated radio field... In the border states, radio station buyers can get around the minimum requirements by buying a station based in another country. Ask 91X - XETR, Tijuana, Mexico.

Last night, I went to DJ at the Burgundy Room in Hollywood. I've DJed out in the clubs for a couple years now, and DJed at KALX, a college and community station, for 10 years. The bar stuff was always guilty pleasure music - tunes I wouldn't really play on the radio, because the radio is where we tried to learn. Find the new music! Rediscover the old! Really, I didn't suck. So, last night, when I started to pull my records, I just kept thinking, "No, they're playing this on that damn Indie 103 station. I don't want to sound like that." My set had been rendered partially obsolete. Instead, out came the real indie rock and real garage rock (like the 60's kind the kids are imitating) and some crusty country music, and punk too foul to make their playlist.

So I don't hate Indie 103, but I don't care too much for it either. And I suspect it'll go downhill once the DJs come in since new stations usually do. It's not that I don't understand what they are doing, and why so many of my friends love it, I just don't want it to ruin "my" music. The Pixies (who are going to be at Coachella in some form this year) are one of my favorite bands in the whole world, and now that they are being played hourly on this station, will they get tiresome? Did my stoner older cousins get bummed out in the early 80's when you could hear Pink Floyd all over the place? Will my stoner buddies get bummed out because Radiohead is getting miles of airplay? And I have a problem with the word "Indie" for this station - because very little of what they actually play is on an independent label, which is where (and why!) that term developed anyway.

There's not a lot of great radio in LA, so I'll take what I can get. The world renowned public station, KCRW, is a bit vanilla for me. I appreciate that they break new artists and provide an alternative outlet, but their choices just seem pretty safe. Not that I'm into anything really scary, but what if I was? And I like KXLU, the Loyola station, but its hours and reception are limited. And I can surf the net while at work and find all kinds of stations all over the damn place (I'm currently really enjoying Cincinnati's WOXY - a true, true alternative commercial station, in my opinion). Let me know if you know of any other good stations. Finding the good music always means searching, I think. For now, "Indie 103" seems to just be comfort food for my ilk. I don't wanna give up and get old just yet!

And, let's be honest, I'm just a bit of a snob. Tee hee.



Rantings of an Annoyed Shopgirl

I am currently not a shopgirl, but I was for quite some time. One particularly bad retail day, I wrote the following rant for myself, and since I have only just gotten home after an emergency DJ shift at the lovely Burgundy Room in Hollywood, I'm too tired to do a new piece for y'all. So anyone who has ever worked any sort of customer service job - this one's for you.

*************************

If I were to be elected President of the United States, I would institute a law that would make it mandatory for every citizen of our fair capitalist nation to work, for at least one year, at a customer service job. Retail, food, information, gift wrapping, whatever. Everyone should do it. I guarantee that had Bush done this while he was babbling about points of light, we may actually have seen a kinder and gentler nation.
Perhaps you think I’m kidding. Well then, you obviously have never worked a customer service job. These types of jobs are necessary and tedious, mildly entertaining and extremely convenient for the consumer.

Have you ever waited a bit too long for a refill of coffee because there was only one waitress serving the entire room? Wanted to try on shoes only to wait 20 minutes for a salesperson to appear? Tried to lodge a complaint against your landlord but there was only one person handling the desk and thousands of complaints to be filed… oops – that’s just Oakland politics. Anyway, many have experienced the frustration of people leaving these types of jobs. And why should they stay? Customer service jobs suck.

If you are the kind of person that would get angry in any of the scenarios described above; you have most likely never worked in a job serving the public. Because if you had, you would understand the strain those few workers are under. Having worked back and forth in the retail world for more than half of my life, I think I’ve seen quite a bit. There’s the regular stuff like customers treating you like you haven’t a thought in your head, to the more exotic - like having a guy slap his dick onto the counter. Needless to say, the establishment I worked at did not take Penis as payment.

First of all, THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. They usually do not know the policies of the store (because they haven’t read the information on a plaque on the wall next to them). They think their platinum card places them above such pedestrian things. Just because they had to reach two feet above their head for a handblown glass vase, which broke when they failed to grasp it, doesn’t make it their responsibility to pay for the item, does it? I mean, the shop put it up so high… And if you ask to look at “that,” it would help if you actually told us what “that” was. A blanket? A stereo? Your lack of common sense?

