Sunday, January 1, 2017

Johnny Strike (#4): Don't Be A Stranger.


  Johnny Strike at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco (May 23, 2010).

Rock 'n' roll novelist Johnny Strike has a new release: a noir-inspired, mystery-thriller called Name of the Stranger (Bold Venture, 2016). It's his latest, literary venture, since his quasi-autobiographical/fantastical eBook The Exploding Memoir came out – the cover of which shows him in his San Francisco punk rock days, when he was co-fronting the band CRIME.

Speaking of which...CRIME is the subject of a (split) cover story in the latest issue of Ugly Things. It's not the first time the band has graced the front of that California-based magazine: Michael Lucas' 1995 oral history is required reading for those who require a steady diet punk rock oral histories, and surely didn't get enough about the band in Jack Boulware's tales of Bay Area Punk Gimme Something Better.

Strike's a '70s era, first-generation punk music survivor, a committed writer, a traveler in the best Beat sense, displaying Burroughsian, as well as pulp, sensibilities in his written projects.

Strike's example also served as inspiration to me, before I set out to write my own first novel: Seeing him keep orderly writer's hours while spending time in the Mexican coastal-port town of Mazatlan, dedicated to pursuing his craft while esconced in the tropics; discussing with him his means of gathering image-notes or translating photos into words – and then recognizing how said snippets informed his novel Ports of Hell and short-story collection A Loud Humming Sound Came From Above.

I like to think he's at work today on a writing project, just as I am. Strike once told me that he no longer parties on New Year's Eve. Instead, he rises early on January 1st, using the day as a template for how he wants his year to progress, filling the first few hours of his New Year doing what he wants to be doing throughout the months ahead. 

Strike out, Johnny.



Sleater-Kinney (#1): Sleater-Kidney Beans.


Cool beans. The wise rockin' women at RiotFestLandia in Denver: Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Corin Tucker. (Plus, touring member Katie Harkin.)



 
 






Fucked Up (#1): Water Bearer.



Damian Abraham of the band Fucked Up providing hydration for Riot Fest attendees in Denver. Abraham -- who's also a cannabis reporter for VICE -- has the cure for the cotton mouth.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Reverend Lead Pipe (#1): Best Songs About Obama Presidency

This number by Reverend Lead Pipe & His Pipe-Wielding Swingers ought to make any list compiling the "Best Songs About Obama!"

Reverend Lead Pipe




Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Intelligence (#1): Vintage Intelligence.


The Ramones beginning songs with a count-off of “One, Two, Three, Four!” was charming and stupidly sophisticated.

But it takes real intelligence to utter over a cheesy mechanized beat accompanied by bass and guitar, “I need a haircut and a head on a spear/Nothing's important when the morning is near” before beginning to monotonously intone: “One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 40, 41, 42, 43, 44—ladies and gentlemen, the band.” Bringing it all musically together—real drums, keyboard, bass, guitar—for the rest of the track “I Love La” (from the highly-recommended Everybody's Got It Easy But Me).

The brains behind the The Intelligence, Lars Finberg, called the musical set depicted in these photos the band's "worst show of all time.” The bass player had quit just before the tour started in Denver, forcing the band's keyboardist to play only bass parts at Finberg's dispirited pre-show request. But I was charmed by the minimalism that accentuated Finberg's guitar and vocals. Quirky, sly, post-punk pop. I went to the Hi-Dive in Denver to see the headliner, but left with opening act The Intelligence percolating throughout my gray matter.


The Intelligence recently opened for FFS (the Sparks/Frans Ferdinand collaboration). A full band boosted the sound of Finberg's songs. Finberg stood deadpan, playing guitar and singing songs from his latest release Vintage Future. Angular, sometimes surf-sounding guitar lines. Sometimes a song will take the road-less-traveled from where the Cars rode into town. Compositions about love and deviousness. Cinematic in certain regards, the soundscapes might be tagged “Lynchian”—if they weren't actually more “Finbergian.” And then, at the end of the set, Finberg literally stretched-out, unexpectedly and acrobatically, slapping his foot onto his keyboard while simultaneously leaning over and placing his guitar's headstock against his amp, generating feedback and keyboard blurt.

