Cultural Zero

  • Yes, i CAN tell if a band sucks without hearing them, thank you.

    Fig.1: “Are you as confused by my success as i am?” Apparently there is this female singer by the name of—wait, let me check this again—Katy Perry? Yeah, that’s her name. Apparently she’s hot shit right now thanks to some single called “I Kissed a Girl,” and another called “Ur So Gay” (note: uh, wow). Imagine my surprise when I found out that this “I Kissed a Girl” single actually wasn’t a cover of “I Kissed a Girl” by Jill Sobule! Imagine the funny in my head—apparently people were discussing the supposed “shock value” of a girl singing about making out with another girl, while I’m sitting around thinking, “but, it wasn’t shocking when it was a single thirteen years ago!” Not the same single! Oh, silly me, was my face red! Oh, goodness! Oh, my! And me, Mr. Self-Styled Pop-Culture Commentary Dude! Way to keep up on the latest haps, Deej! To date, I have heard—I think—approximately 20 seconds of music by this Katy Perry person. I am fairly confident of this because during the season premiere of American Idol (it’s an illness, back off), the background music at one point featured some song where “I kissed a girl” was being sung, and it wasn’t the Jill Sobule tune. So, had to be her, right? Here’s where I’m going with this—despite only having heard about 20 seconds of her music, I am 100% certain that this Katy Perry person is completely, unquestionably worthless. How do I know this? Easy—I did some research. I read her Wikipedia entry (and yes, I’m self-aware enough to have intended referring to a Wiki entry as “research” as a joke): After Steve Thomas and Jennifer Knapp signed Perry to their label Red Hill Records, she released her first CD Katy Hudson in 2001, a Christian gospel album. In 2004, Perry worked for the record production team The Matrix. Perry also began working on a debut mainstream album, writing with Glen Ballard, which was due for release in 2005. * * * After signing to Capitol Records, Perry began recording for her official mainstream debut album, working with Cathy Dennis, Greg Wells, Dr. Luke, Butch Walker, Max Martin, Dave Stewart and Ted Bruner. Unless one of Katy Perry’s childhood enemies has engaged in a Wikipedia hacking conspiracy and has edited her entry to make her just look like a careerist major-label pop artifice (and let’s face it, attaching Alanis Morisette producer/co-writer Glen Ballard to anyone’s name is enough to brand them as plastic phonies), the evidence all points to a musician whose work I would no doubt abhor, right down to her laughable inclusion on the Vans Warped Tour last year (pretty much stripping away any last vestigial claim to a “punk” association that package tour ever had). I’ve been criticized in the past by overly-sensitive friends who were insulted for some reason by my tendency to dismiss wholesale something they like without even listening to it. “How can you rip on it when you’ve […]

  • Betamax, you’re off the hook. The makers of Sparks, not so much

    Fig.1: a fish killed by Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, or VHS. This is not the “VHS” we will be discussing here, but as maladies go, it has a pretty cool name, don’tcha think? The era of VHS is at its close. Pop culture is finally hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once-ubiquitous home-video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past. After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes. “It’s dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt,” said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. “I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I’m done. Anything left in warehouse we’ll just give away or throw away.” … Kugler is president and co-owner of Distribution Video Audio Inc., a company that pulls in annual revenue of $20 million with a proud nickel-and-dime approach to fading and faded pop culture. Whether it’s unwanted “Speed Racer” ball caps, unsold Danielle Steel novels or unappreciated David Hasselhoff albums, Kugler’s company pays pennies and sells for dimes. If the firm had a motto, it would be “Buy low, sell low.” VHS has been very good to me over the years; my band used to “enhance” our live performances (and by “enhance” I mean “mask the lack in quality of”) with VHS footage of cheesy old sci-fi (the Desi Arnaz Jr.-anchored Automan), Japanese techno-virus art films (Tetsuo: The Iron Man), and blow-up doll porn. Sure, that could all be done with DVD now, but there’s something romantically punk rock about spackling together a cheap light show out of the refuse of your local Goodwill, and back in the early ‘00s, nothing spelled “kickass thrift store throwaway” like outmoded technology. Fig.2: VHS enabled my band to introduce Automan to literally dozens of Manitowoc punk kids But earlier today, as I read the LA Times article linked above, I didn’t find myself pondering nostalgia as much as I was thinking about how finally, at long last, the people who fucked up the marketing of Betamax are off the hook for letting the market flood with a subpar video format. Revolutionary for its day, the Betamax format was on its way to becoming the industry standard until the appearance of JVC’s VHS a year later. Betamax was probably a bit sharper and crisper, but VHS offered longer-playing ability, which made it possible to record an entire movie on one three-hour tape. The two formats were locked in a struggle that was eventually won by VHS. A number of theories as to why VHS emerged victorious have been floated, but the longer playing time was certainly crucial, as was the fact that VHS machines were cheaper […]

  • HOLY SHIT METEOR!