I am amazed when I see men order 110 LB girls to carry a couch to the SUV. I have witnessed professors screaming at counter help to “WRAP FASTER,” as if intimidation is actually key to the whole process. And I have seen women buy a $2 item and then ask for boxes, ribbons and bags to go along with it, complimentary of course. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask, but no need to get pissy if we say no. And please, most of us girls aren’t really there for you lonely guy types to ask out. Sorry to be harsh, but we’re required to be nice to you.

Try to imagine what it is like to spend 8 hours a day on your feet with people treating you like an idiot. Then remember that you need those people behind the counter as much as they most likely need that job, so be kind. The girl showing you earrings could be your brain surgeon ten years from now, and you might be purchasing that waiter’s best selling novel - the one he’s writing while paying his rent by mixing your salad - as a Christmas present in 2005.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Oh Happy Dagger...

I live in a part of LA just east of Hollywood called Silverlake. Up Sunset, walking distance from my place (I'm not so acclimated to LA that I have stopped walking places), is a shop called Solutions that rents and repairs stereo equipment, amps, and various other stuff that allows you to make noise. I got some speakers and a PA from the nice former Berkeleyites that run the place to lug up to a wedding I DJed back in September.

There is a swoopy red and black (or maybe it's navy) painting on their front wall that faces Sunset. It's not terribly spectacular as a piece of artwork, but it was transformed when Elliott Smith leaned in front of it and used it as the cover of his album, Figure 8. And after Smith's death on October 21, 2003, it was transformed again. Now that whole wall and sidewalk are a candlelit tribute and memorial to Smith, our lost troubador.

Elliott Smith's death was, at the time, deemed suicide. There was a suicide note and he died from what appeared to be two stab wounds in the chest. The talk around town was that he stabbed himself in the heart; not an easy thing to do.

I found out that same day... I used to work at a record store in town, and Elliott's sister worked there too and was called to the hospital from the shop. So the news spread quickly, yet was still kept under wraps. The next day when it officially broke, it was like a whole community gasped for air. We'd been holding our breath, keeping it in, and suddenly we could all say what we were thinking. Why? Wasn't he doing better? I don't know, he'd looked awful the last time I saw him... I'd heard he'd been clean for a while. Didn't he have a new record in the can? Everywhere I walked that day, it seemed Elliott Smith was on every turntable. (My brother happened to be in the Haight Ashbury the day Jerry Garcia died, and he had a similar experience. Except much more patchouli & sweat scented.)

The autopsy report came back not too long ago, and has cast doubts on the suicide ruling. Apparently, there were no "hesitation" wounds, something common to those who injure themselves. He had small cuts on his arm which could be considered defensive wounds, had taken his medication and had no illegal substances in his body. The only "witness" to the event was his live-in girlfriend who found him with the knife sticking out of his chest after she had emerged from the bathroom, where she'd locked herself in after an argument. When the cops came, she pointed out the suicide note on a Post-it, said he was into self mutilation and that she had pulled the knife out herself.

The police say the death is very suspicious. Elliott Smith was cremated. The rumor mill says his girlfriend has bolted to Canada, and won't come back.

We'll probably never know what happened. But I did hear a story, one that has made the rounds of this country told by Greg Dulli during his Twilight Singers tour. Greg and Elliott met during their Afghan Whigs and Heatmiser (respectively) days, but really became friends while Greg was tending bar at his place in Echo Park, the Short Stop. Elliott would come in at the end of the night and hang with Greg while he was closing up, and they'd chat. One night they got to talking about Shakespeare, and Elliott revealed that his favorite was Romeo & Juliet. He then acted out the lovers' suicide scene, which ends up with Juliet stabbing herself in the heart after finding her lover dead. "Oh happy dagger, find thy mark..."

