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. 






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.)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

John Waters (#1): Waters With Water.

[UPDATE: 5/22/14. I had the chance to interview film director John Waters for Culture magazine, which used my piece as its February 2014 cover story. Here's my favorite exchange:

What's your favorite part of being a storyteller?

WATERS: The most fun is when you think it up. When you first get the idea and nobody knows it but you. And it's your secret. And you give birth to it and you keep rewriting and working on it. That's the fun of it: Getting an idea that you realize you're going to live with for the next two years, and developing it and working on it every day. It's like an affair. An affair that sometimes works.]


Filmmaker provocateur John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Cry-Baby) at a reception, following his speech and the showing of two of his favorite short films (by Kenneth Anger) at the Aspen Shortfest in 2001. Author of the essay collections Shock Value and Crackpot.

Waters was introduced at the event by a friend who was also an actress in his movie Hairspray: singer Debbie Harry of Blondie.

[Originally posted 8/1/09]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

William S. Burroughs (#5): Thankfully, Burroughs.

[NEAR-ENOUGH THANKSGIVING UPDATE OF 11/21/2013: Two of my photos of Burroughs wearing a late-'80s-era "brain machine" have been incorporated into this video (at 2:32 & 3:34) of the song "Burroughs" by Chelsea Light Moving (which features Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth). I like the song and the video so much that I'm not going to sic my entertainment attorney on the videomaker for copyright infringement!]



A couple of weeks ago at the Starz Denver International Film Festival, I saw the documentary that I’d been eagerly awaiting: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. Denver’s alternative weekly Westword published a blog about my contributions towards the film’s making--since it features some of my photos of Burroughs, as well as audio (Burroughs talking about his “shotgun art”) from my interview with the writer. In fact, my black-and-white photo of Burroughs wearing a “brain machine” (above) can be seen within the documentary’s latest trailer:

The film offers a compelling look at Burroughs’ history, featuring the affecting recollections and perspectives of Patti Smith, John Waters, and Genesis P-Orridge. People unfamiliar with Burroughs and his work will learn about the counterculture legend from it, and longtime Burroughs devotees will gain new insights. In fact, in its stellar review of the film, the New York Times wrote, "There is not a word or image wasted in a documentary you wish ran an extra half-hour beyond its condensed 90 minutes."

I’m thankful that I was able to lend a hand.

Which reminds me: What would a Thanksgiving be without taking in a viewing of William S. Burroughs’ A Thanksgiving Prayer (also featured within the film)?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oskar Alegria: Leave Oskar Alone.

In setting out to see the film The Search for Emak Bakia, I mistakenly went to the wrong movie theater. Billed as “an endlessly enchanting experimental documentary,” the film had been chosen as one of the selections for the Starz Denver Film Festival; unsurprisingly, the festival's roster incorporates multiple screening locations. So, whoops, I goofed-up by going to the theater on East Colfax (the same box office where I'd recently gone to have the order that I had purchased online changed, since I had accidentally purchased a Saturday showing for the film, rather than for earlier on Friday, as I had initially intended). Easy enough to rectify geographically, last night: back on the express bus to downtown, which had its delays when a confused middle-aged Latino man who hobbled with a cane -- due to having been shot through the legs, he would soon claim -- held things up with the driver, the passenger appearing unsure which direction he was supposed to be heading. Although I made it to the correct theater with plenty of time to spare, it turned out a good thing that I'd gotten off from work earlier than usual, by chance, because otherwise I might have missed the start of the presentation.

It soon became apparent that the film was making a name for itself, that it had festival buzz. In addition to selling out, I heard a film-studies professor mention that a movie critic friend had called it a “must-see.” [Update 11/19/2013: The Search for Emak Bakia won the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film at the Starz Denver Film Festival.]

The Search for Emak Bakia (“a film about chance”). Going through the festival's programming a few weeks back, the name, the synopsis, and the trailer had stood out -- practically called out, in some way -- to me. A man attempts to find a palatial house in Spain named Emak Bakia (which translates as “Leave Me Alone” from the Basque language), which Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray (someone whose painting, photographs, sculptures, I enjoy) had included within an arty film of the same name. In addition to clips from Man Ray's own film, there was a resonating image of Alegria's within the trailer: a discarded plastic glove blowing down the street, then seemingly doing a courting dance with a paper napkin in the breeze. The film takes circuitous detours before arriving at multiple conclusions: as just two for-instances, it also researches the fate of a clown whose image appears on a gravestone, as well as where a postcard that has just one line written on it (“Are you behaving yourself?”) had been sent and why it had been inscribed the way that it was.

As fortune would have it, filmmaker Oskar Alegria spoke afterward, something which I hadn't realized would be occurring.

Alegria said the following:
  • “I love to work with chance: you don't have to pay him. He's a good partner.”
  • “I like to search [for] things; I don't like to find them.”

  • “I love mistakes. I think the best inventions of human beings are mistakes: penicillin...Viagra, LSD, etc."