    So this happened in Edmonton, Alberta on Nov. 20th: Fig.1: Police dash-cam footage from 11.20.08. WTF WTF WTF WTF In the parlance of local hardcore bands named after exclamations, HOLY SHIT. How did this not make national American news? A huge white ball falls and explodes in a country right on our borders, and no one takes notice? Where was MSNBC? Where was CNN? Where was FOX News? (Wait, FOX is obsessed with the Mexican border. Never mind.) Obviously this was some sort of government cover-up where the US military got involved, possibly with the Men in Black, and forced Canadia’s accommodating news media into radio silence, as it were. Which leaves it up to that last bastion of true investigative journalism–the internet blogger–to speculate about what really happened that fateful night in Chris Benoit’s hometown. This intrepid reporter threw on some blinders, exhaustively researched his own nerdy obsessions (like any conspiracy theorist worth his salt) and came up with the following possibilities: Tesla’s Death Ray: unearthed and test-fired I’m fascinated by the life story of Nikola Tesla, the visionary Man Out of Time who solved the world’s energy crisis in his head roughly 100 years before gas hit $4/gallon while inspiring a band of farm kids in Sacramento, CA to name their butt-rock band after him (and then compose the third-best power ballad of the hair-metal era, “Love Song,” but none of this really has anything to do with astronomical phenomena). While I’m grateful to Tesla’s memory for enabling me to dismiss Thomas Edison as a no-good, elephant-frying son of a whore, I’m probably even more fascinated by the theory that the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was caused by Tesla test-firing the death ray he was supposedly working on in either Colorado Springs or Long Island, NY. In 1907 and 1908, Tesla wrote about the destructive effects of his energy transmitter. His Wardenclyffe facility was much larger than the Colorado Springs device that destroyed the power station’s generator. Then, in 1915, he stated bluntly: It is perfectly practical to transmit electrical energy without wires and produce destructive effects at a distance. I have already constructed a wireless transmitter which makes this possible. … But when unavoidable [it] may be used to destroy property and life. The art is already so far developed that the great destructive effects can be produced at any point on the globe, defined beforehand with great accuracy (emphasis added).(30) Nikola Tesla, 1915 He seems to confess to such a test having taken place before 1915, and, though the evidence is circumstantial, Tesla had the motive and the means to cause the Tunguska event. His transmitter could generate energy levels and frequencies capable of releasing the destructive force of 10 megatons, or more, of TNT. And the overlooked genius was desperate. Could it be that someone, perhaps a budding supervillain, has stumbled across Tesla’s long-dormant superweapon? If so, I’m on the first train to Colorado. America’s economic security is at its lowest point in nearly a […]

  • Apparently I Look Like Richard Gere (and Other Reasons Why I Hate Him)

    This weekend, while at a party at one Mike Shank’s pad, a young woman with whom i had spoken earlier in the night walked up to me while i was in a circle talking with Tea Krulos, J. Jason Groschopf and Mr. Dave Clay (names dropped to convey just how scene this party was. Yes indeed, i was hobnobbing with movers and shakers–as far as i’m concerned, anyway). She wanted to let me know that she thought i looked like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, but without all the gray in the hair. Now, i realize that this was meant as a sincere compliment, but i was unable to hide my obvious discomfort at this comparison. I managed to say “really?” instead of “Oh my fucking god i HATE Richard Gere with the passion of a thousand suns OMGWTFGROSS,” but when she looked at the other guys and said, “doesn’t he?” she caught me mouthing “NO” at them. “What, isn’t that a compliment?” “No, i mean, it is! Thank you!” I stammered, but she had realized that she had unwittingly insulted me, and walked away. I felt bad. Whenever a young lady implies that you are attractive, you should say thank you, no matter how perplexed you are by her optical prescription. But two points: 1) I’m pretty sure i’ve hated every movie Richard Gere has ever been in. At least, i know for sure that i hated that streak he went on in the 1990s where he was always cast as the dashing, distinguished older leading man making crazy with the love scenes with whatever hot starlet was the “It Girl” of the day, despite the fact that he comes off like a smarmy douchenozzle. From my perspective, it started with the execrable Pretty Woman and continued with Sommersby, Intersection (where he was paired with TWO trendy starlets, for fuck’s sake), and the most offensive of the bunch, Dr. T and the Women. Now, before you start wondering why the hell a straight man is watching these abominable chick flicks, let the record show that of all of these, i have only seen Pretty Woman. Once. On VHS. Because i think my mom taped it off Showtime or something. No, my vitriol is based solely in the trailers for these movies, all of which showed Douchey Dick in the throes of passion with his leading lady, as if to say “yes, i will be in your movie, but it’s in my contract that i be naked with the leading lady, and that my love scenes get as much exposure as humanly possible. In fact, i will only do Letterman and Leno if you ensure that they’ll ask me about faux-fucking these gorgeous broads.” I mean, dig this bullshit right here: Not only do we get a little bit of nakey Richard a mere 30 seconds in, but he’s got a fresh-off Silence of the Lambs Jodie Foster tenderly shaving his face and declaring with a straight face, “Ah nevah […]