Greg would dedicate "Martin Eden" to Elliott after that. It opens with, "Black out the windows, it's partytime... You know how I love stormy weather, so let's all play suicide..." He didn't tell that whole story in LA, and I think it's just as well. I know some people probably would have been very emotional about it. I greatly appreciate Elliot's music, but wouldn't consider myself an uberfan or anything. I'm glad that he was able to make it, I was able to hear it, and people were able to love it. I'm sad that his life ended in such a harsh way, self-inflicted or not, because I unfortunately know personally what it is like to have someone taken away from you unexpectedly, violently, like that. And I hope he's free of his demons now. And I also hope that the mural up the street, covered in messages, lyrics and drawings, ground strewn with flowers and candles, stays that way for a long time.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Riding the Wave

On Tuesday night, I'm going to voluntarily have my ears blown out. And I'm gonna pay $10 to do it, too.

Kristin Hersh has a new band, and it rocks. It's called 50 Foot Wave, and it grew from the ashes of the Throwing Muses, who released their final album last year. The talk about the last TM record was that it was recorded over the course of three weekends, with fire and energy a plenty! It's a speedy, loud, melodic crunch of an album, with the biting lyrics typical of Hersh and the sweet harmonies that she & her stepsister Tanya supply... But when it was over, Kristin didn't want to stop. However, Tanya Donnelly has daughter Gracie and a solo career to tend to, while Dave Narcizo also found that he wanted to spend more time on other interests a little closer to home.

Kristin has made some beautiful solo albums, but she has acknowledged that a solo record isn't the same as a band, And from a woman with an incredibly strong sense of family (her husband Billy also acts as her manager, while the kids and dog are always touring together), one can imagine the loss of the band. Anyone who has ever been in a band, or knows the dynamics of one, also knows that bands are like marriages - and the breakup of one can be as devastating as a divorce.

So while all the Muses remain friends (Tanya & Kristin & David started playing together while still in high school), Kristin and Bernard Georges - the bass player for the latter half of the Muses existence - grabbed a new drummer, went to California and started a new band. So welcome to Rob Ahlers, and hellllloooooo 50 Foot Wave!

Luckily for me, the band is doing a residency at a space near my home. Every Tuesday this month, Kristin and Co. will be playing at the Silverlake Lounge in LA. Last week, the venue was packed with displaced Bostonian musicians all catching up and rocking out. The band was tight, the music fast and loud. It was almost surfy speedmetal. Wha'? A mother of 4 screeching with a guitar, growling to the mic, eyes staring out to nowhere in particular? Yea, and the first time I saw 50 Foot Wave, one of her sons - maybe 7 years old or so - was doing his best pogo type thrashing in front of the drum kit. You go, boy! This time around, the band goes on around 10pm and gets off by 11, no kids in tow. They're probably at home with their favorite babysitter, Bob Mould, except I think he's touring. I'm not kidding; Bob Mould babysits for them. Last spring Kristin even told me that she was starting to think that he kept offering to babysit so he wouldn't have to see her perform.

Honestly, I saw the Muses a bunch of times, and Kristin as many times as possible. And I've never seen her like this. She is only a couple years older than me, and still a total inspiration. Middle age just ain't what it used to be, so check her out if you're in LA. If not, you know she'll be coming to a town near you soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Jumping Someone Else's Train

So last night I crashed my friend's bachelor party.

You may think I'm kinda crazy, a nice and fairly attractive lady like me wanting to throw myself into a scenario consisting of rowdy, overly hormonal drunk men and strippers and lord knows what else, but these are my friends. My second family, if you will.

I grew up with a posse of boys. A whole mess of creative, nutty, intelligent goofy boys. Like 15 of them or so. Most with one syllable names... I wasn't a tomboy, though. I sort of look at each of us as a part of a whole, and we each have something to contribute to the whole, and we each had a very important part of bringing each other up. So I guess there had to be a token girl, right?

We had (and continue to have) all sorts of adventures. Nothing terribly evil (well, I guess there were a few arrests). There are more great stories in our history than I could ever write down in my lifetime, cause they just keep piling up. We've gone through high school dramas, family traumas, drunken all nighters, weddings and births, car accidents, costume parties (lots of those), mischief and mayhem, everything.

We used to talk about our futures, and marriage would inevitably come up. I would say, "When you guys get married, you HAVE to invite me to your bachelor parties or I'll kick your ass!" And they would say, "Hell yea! You're totally going to be there, Mo!

Has that been the case? Ummmm... no. Most of my boys are married now, and was I invited to a single bachelor party? No, not even to say, "Aw, thanks, but I don't think so." And, well, I'm just a little bitter about it.