The Intelligence: at its best, just brilliant.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Michael Hurley (#1): Don't Knock Snock.


Michael Hurley during the Arthur magazine release party at the Waypost in Portland, Oregon (8/11/13).

So what if you've never heard of freaky-folky artist and performer Michael Hurley. (And bully on you if you have.) Furthermore, so what if I hadn't heard of Michael Hurley until a couple of years ago. Because if you do decide to explore his music and art, you'll have years and years and years and years of material to wade and wander and traverse through just like me. And I've only scratched the surface of beginning to do just that. And that becomes ever-so-apparent by reading through the over-sized 16-page discography and bio and overview by journalist Byron Coley that appeared in the August 2013 issue of Arthur Magazine


As Hurley might say, "Have Moicy!"

Riot Fest (Year #1): Byers Beware.


A selection of photos from the first year of Denver Riot Fest (2013), held in Byers, Colorado.

Iggy with Mike Watt.

Iggy with the crowd he invited onstage.

 James Williamson pumping out muscular riffs.

Now he's ready to close his eyes.


Dust gets a boot kick.

 Rocket from the Crypt.

Flag playing its abbreviated set--cut short by a tornado warning!


Sirens going off.

 Stephen Eggerton (guitar), Keith Morris (vocals), Chuck Dukowski (bass), 
Bill Stevenson (drums), Dez Cadena (guitar).

Ferris Wheel from below.

Public Enemy as seen from atop the Ferris Wheel.

 Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun.

Naked Raygun.

Ye olde crowd surfing activities.

Ralph Gean (#24): Gallant Ralph Gean.


Ralph Gean holding my recently-acquired copy of Ralph's 45 on Gallant Records from the early 1960s: "Hey Doctor Casey/One Night In San Antonio." It's still auditorily medicinal to hear Ralph playing his song about the old-time TV physician. Tickles the funny bones in the ear, in fact.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

T.C. Boyle (#3): T.C. At The T.C.


 

Fiction writer T.C. Boyle reading from his latest book The Harder They Come at the Tattered Cover on April 30, 2015. Wonderful, once again, to give a listen to—as well as to speak briefly with—the prolific, provocative, and profoundly-entertaining author, whose love of literature always proves infectious.

I have a background with Boyle: I conducted feature interviews with him, published by High Times in 1989 and Salon in 1990. (I also appreciated his words of encouragement when I was finishing up my novel A Western Capitol Hill; Boyle wrote of the early chapters that I sent off to him, “This is beautifully done.”)

Given that Boyle's early work was primarily satire—although he's written his fair share of dramatic literature, since then—I gave myself the assignment to ask him the following at the Tattered Cover:

*


What are your thoughts on satire, and the P.E.N. recognition of Charlie Hebdo?

BOYLE: You know I'm known a lot as a satirist and my natural play on the world is to make crazy sick jokes to keep from crying. This is what satire does for me...

[The Charlie Hebdo killings are] an attack on our democratic society and on our ability to live together. I stand for absolute freedom of expression--no matter what it takes. I don't know if I would have had the courage of the editor of Charlie Hebdo, but I think if a group, any group—and we go back to Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah—starts to dictate what we can and cannot say in our country, we're doomed. So, I admire the courage of [the editor of Charlie Hebdo]: a kind of fatal courage, a kind of suicidal courage. But, I've said here before to you, I'm proud to be part of a democracy and able to be who I am and say anything I want and do anything I want without having to care about anything: I mean, that's our essential freedom. 

*

United we stand up for satire.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Harry Lyrico (#2): High School Funnies.



Larry Hubbell (aka Harry Lyrico) holding a copy of his 1973 contribution to underground comix: High School Funnies, published by San Francisco's Last Gasp.

