Thursday, March 29, 2007

Strickland's Lament

My name is Principal Strickland. Marty is shredding "Johnny B. Goode" with Marvin Berry and the Starlighters. I have a pained, confused look on my face and my hands are protectively covering my ears. "I guess you guys aren't quite ready for that," Marty says. "But your kids are gonna love it."

I feel that way when I listen to the radio. Or when I pick up a music magazine. Or when I look at the show listings for the clubs I used to frequent. Who in the hell are these bands? Who signed them? Who actually likes them? Does anybody actually buy the records of these super-hyped, esoteric "next big things?" Or is their obscure fame simply a product of the music biz hype machine constantly selling the cognoscenti the concept of the esoteric "next big thing?" In other words, if nobody knows a real, human Arctic Monkeys fan, then is the band still as good as Rolling Stone says?

This is not a tirade about the music industry or the music press, about their penchant for signing and promoting bands that appeal to the lowest, simplest common denominator or about how the industry takes exciting young bands and whitewashes them into a commercial, publicly acceptable commodity, then judges their success by how neatly they fit into a "drive-time" play list. Believe me, I have endless opinions about that. No, this is about how completely clueless I am when it comes to new music.

A little background: I probably saw 300-400 shows between the ages of 17 and 28. I went everywhere, all the time. Black Cat on Tuesday, 9:30 Club on Thursday, Hammerjack's or the 8x10 in B-more on Friday, Velvet Lounge on Saturday. I saw pretty much every band I've ever wanted to see except The Clash, Husker Du and Minor Threat (although I've seen The Mescaleros, Sugar and Fugazi). I saw shitty bands in arenas and amazing bands playing for 30 people; over-hyped, under-hyped, no-hyped bands; bands I'd never heard of then nor has anyone since; bands that hadn't made it yet, bands that were past their time and everything in between. I've been in more pits than a grave digger. My best friend in college, Robin, worked at the old Waxie Maxie Records in College Park. We knew about EVERYTHING. We were John Cusack and Jack Black in High Fidelity. We got all the demos and promo copies and all-access passes and were talking about bands months before you ever heard of them. (I laugh/cringe when I think about some of the bands we "discovered" that we thought were gonna be huge- anybody wanna buy a slightly used, promo copy of "Junk Fuel" by Fretblanket?)

Flash forward to last week- I was in a Barnes & Noble, perusing the periodicals, and picked up a copy of Alternative Press for the first time in years. I used to read that rag with some frequency, and I remember it (could this possibly be true?) being filled with articles about bands I liked, regularly highlighting new bands I actually wanted to check out. The issue I looked at last week featured the annual "100 Bands You Need To Know" article. Each profile gave some background on the "need to know" band, and also listed three bands "Who They Sound Like." That's where I knew I was more out of touch with reality than I ever dreamed: not only had I never heard of, I think, 90-95 of the "Need to Know Bands," but I also hadn't heard of probably 290-295 of the "Sounds Like" bands. Not only am I clueless about this generation of music, but apparently I missed the last generation as well. I figured I'd see "sounds like Nirvana" or "sounds like Social Distortion" or God forbid, "sounds like The Smiths meets Candlebox fronted by Edie Brickell." Something, anything I'd recognize. Instead, everything "sounds like Morbid Angel meets Dog Fashion Disco meets Sigur Ros."

Basically, the whole article was as incomprehensible to me as Curt Schilling talking about Everquest. And I wondered...does anyone know who these bands are? Then I saw a kid a few feet away from me looking at a video game magazine. He had checkered Vans, tight black jeans, a black hoodie sporting a safety-pinned Good Charlotte back patch, a bunch of piercings and streaky, asymmetrical hair that reminded me of Lux Interior, but was probably modeled after some guy in Avenged Sevenfold. He was probably 16 or 17 years old. That's who knows the 100 bands you need to know; it's that kid, and all the kids like him. The ones my wife yells at for having no "pit etiquette." You know, the kid I used to be. And even though I think Good Charlotte, and probably the rest of the bands he likes, suck, well, for a minute I was still a little jealous.