They all know it, at least, because everytime one of them gets married I bitch about how I was not invited to the bachelor party. It's just dumb - I doubt I would see or hear anything I haven't already experienced with these guys before. I've watched porn with them, gone to strip clubs with them, seen them write their names on the sand (if you know what I mean) and watched them run around naked. We are quite a politically incorrect crowd, so I've heard all kinds of nasty, horrifying and hilarious discussions over things that may burn some ladies' ears. So unless they want to get together and do a big circle jerk at these shindigs, I don't know what would make this get together all that different from the others.

But my tits make a difference here, evidently. Despite being a shoulder to cry on, the friend to drive you home when you're too wasted, the one to make you laugh when you got dumped (and we've all done that), my chromosomes dictate that I cannot attend what is supposed to be the best party of this bachelor's life. Which I've heard it usually isn't, because I get all the details about these parties afterwards anyway, and see the pictures, too.

Now, my crew is big on tradition, and I respect that. Of course, most of these traditions are our own. As individual tribes develop their own modes of existence out in the wild, so did we in suburbia. So I really, really thought they'd buck this particular tradition and invite me to the damn parties.

And I even asked the bachelor in question why I wasn't invited. "Silly Mo, you know that girls
aren't allowed at bachelor parties (there's no basement in the alamo!)."

Well, this time, I just got all the details. Since I knew where the boys were going to be during the evening, I decided I was gonna crash the damn thing. I knew they were having dinner at a steakhouse first, then possibly heading somewhere for drinks, and ending the night at a strip place just stumbling distance from my apartment. One of those strip bars where tattoed ladies twist to Iggy Pop and have piercings. A place I'd been to before (I'm not a stranger to strip bars, as I've mentioned earlier. Hell, I've had a lap dance... but the lesbian I was with said I didn't respond so well.)

I grabbed a couple girl friends, went out on the town a bit, and when I figured the boys had sufficient time to do whatever male bonding thing that they had to do which was somehow only going to be complete if I was NOT there... I went to the strip club. And you know what? They were glad to see me. And they were pretty drunk, so faking it would have been a bit of a trick. A bunch of the guys went to their crashpads to sleep, and the rest of us returned to the host's home with a couple of the strippers in tow and continued the festivites into the next morning. Good times, good times.

You know what? If I ever get married (which I'm not actually planning on doing), I'll have a bachelorette party. The party will consist of me, the bachelorette, my sister and my girlfriends. But you know what else? I'd also invite my brother. And I'd invite all my guy friends too, because they are some of the most important people in my life. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them, and I wouldn't think about leaving them out of the best party I'm ever gonna have just because they have dicks.

Just my opinion. I still love ya, you bastids. Spuds 4ever!

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Let me start by saying that this has nothing to do with the fabulous book and/or movie about Charlie, Willie Wonka and candy. It just has to do with the candy part. Well, sweets in general. And the fear that folks today seem to have of them.

This afternoon as I was walking up to my apartment, my friend noticed that there was a little baggie on the step containing a sample of a new product. Maybe it would have been put in the mailbox if I didn't have a skinny upright mailbox - I dunno - but there it was on my step. It was for a new energy bar brought to you by... Snickers. Because Snickers have become the new health authority. I especially like that this energy bar, packed with 16 vitamins & minerals and 13 grams of protein, is also filled with "chocolaty caramel and peanuts." Back in my day, we'd steal money from our dad's pants pockets to get one of these at the local convenience store - we called them "candy bars."

I don't know about you, but I still think that if you are gonna break out when you eat a chocolate bar, you're still gonna break out if you eat a protein bar covered in chocolate. And if this baby has got enough protein to keep you energized, I'm betting its 7/11 equivalent has enough sugar to keep you charged up too.

So this reminds me of a story...

When I was in college, there was a place that all the sorority girls would go to get their special snacks. (Now I have nothing against sorority girls, it just seems like they were this place's exclusive clientele and staff.) It was called Yogurt Park. The gals would get their gimangous cup of yogurt, cover it in sprinkles or mini gummy bears or whatever, and be on their merry way.