  • Chinese Democracy. LET’S DO THIS.

    Fig.1: At least that godawful Asian-style font didn’t make it onto the album art, i guess If you’re on top of pop culture, you’ve probably already listened to the new “Guns ‘n’ Roses” album, as it’s been streamable on the “G’N’R” MySpace since Thursday. Me, i listened to it for the first time while at work on Friday, but since i was in an office environment, cranking the muthafugga wasn’t really an option. I did, however, hear enough of it to know that Chuck Klosterman is on crack rock. In his review of Chinese Democracy for The Onion, Klosterman (with whom i agree on some issues [the validity of hair metal as a genre] but disagree vehemently on others [the boneheaded contention that hair metal was valid essentially because it sold a lot of records]) attempts to mark the release of Axl Rose’s Citizen Kane Plan 9 From Outer Space as some sort of cultural turning point: Chinese Democracy is (pretty much) the last Old Media album we’ll ever contemplate in this context—it’s the last album that will be marketed as a collection of autonomous-but-connected songs, the last album that will be absorbed as a static manifestation of who the band supposedly is, and the last album that will matter more as a physical object than as an Internet sound file. This is the end of that. Uh…really? Says who? You? Fig.2: It’s called a camera, Chuck. When i click this button, it will create an image of you. Like magic! Oh, wait, i get it. Look at that photo…he’s totally stoned. That explains it. But still, i really did enjoy his musings on Motley Crue in Fargo Rock City, so maybe i should give the album another listen, at home where i can hear everything, yes? After all, it may be impossible to review the album in a vacuum away from the 17 years of anticipation, or whatever the hell else Chuck contends, but in the end, it’s about whether or not it’s a good record–or at least, a passable listening experience. Granted, with this much time gone, “almost as good as Use Your Illusion” would likely be a success. So, blah blah, enough with the buildup–i’m gonna hit “play” on the MySpace player and blog my thoughts as i absorb that which we thought would never see the light of day, and that which many of us plain didn’t give a shit about. But hey, that’s what obsessing about pop culture is all about–caring about shit that ultimately is pointless. So join me, won’t you? 1. Chinese Democracy Ok, opening reminds me of, like, “In the Beginning” from Shout at the Devil. I thought Axl hated the Crue? But in time, our nations grew weak, and our cities turned to slumswait, opening riff. Very processed. Ha! That first guitar lead totally sounds pasted over the top. …Man, this already doesn’t sound like a band…at least, it sure doesn’t sound like one playing live. Ooh! Big explosion at the […]

  • The Milwaukee Music Scene

    a Well-Intentioned Rebuttal (Or: Oh! Matt! Gimme a Hug!)