I also get the weekly email blasts from most of the live music venues in DC and Baltimore. I should just unsubscribe because it's like getting a reminder every week that says, "You are old. You are no fun anymore. You are a square and this whole list might as well be in ancient Greek. Even if you see the name of a band you recognize, don't buy tickets and show up because all the kids will laugh at you. They'll say, 'look at that old guy with the Bad Religion t-shirt...God, how old is that shirt? Is it from the '90's?'"

Needless to say, finding the name of a band I recognize who actually still plays live gets increasingly harder each week. Sometimes what happens is this: I see that a band I like is coming to town, but not in a forum in which I can enjoy them. "Oh, sweet- Flogging Molly and the Street Dogs are coming March 10! Oh shit, it's at something called 'The Mid-Atlantic Shamrock Fest,' an all day parking lot festival. No thanks. Can't leave the kids that long. Don't want to deal with a crowd that big." The other problem is that most of the geezer punk bands we like rarely play clubs anymore. They all go on the Warped Tour (don't even get me started...). I guess it's easier playing 30 minutes a day for hundreds of thousands of kids over the summer than it is playing for 500 every night for an hour. Not to mention the fact that each Warped Tour features about 40-50 bands, and we might be familiar with three or four. It's like a national holiday in our house when somebody we like is actually playing the 9:30 or the Black Cat. It seems like that only happens about four times a year now.

Then again, maybe it's all for the best. Come to think of it, maybe it's meant to be. Maybe pop culture, in this case the music business, is designed for people without kids, without major time constraints, without busy lives. Maybe it's designed to be outgrown. If I knew as much about music today as I did in college then I might be pretty pissed if I missed a sold-out Arcade Fire gig. If I had half a clue what the hell was going on, I'd probably spend a lot of time pissed off that I couldn’t go see Band XYZ. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Tricky thing, that music business.

They say there's nothing sadder in life than a parent outliving a child. A few degrees less sad than that, I think, is a fan outliving their favorite band. Finding out that a band you grew up listening to is no longer together, one who was there in your formative years and well into your formed years, well, that has a really brutal way of making you feel older than you really are. Every time a Bosstones or a Face to Face breaks up, every time a Joey Ramone or a Joe Strummer dies, my youth puts another foot in the grave. Soon, there will be no concerts left to see, no CDs left to buy (if CDs even still exist), unless Bad Religion and Pennywise turn out to be my generation's version of the Stones and The Who. I really hope they don't, though, because there's also something very sad about that. Some people never learn how to grow old gracefully, with dignity. Those are the guys in the Red Room at the Black Cat wearing the Minutemen "Double Nickels '84 Tour" shirts who still think it's 1984, who still think they're 21 and angry. It's a hard lesson to learn, but eventually, begrudgingly, you replace "C-ya in the pit!" with your new motto, "C-ya at the playgroup!" When my kids are 15, I can't imagine the music they're going to love, but I'm pretty sure I won't be quite ready for it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Maybe Not the Funniest Thing Ever. But Close.

This is maybe the greatest interview I've ever read six years after the fact. Especially his answer to the ninth question (you have to count yourselves...the q's aren't numbered). I am not at all into computer games, or Playstation or anything like that. I played a little D&D as a young teen but soon realized that D&D and chess don't exactly hurry the pants off the ladies. So I stuck to sports, where I soon learned that sitting on the bench has roughly the same effect on the female types as dorky game playing. So I was a late bloomer. What's it to you? Considering all that, how in the hell do people, like the person Curt is in that interview, ever get laid?

Let me set the scene for you...

It's the year almost middle-aged man of prodigious fame and physical talent sits alone in his hotel room wearing an old, fading "WWR2D" t-shirt and red sweatpants. His $7,000 Dell XPS laptop bathes him in a flickering, warm glow. A half-empty bottle of Yoo-Hoo sits on the night stand. It is 4:45am on a Saturday morning and our protagonist is locked in a life or death battle...

Curt Schilling: "Does anyone have some frogloks we can send down the hall? Shit! I'm hurt and I have no mend! No fucking mend, go figure...IT'S TIME TO STRAIGHT PANIC, BITCHES..."

The phone rings. And rings. Finally, on the eleventh ring, Curt picks it up...