One day, a challenger to the Yogurt Park empire opened up. I believe it was called the Golden Spoon, or the Golden Panda, or the Frozen Panda, or something like that. People started trying it out, and lo, the yogurt was good. Much tastier than at Yogurt Park for some reason. So soon, the girls were starting to gather there, and Yogurt Park was not quite as giggly. It didn't last long however... A few months into their existence, Golden Whatever was exposed for what they really were: an ice cream joint. Turns out they were selling soft serve ice cream instead of frozen yogurt.

Now I don't know if this was a smear campaign on the part of Yogurt Park, or how much psychological counseling the girls who flipped over to that place had to receive once they realized they were actually eating something "fattening," but it just showed me how obsessed people are with the whole idea of eating certain things and certain ways to stay slim. I mean, these kids still put enough candy crap on top of their yogurt to negate the whole idea of a lo-cal snack anyway. Just get the ice cream already! It tastes much better, especially with sprinkles and/ or mini gummy bears on top.

Excess and lack of exercise is the main problem people, not the fact the the yogurt was soft serve ice cream. I have a friend whose mother cut soda out of her life and dropped a pile of weight right away.

As a friend of mine once said, there's nothing wrong with a little poison. It's when you have a lot that you get sick. So I'm gonna chuck this protein bar filled with chocolaty goodness, but maybe I'll have some peanut M&Ms later. Mmmm...

Friday, January 09, 2004

Everybody's Doing It, So Why Not Me Too?

I think this has become a part of my physical fabric, the intellectual makeup, the absolute NEED to make a Top Ten Best Bits of Music list at the end (or in this case, beginning) of the year. I blame it on having been a radio geek for a really, really long time. I was in the radio club in high school and wrote music pieces for the school paper, and then moved on to 10 years of college radio (it took me a long time to get out of school). I also did some writing for the fabulous Snackcake! zine in Berkeley (which went on to become DIW) and bits and pieces for the weeklies up there in the Bay Area. When you've been immersed in music like that, people expect you to give 'em tips. And who am I to refuse those requests?

So without further delay, Mo's Favorite Music for 2003 - the best being at Number One, of course.

10. Various Artists - Femmes de Paris, Volume 2 It's that goo-goo go-go 60's ye-ye stuff, all cutesy and mod and fun. Jaqueline Taeb is one of my favorite vocalists from this period because she sounds so bored with the world, yet somehow still poppy too. Not as many covers on this as Vol. 1, and Petula Clark makes an appearance. Très fabuleux!

9. Lyrics Born - Later That Day... Lyrics Born has been on the scene for nearly a decade as part of the Solesides/Quannum collectives spawned in Davis, California, but this is his first full length. It's a voice you've probably heard, rapping for other people as part of those mentioned collectives, but his growly banter has loads of soul and his beats are groovy as shiza; if "Callin' Out" doesn't make you shake your ass, something is wrong with you. Great guest spots from Cut Chemist and Lateef the Truth Speaker, too.

8. Various Artists - DFA Records Presents: Compilation 1 Well, I was a child of the 80's, so it only stands to reason that I felt much guilty pleasure when the whole electroclash thing came 'round, but these producers (James Murphy & Tim Goldsworthy) were able to make it sound not quite like such a novelty. So they started a label. This comp is the cream of the rock/dance/electro crop, in my little ole opinion anyway. You got your dance jam, "House of Jealous Lovers " from the Rapture (taking the best from noisy Gang of Four) and the snooty "Losing My Edge" from LCD Soundsystem (he WISHES he could be Mark E. Smith) along with a bunch of other great tracks... If you liked that stuff then and the "comeback" of the sound doesn't offend you, grab this. Like I said, guilty pleasure.

7. The Clean - Anthology This is one of the best pop bands you may have never heard. Unless you know me (or my pal Tim Scanlin) because I happen to love music from New Zealand. Take the NZ heroes Split Enz - whom you most likely have heard, especially after they became Crowded House - and go visit their slightly warped and most likely coked up cousins, the Clean. Shimmering, sparkling melodies that run just a little too fast or a little too slow, this band is the reason why New Zealand experienced a renaissance in pop music in the 80's, and the amazing Flying Nun label was quick enough to realize that. Getting heard in the States though, is always tough, so God bless Merge for putting out this amazing collection. You haven't lived if you haven't heard "Diamondshine."