I'm appreciative of Hubbell's contribution to my 2015 novel release: Hubbell illustrated the cover for A Western Capitol Hill.

Brazilian Girls (#1): Disco Mystic.




Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls getting her mojo working. Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 10/2/14. As Sciubba brought the party to the people, she also called to mind a mystic a la Bob Marley, encouraging the crowd to affect changes for the benefit of the planet. At the end of the band's set, the audience was on the stage dancing along, and--poof--she was gone. Magic.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Dandy Warhols (#1): The Dandy Mama.


The January 2015 issue of Culture magazine includes my interview with musician, DJ, and activist Zia McCabe of The Dandy Warhols. In it, she discusses her 20 years with the band, her thoughts on America's War on Drugs, and why taking a stand on a number of social and political issues matters to her. What got edited out of the piece, though, is her take on one of The Dandy Warhols' most famous videos, so I've included that question-and-answer below; additionally, I'm including her more fleshed-out answer to one of my questions.

 Shining a light on Zia at the Bluebird Theater on 9/30/14. 

The song “Smoke It” is pretty whimsical. It sounds like The Dandy Warhols' answer to Bob Dylan's “everybody must get stoned.”

We used it to encourage people to vote for Measure 91, the successful measure to legalize and tax marijuana in Oregon. We have a few songs about smoking, and it's good and it's fun, and it's nice to be lighthearted about issues that are dear to you and can get really heavy and make you frustrated.

I can get grass, good grass. I don't smoke massive quantities, but a white female smoking a little weed isn't at much risk whether it's legal or not. Unfortunately, for a lot of other people—in other words, members of the black community—a law enforcement encounter can negatively affect them. This victimless crime can really derail people's lives—especially minorities—leading to extended sentences once inside our corrupt, privatized prisons, when they didn't deserve to be in any trouble, at all. Keeping marijuana possession illegal perpetuates racism: imprisoning people for something that should be legal. 

                                        *****
 Zia (aka DJ Rescue) selecting the tunes at the Lost Lake Lounge

The Dandy Warhols' recent release is a live version of its album Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia (Live At The Wonder; The End Records). The humorous video (from 2000) for the song “Bohemian Like You” seems to capture an authentic, pre-Portlandia era and vibe in Portland history.

It definitely was a slice of life, and a slice of Portland time and culture for us. That bar that we shot the performance part of it in, and doing karaoke, was called Slabtown. It's actually closing its doors, along with a lot of the other seedy, dive establishments. In Portland, rent is getting so high that you can't afford to be a dive. That was our haunt for several years and now, to us, it will be a sign of a yesteryear. Another really good example of that is the “Ride” video: You see us on motorcycles going down streets that just don't exist anymore and passing buildings that are long gone. And, to us, that was the first, “Wow! We really documented a piece of Portland that was soon to disappear”—and you don't know it when you're doing it.

Mama mia! Thank you, Zia.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ralph Gean (#23): Ralph's Groove Thang.


Rock 'n' Roll lifer Ralph Gean showing off his latest release: a lathe-cut record limited to 25 copies.

  
Here's Ralph, with drummer Andrew Lindstrom of Nightshark, at his record release event at Mutiny Information Cafe. According to Westword, which reviewed the event, Ralph remains "Denver's Greatest Unknown Rock Star." (The article also mentions that Ralph "covered a song by a local artist present for the performance--Gregory Ego.")

See more Gregory Ego photos documenting the vastly under-appreciated phenomenon of Ralph Gean right here. Because those of us who know, do speak!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Clash (#2): Stand By Your (Corrected) Man.


  A smashing show—if not smashed bass.