Voice: "Scythehands Voxslayer? Is that you?"

Curt: "Maybe, who is this?"

Voice: "This is the rest of the're a fucking dork. Just kidding, dude, it's Youk. Go to bed, man. You're pitching in like eight hours..."

On a related note, anyone who is trying to find me at the game in Philly on Saturday should have no problem tracking me down. I'll be the guy wearing that homemade t-shirt...

Hope to see all you pala-dudes and pala-dudettes there...just remember- you've got a level 43 Friend in me...

Monday, March 26, 2007

The City of Bloggerly Love

Well...what are you doing next Saturday? If you're me, or Mighty Quinn or Leggett or FiNY, you'll be in Philly for the Sox-Phils game at 1:05pm...I knew a bunch of them were coming down on the bus from Prof. Thom's, and I'd been thinking about going anyway...then last Wednesday, my birthday plans got sick-ed out by the kids, and so I decided to do the completely juvenile thing and spend my b-day money from parents and in-laws ("...and make sure you spend this on yourself, on something FUN, for you...") on going to Philly for the game. I've already heard from John Quinn, and I left messages for FiNY and Leggett, so all that's left is for Peter to swing by Manhattan, pick up Jere, and meet us all at the game. I'm trying to organize a Sox bloggers get together sometime before/during the game. I know some of you in NYC already know each other, but I would love to meet all of you in person, finally. I feel as though I really know so much about each of the people in my links list, but I haven't met any of you face to face yet. Should be a cool afternoon...

As for my seats, well, cool story. I'd been tracking various seats on Stubhub and ebay, then tried today, to see what the legit channel had to offer, which was surprisingly good, like sections, lower level, down by the foul poles about 30 rows back off the field. Seemed great, but I wasn't sure I could find anyone to go up there with me, so I didn't buy right away. Well then I talked to die-hard SBF reader Kim (not FiNY, my friend Kim) who expressed interest, so this evening I got on just for fun and bam! Sec. 116, Row 20. Twenty rows off the field, behind the Phils' dugout. No idea how such great seats suddenly popped up, but what the hell? As I said to Quinn, I'd rather be behind the Sox dugout, but I'm not complaining at great infield boxes for face value.

The best part? Dice-K is supposed to start!!! According to this, he's supposed to throw about 60 pitches... how great is that? For me, who won't get to Fenway this year (again...) and might see the Sox once or twice in B-more, that's hot...anyway, I'm wicked psyched for Saturday, and hope that we all get together to toast the Sox and the friendship (internet-related friendship that it is) that our blogs have created...Quinn has my cell #, but email me if you want it for Saturday at your cameras, I know I'll have mine...

Update: as of 5 minutes after I posted this, I checked back on and there were seats available in 123, row 32. Right behind home plate, 32 rows behind the end of the "fancy-behind-home-plate-seats." I'll take mine. But for someone looking for tix, or a reason to go to Philly, be advised, "Good Seats Still Available."

Update 2: as of 5 minutes ago, I left a comment on Schill's blog letting him know that a few Sox bloggers would be in Philly on Saturday and that if he didn't contact me directly to organize a group photo then I'd have no choice but to convince Michael Leggett that Curt is a half-brother of Joe Buck, thereby sending Michael into a frenzy of preoccupied, hysterical stalk-a-tive-ness, the likes of which hasn't been unleashed on anyone short of the "Braying Babboon" himself, Mr. Tim McCarver. I bet we get our photo, kids, I bet we do...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Schilling's Fat Ass, Wally and a Closer

It was either on or in the Washington Post yesterday, but ol' Kevin Millar was interviewed regarding the Sox-O's game on Sunday, and his relationship with the Sox since being traded, etc. Pretty standard Millar questions...anyway, he mentioned that he still likes to joke around with the old crew and he told the reporter that upon taking the field for BP on Sunday, "I went over to Schill and said, 'Looks like you ate your second baseman!' I went over and looked real close, but I couldn't find Dustin (Pedroia) in there!" Which once again proves two theories of mine:

1. Schilling, despite what he's telling everyone, is, in fact, fat. Maybe he's slimming down, but for now he's typically 40-year-old man fat, and

2. Millar will be missed in this house for as long as my old Sox jersey lacks the buttons I popped off it when he failed to drive in any runs in the 4th inning of game 2 of the '04 ALCS. They should've just scrapped Wally and made Millar the mascot when he became dispensable, you know, as a player.