6. Kristin Hersh - The Grotto She is my hero. Has been for years. This insanely sparse and beautiful acoustic album is just as gritty and melancholy as she always is, despite it's prettiness. Howie Gelb and Andrew Bird add to the mystery.

5. On the Speakers - s/t EP Formerly of Creeper Lagoon, vocalist/songwriter Ian Sefchick moved from SF to LA and found a bunch of super talented and friendly guys to make beautiful music with. Ian is one of the few kings of truly catchy indie hooks, I think, and this 5 song EP is full of 'em. You can't help but sing along, and I'm excited for the future full length.

4. Various Artists - Bay Area Funk Ubiquity (and it's sub-labels) is one of the truly great labels, in that everything they put out is chosen with such care and so lovingly compiled that it's always an educating as well as entertaining experience. So is this comp, which gathers a wonderful selection of artists from the Bay Area - a hotbed of funk and soul in the late 60's and early 70's - and makes some ridiculously hard to find tracks available for all to boogie to. Sugar Pie Desanto, Marvin Holmes (who became a musician because he lived on the same block as Larry Graham while he was playing with Sly & the Family Stone, and saw all the chicks that came along with the gig), Little Denice... but it's all worth it for Rodger Collins' ode to the ladies, "Foxy Girls in Oakland." Oh yea, keep on struttin' down East 14th, baby!

3. Martina Topley-Bird - Quixotic You may know her best as the vocalist on the Tricky albums, but she has finally put out a really beautiful album all by herself. Well, with a little help from her friends. Sometimes she's in that mellow trip hop place that you may be expecting, but then she'll get all rowdy on your ass too. No one else sounds like her, since she has a lovely voice that tinkles and moans oh so well. And the lyrics? Genius. "Lying" is a wonderful slow groove about being the other woman, and the rocker, "Need One," was coaxed along with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), while my favorite - a growly blues tune called "Too Tough to Die" - was produced by David Holmes. An amazing album, through and through, only put out as an import but you can probably track it down. And my brother knows her ex-boyfriend.

2. Throwing Muses - s/t They came back, and they came back strong, I tell ya! I guess that's what having kids did to them. Fronted by Kristin Hersh and, once again, Tanya Donnelly for the first time in a zillion years, the Muses hooked up with longtime drummer David Narcizo and bassist Bernard Georges and did a "reunion" album that was way wilder and aggressive than anything they'd ever done before. Kristin Hersh is an amazing lyricist, but she really wails on the guitar, taking it into a noisy meandering melodic place and back again. And with Tanya back on vocal duties, the sisterly harmonizing that made them cult favorites in the late 80's/early 90's proved just as beautiful this time around too. I can't believe they've all known each other since high school. Pretty and loud, that's how this CD was. "I'm so sorry I'm cardiac baggage, I'm so sorry you feel so bad...I'd do anything to fix you again, I'm so sorry you feel so bad... Is everything fading away?" Thing is, she doesn't mean it. Go, girls!

1. The Twilight Singers... play Blackberry Belle One of the most wicked and beautiful albums I've heard in forever. But there is backstory here.

Back in my KALX radio days, I had an indie rocker boyfriend who liked the Afghan Whigs. I was caught by their cover of "The Temple," because Jesus Christ Superstar frikkin' ROCKS and is terribly groovy to boot, and I thought it was pretty ballsy of some band to do a fairly straight up cover from it. So I bought Congregation and later Gentlemen (since deemed by many critic types to be one of the best albums of the 90's), but then the Whigs sorta fell off my radar.

In 2001, I moved to LA, and met Greg Dulli, singer, songwriter, producer, guitar/piano/mellotron/etc. player for the Whigs. I worked at a record store at the time and he'd come by to shop and we'd chat. As I got to know him since then, I started to feel bad because he'd tell me these stories (and that boy does tell some good stories!) about recording this song or that song, and I didn't even have any of his records. Well, just those two I mentioned. So anyway, I started picking the rest up. And holy shit - why did I not notice how damn genius they were then? There's a lot of music out there, and sometimes it just takes a while for it to reach you, I guess. So, being a bit of a completist, I now have a ridiculous collection of Whigs stuff. And the Twilight Singers are just as incredible.