  • “I'm a journalist. But in this project I wanted to kill the journalist. I wanted to be another person: more poetical, more creative.” Rejecting his previous TV-work experience, Alegria set out to find a fresher path: “I think we all have to do something called 'Emak Bakia' in our life.”
Alegria discussed how he'd discovered -- by chance -- the Man Ray film, which had set in motion his own odyssey to find the house and why it was named “Leave Me Alone.” Alegria had thought of Man Ray as being just a photographer. But at the Tate Gallery in London, he walked into a projection room, part of the extensive Man Ray exhibit. Alegria soon saw the film with the words “Emak Bakia.”

“That's Basque!” he realized.

Just like himself.

Alegria described how his father had come from a small village. In his later years, he wrote down all the Basque words that had been disappearing. His father wrote down the names of rivers and birds, for instance, in his own little dictionary. His father believed that “if the word goes, the bird disappears.” Alegria says, “I tried to do the same thing with the [film] screen, not paper.”

Afterward, I had a chance, along with others, to speak with Alegria. In a magician-like gesture, he fanned black postcards out in his hands and asked people to pick a card, any card. On the underside, the cards contained various stills from the film. One of the cards stood out to me, the paper stock appearing darker than the others.

On it was a darkened, black-and-white Man Ray seaside image: “A section of undeveloped low coast. It was the only clue Man Ray gave about the place where he was filming the beach.”

I took the card fate had dealt me. And my leave.

Back to my own apartment, back to my own Emak Bakia.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Richard Vincent (#3): Remembering Curmudgeonly Richard.

R.I.P., Richard Vincent: 11/28/36 -- 3/30/12.

Richard Vincent was a confounding character. Even the people who he was closest to found the painter/sculptor prickly and off-putting. One friend still refers to him as the “original curmudgeon.” But Vincent bestowed humor – in addition to heaping doses of agita – upon those he took a liking to. Several remember him as being generous with his limited resources, someone capable of being deft at the personal touch. Most certainly, he made his share of enemies as well, delivering his unpopular beliefs with a sneering laugh. Sometimes, just a sneer. “Photography isn't art,” he dismissively told me on one occasion – a milder example, for sure, of one of his opinionated quotes. Towards the very end of his life, he expressed a few regrets about having alienated people with his uncompromising attitude, his dismissive and sometimes hostile demeanor.

He was the kind of guy who wasn't invited to a friendly collector's house because she feared that Richard would complain about how his art was hung. The kind of guy who, if you innocently offered him $200 some years ago for one of the plethora of small pieces laying about his studio, would adamantly refuse because paying a lesser price, he insisted, would be unfair to his collectors and devalue his artwork. But Vincent was also the kind of artist who would spend twelve hours working on a minute detail within a single painting – and be pleased as punch if someone actually noticed it. 
It's said by art maven Fran Mishler that he was meticulous in his painterly technique; that his geometrically-patterned, carefully-calculated canvases display exquisite details, which often surface only after close study. Bubbling colors and surface modulations result from multiple layers of glazing, she says. Tiny lines and amorphous, almost human shapes are built upon vibrant backgrounds. “You should be able to turn a painting three different ways and have it work,” he once informed me.

Born outside of Chicago, his parents separated while he was a young boy. He was raised by his father, then by a grandmother in California. As a child, he was badly burned, the scars still visible on his neck and face decades later. Somewhere along the line, he also lost an eye (in the fire, as well?) – which has led to the speculation that his limited sight may have contributed to his unique vision upon canvas. 

Small in physical stature, he must have had grand ambitions. Vincent studied art first in San Francisco, before moving to New York City in 1956, where he continued his education at Cooper Union at Columbia University. In the Big Apple, Vincent apprenticed to sculptors Peter Agonstini and Seymour Lipton.

In 1967, he moved to Colorado, residing in Salida, the Aspen area, and finally Denver. An acquaintance of his from the '90s, who remembers him less than fondly, quipped via email, “He reminded me of some itinerant Frenchman from the 1920's somehow caught in godforsaken cowtown Denver.” 

The mystery remains: What happened to Vincent's 1970 statue commissioned by the May D&F company for Denver's Zeckendorf Plaza? It was placed beside noted architect's I.M. Pei's hyperbolic paraboloid--before Pei's work was appallingly torn down in the years to come. Where is the statue today?

Throughout the years, his art was sporadically shown – although, across the globe. He exhibited at Maruyama Gallery in Nagano, Japan; at the Blue Man Gallery in Prague; at Quantair Arts in Den Haag, the Netherlands; at Oz Architecture in Denver.

 Richard Vincent at his exhibition at Oz Architecture.

A notable, human interest anecdote: This web site helped reunite Vincent with family members of his, whose online research led them to my previous photos of Richard inside his studio, and allowed them to make contact with him after 50 years. A sense of closure for his elderly aunt, who had always wondered what had happened to her sister's boy. After a cousin's initial talk with him, she reported back to me, somewhat aghast, that Vincent didn't own a TV or a computer! Didn't own them willingly, I'm sure – rather than as an indication of him being the proverbial starving artist – I replied.

Dying of lung cancer in a hospice outside of Denver, though, his last statement to a friend was a paraphrase of television anchorman Walter Cronkite's closing remark: 

“That's the way it goes,” painter and sculptor Richard Vincent resignedly concluded.

Richard Vincent at his Grant Street studio.