Speaking of Wally, if any of you out there have kids, I highly recommend you pick up Remy's kids book, "Hello Wally!" My daughter loves it. It's an ideal first step in the brainwashing process of a two-year-old to turn them into the sort of sick and twisted, fanatical losers that the rest of us are. I know we're supposed to want a better life for the next generation, but how's that fair to us? Also, it's good to pair the book up with a Remy-signed Wally doll and adirondack chair- but make sure you put that up on a shelf your kid has no prayer of reaching till high school, when they won't care a thing about you or anything you like anyway. That will teach them that what they want is usually out of their reach, a good lesson for Sox fans, or anyone really. My wife wants to blame me for my 2-year-old daughter's obsession with baseball, and her ability to recognize both the Sox "B" and the two Sox logo at a distance, but I just think she's really smart. Plus, it doesn't hurt that I've taught her to say, "Go Pats!" and "Bad, bad Steelers!"

As for the Sox themselves, the rumor that Theo has his eye on Brad Lidge is pretty awful. Haven't we been down this road before with the tortured, post-season-failure-turned-closer-for-us experiment? I'm thinking of a short, obscene-gesture-throwing Korean guy...yeah, that sounds familiar. So let's get Lidge, just in case we play the Cards in the Series again, so that he can face Pujols again. Great plan as usual, Theo. Who are you bringing in to bolster the set-up crew, Ralph Branca and Mitch Williams?

We have a closer already, dammit, he wears number 58 last time I checked. Jesus, this isn't rocket science. Mark my words, our illustrious starting rotation (who've actually looked really good, you know, considering two guys are 40ish, one's never pitched in this country, one's a complete over-rated head case, and one should be a closer) will set a new record for most no-decisions in a season. I'm picturing a starting five all finishing the season at 10-6, 11-7ish with ERAs around 3.50, with lots of strikeouts and a bullpen with an ERA around 6, with about eight holds and 19 blown saves. Remember, after the all-star break last year, Schilling had like six or seven no-decisions in a row, and that was with a reliable closer. (It should be noted that Phil Garner of the 'Stros says Lidge is not available, which in baseball speak means, "We'd trade him for Craig Hansen and whatever part of Pedroia Schilling hasn't digested yet.")

I threw up in my mouth a little when an "inside source" told the Globe that the Sox aren't really interested in Chad Cordero (who the Nats would happily give up for prospects because the new "cheap" plan to demolish RFK Stadium is for the pitchers to give up so many home runs that the deep flys actually knock down most of the outfield stands and walls) because of his "heart attack saves." While I agree that Cordero does save a lot of his games in the mold of a young Lee Smith (come in with a three run lead, the bases loaded and nobody out, walk in two runs then strike out the side) his "heart attack saves" would surely be preferable to the "complete and total heart failure" versions we're likely to get from the current crop of candidates.

Fortunately, I've come up with a plan that will allow Red Sox fans to make it through this season without everyday resembling a 2003-Opening-Day-Chad-Fox-ian nightmare... Just turn every game off after the seventh inning and don't watch TV, read the papers or talk to anyone who isn't on the "Seven Inning Plan." If you do this, I guarantee you the Sox will go 109-53 and secure home field throughout by the first week of September. And really, that's something we'd all like to see, isn't it? So this season, while everyone is stretching in the seventh, I'll be stretching for my remote to turn off another Sox win. Oh, wait; no, I won't, because I don't have DirectTV. Jesus, MLB, this isn't rocket science.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Big Update

For those of you who have been bugging me as to my whereabouts, condition, etc, well, I've been watching a lot of basketball and I'm not going out for St. Pat's. That's about it. Oh yeah, for those who asked, the kids are fine. And because nobody asked, I'll tell you that Bill Raftery shouting, "Send it in Big Fella!" makes the lead up to my birthday better every year. Go Terps. That is all.