It's a Clash mea culpa, on my part. In a previous blog posting, I repeated an oft-cited slice of "historical" trivia: namely, that photographer Pennie Smith took the iconic cover photo of London Calling on September 21, 1979, the same night that I saw The Clash at The Palladium in New York. Hey—on the London Calling album itself, that's the date it says the photo was taken; and that was the date cited on a web site dedicated to The Clash that I referenced when I wrote that blog text. To my mind, the problem is (and has been) this: I never saw a bass guitar smashed by musician Paul Simonon on the night in question. Was I in the bathroom when it happened? No, I don't think relieving myself ever entered into my mind while frenziedly transfixed by the band's performance. Maybe I just didn't have a good sight line? Actually, I was quite close to Simonon during the latter half of the band's set, getting what decent photographs I could while standing up on the arm rests of the seats about four rows back from the stage. Was I too stoned? No, I would claim I didn't feel a thing after partaking of my very first doobie that same night. But who am I to question official history? And who would even question it, if I was wrong?

No "Pressure": Paul Simonon with his bass on 
9/21/79 at The Palladium in New York.


Enter super Clash fan—quite possibly fanatic—Dave Marin, who wrote me to say that he witnessed Simonon smash his bass (which had the word "Pressure" on the top of the guitar body, near the strap button, and which is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) the night before, on 9/20/79; Marin asserted, within his email and during our enjoyable phone conversation, that 9/21/79 is the wrong London Calling cover date. Marin's mission: to correct the historical inaccuracy wherever he finds it repeated on the web—and hopefully to see that it's corrected on any official, future reissue of London Calling. After reviewing his accumulation of evidence, I have to admit his historical take is more solid than Simonon's bass. Because if Simonon had actually smashed the bass he was playing on 9/21/79, when I photographed the band, he wouldn't have been playing the same bass the next night in Philadelphia.

Even if a bass wasn't smashed, I do know The Clash rocked my world like a sonic earthquake on September 21, 1979. In fact, I still feel the tremors.

*****

[Update: 1/9/15. Dave Marin posted the following video yesterday, which includes my "fan photos" shown above:]




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quasi (#1): A Quasi Good Time.

 

Masterful, Beatlesque pop filtered through a punk rock perspective. I'm not quite sure what orifice most critics have their heads (ears included) lodged within, but Quasi's 2013 release Mole City made my personal “Best Of” list last year, at least. Former married couple, occasional collaborators, Sam Coomes (Heatmiser, Deep Fried Boogie Band) and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney) enlivened the Hi-Dive in Denver on 11/5/13. They turned me on—to paraphrase a song of theirs.


At the show that same night, I met Voodoo Doughnut co-founder Tres Shannon, who I subsequently interviewed for Denver city magazine 5280 (his Portland-based business opened a store in Denver, the city where he spent time growing up—providing a dual, local angle). From the stage, Weiss gave props to Shannon—who once ran a Portland all-ages club, the X-Ray Cafe—for providing Quasi a place to play when no other venue would. Shannon, no stranger to sugary confections, clearly felt touched by the sweet sentiment. Voodoo Doughnut has subsequently started a record label, releasing a revved-up single by Coome's Deep Fried Boogie Band. Below, Shannon attends a May 2014 record-release party in Denver (at a Buffalo Exchange) for the Voodoo Doughnut 45 by Poison Idea.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jonathan Richman (#2): Mr. Moonlight.


Jonathan Richman overcome by lunar forces, leading his audience outside the Lion's Lair in Denver, in order to literally gaze at the moon. 6/28/13.

Mudhoney (#1): Mudhoney Moments 2013.

Mudhoney celebrating its 25th year. Where the hell have I been as a listener all that time? 2013 was the year my ears finally embraced the band, digging into its sonic evolution. I've taken the plunge, dug the grunge. Dug their brand of pre-grunge psychedelia, their proto-grunge punk. You might even say I've become somewhat of a “Mudhead,” given that I checked Mudhoney out in Portland, Denver, and Seattle, last year. Touching: I haven't gotten sick of listening to them just yet. They feel like brothers from another kick-out-the jams-motherfucker! – if not mother. 

 Portland

 Seattle

Denver

 Denver

*

Thanks to Duane of The Derelicts for helping me gain backstage access after the Denver show. That signed single made for a great present. (Dig Duane sporting a t-shirt of my friend Johnny Strike's band CRIME.)