So... Blackberry Belle... It's an album that you can't stop listening to from start to finish. Each song is strong, and while you're on the ride (preferably with headphones) you're treated to some crazy shit. It's haunting and beautiful, catchy and sad. Greg likes to say he's a functional schizophrenic, and it's so very evident here. There are lots of images that pop into mind from these songs... A hooker boogies in a dark alley for "Decatur Street," a rough, stormy sea for "Martin Eden," a twisted canyon night ride for "Teenage Wristband..." And the words will either cause you to smirk or cringe, because YOU KNOW. You just won't go there. In search of that light, the one we all reach for... that's how this album is.

"never - no one
I wait - ever...
I feel - this light
but I conceal
no one complete
this mess, replete
perfumed in mud
christened by a wave
this is neverlasting love"

There you go, Mo's Top Ten of 2003. There were some other titles that skated around the fringes... the OutKast CD (of course!), the Rapture, Mark Lanegan's new EP, Luv N' Haight's Inner City Sounds comp., the Iron & Wine EP. And there were some really fun singles this year too: Lovin' that "Milkshake" from Kelis, equally sexy was Goldfrapp's "Train," the ever present "Dance to the Underground" from Radio 4, the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" still doesn't let me down, Cat Power's "Free" was totally addictive, "Frontin'" from Pharrell is the BOMB as well as Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" (my pal Kitaytay says it's the summer jammy jam to end all summer jammy jams... and it lifts the Chi-Lites "Are You My Woman" to give it that retro feel). My guilty pleasure of the year? Junior Senior's "Move Your Feet." Makes me giddy every time I hear it. And let's not even get into the phenomenon that is "Hey Ya." Wow.

So get left of the dial, surf that internet, see some bands... what will we find next?

All Hail the King!

Okay, so I'm a few hours late, but January 8th woulda been, coulda been, shoulda been Elvis Presley's birthday. Damn prescription drugs!

But really, let's ponder the wonder that is The King: hasn't Elvis been a part of our lives, in some way, OUR WHOLE LIVES? Pretty nuts, if you think about it. Mojo Nixon was right - Elvis really IS everywhere.

Maybe you have a bunch of Elvis records (mom and dad). Maybe you have a bunch of Elvis CDs (um, those of you who started buying music after 1987 or your parents who swapped all their vinyl for those neat shiny discs). Maybe you don't own any of Elvis' music at all, but you have to own at least ONE piece of Elvis schtick - uh, memorabilia. I've got an Elvis clock (his legs swing to the rockin' tick tock rhythm), a plate, divinity candles, a Velvis (I think most folks who grew up in Southern California were required to pick one of those up at a border crossing at some point in their lives), and even a knife.

My favorite Elvis item, however, is the Are You Hungry Tonight cookbook, by Brenda Arlene Butler. It consists of Elvis' favorite recipes, which include the infamous fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches - and also the burnt bacon with mustard ones - as well as things like kale with cheese, burgers, pork chops and yams. It even devotes the last 10 pages on how to recreate the royal wedding cake made for Elvis & Priscilla, right down to the latticework patterns on the frosting and the pink netting on the table.

But the best part of the whole book is the way Brenda Arlene tries to get you in the mood for cooking up an Elvis menu. "Imagine it's Tupelo, Mississippi, in the 1930s. The sun is sinking in the West, Vernon is on the front porch, little Elvis is playing in the yard, and Gladys is in the kitchen cutting up chicken to fry... Put Big Boss Man on the turntable, close your eyes, smell the chicken frying, and imagine that the King will be coming in your door at any minute. " Um, yea. Go Brenda! I don't even want to know what kind of scenario this lady dreams up when she's taking a shower and imagining that the King will be coming in her door at any minute... Shudddddderrrrrr...

I really, really do appreciate the King, though. If you always wanted to know more about the man than the myth, I'd highly recommend the pair of books written by Peter Guralnick, a music journalist and researcher who's been in the biz since Elvis was shakin' his stuff at the chickens in the coop. The first, Last Train to Memphis, tells the tale of a young man's rise to glory, and the second, Careless Love, tells of how the King fell from his throne. But in the most respectful way possible. They're fabulous books.

And see "King Creole," because Elvis really could act.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Welcome to my blog. Smiles, everyone! Smiles!