    Fig.1: This image of a packed Cactus Club witnessing Call Me Lightning is sure evidence of a dying scene Matt Wild needs a hug. If you’ve read this month’s edition of SubVersions, Matt’s back-page column in the pages of VITAL’s print edition, you may have gotten that impression. Every year, to close the annual music issue, Matt gives his take on the state of the Milwaukee Music Scene, and he’s not in a very good mood this month. “You want to know my take on the state of the scene? It sucks. What’s more, I’m glad I’m out of it. And that HiFi lyric [NOTE: Read the article and you’ll see he’s referring to “Success! Success! Success!,” a rock song by the band I drum in. Do note that I found it totally flattering that Matt referenced us! Oh, Matt]? Oh, it’s true all right, though I would argue that in Milwaukee, no one hears you, period. It doesn’t make a lick of difference whether you’re 20, 30, or 48, because the only people that are going to give a shit about your band are your friends and girlfriends, and even they’ll piss and moan if you don’t put them on the guest list. Is the idea of a bunch of slowly graying adults playing basements and barely-attended clubs inherently ridiculous? In a world of few absolutes and rampant relativism, let me just come out and say it: Yes, yes it is. Give up now. Feel the shame.” Jon Anne Willow, our fabulous Editor in Chief, the Robbie Robertson to my Peter Parker, suspects what I am certain is true. She “has known Matt for many years and has believed for a while now that he was heading for that aspirations-vs.-reality wall most young artists collide with eventually.” Since Matt ended the music issue on such a downer, I thought I’d take a stab at a well-intentioned rebuttal to his contention that the current Milwaukee Music Scene is sucky and awful. I also would like to send Matt a small ray of hope from the other side of that wall Jon Anne is talking about, not unlike the black GI who peers over the Berlin wall and rescues Hedwig from cold East Berlin in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Only, ya know, with slightly less gay. (But only slightly.) Fig.2: Let me save you from all this strife and sauerkraut, Matt What I’m trying to say, Matt, is this: Jon Anne is 100% correct about that aspirations-vs.-reality wall. I know because I full-on smacked into it head first two years ago. The year was 2006. The Republicans were about to cede control of Congress to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years, and a little tv show called Heroes had caught the nation’s imagination before jumping the shark a season later (because, really…West? That kid sucked). And your humble narrator had just ended a 5-year relationship because he didn’t follow his lady love to grad school, choosing instead […]

  • Libertarians

    Weak on Facial Hair?

    Former Republican candidate for President and avowed Libertarian Dr. Ron Paul was on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, and something struck my eye while he was on–something that made me squirm and rendered me unable to look away. I immediately texted K, my good friend and fellow political junkie in Chicago to ask, “Does Ron Paul wear fake eyebrows?” Watch the interview for yourself, and keep an eye on Dr. Paul’s right eyebrow. It looks askew to me, as if it is barely covering a much lighter eyebrow underneath, but is about to plummet from his face. Once K was able to view the interview later in the night, she noted that current Libertarian candidate Bob Barr has what can only be considered a most unfortunate mustache: To me, it’s obvious why no one is eager to vote for Mr. Barr. Let’s say through some wild act of god, superhero act of time travel, etc., Bob Barr won the Presidency. Would Americans be ready to watch in horror during the State of the Union address as Bob Barr’s mustache spun a cocoon, only to emerge during the National Security portion as a furry, vibrant moth? K’s text message about Mr. Barr ended with the following question: “Libertarians–weak on facial hair?” I’ve asked my old friend Gary, an avowed Libertarian, to chime in on this. Gary is the poor man’s Skeet Ulrich, who is the poor man’s Johnny Depp, and as a result has a history of tastefully executed facial hair. I will update with his insight when i receive it. In any event, i think it’s patently obvious why the Libertarian Party will never be a viable political force in this country. If you’re going to run for President and have facial hair, it had better be mighty. Witness our nation’s grand tradition of powerful Presidential facial hair: Theodore F. Roosevelt* “Trust busting: It’s the right thing to do, and a tasty way to do it.” William F. Taft The similarity to great baseball relief pitching mustaches illustrates why Baseball remains the national pastime Abraham F. Lincoln I mean, obviously Martin F. Van Buren Wait, that’s not right. Oh, here, sorry… Martin F. Van Buren “I was also Secretary of State, bub” *Obviously, when elected President while wearing powerful facial hair, your middle initial is required to be changed legally to “F,” for “Fucking.” Look it up, i’m pretty sure it’s buried in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution somewhere.

  • Obamanfreude (Or

    How I Learned to Love the Lunatics)

    The lunatic fringe right wing of America is eating itself alive, and frankly, it’s cracking me up. Whether it’s the old lady claiming Obama’s an “Arab” (because suddenly there’s something wrong with that), crowds in Minnesota booing McCain when he insists no one should fear an Obama presidency, or–for fuck’s sake–a Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota calling for investigations of her colleagues for “Un-American views,” the nutter contingent has gone completely around the bend, and as Obama extends his lead, their heads are this much closer to exploding, Scanners-style. Many of my friends have expressed all sorts of rage and disgust at the long-simmering ugliness that is bubbling to the surface these days, but me? I can’t help but laugh. What else can you do but laugh? This ugliness has been there for the last eight years, or at least since September 11. It’s easy to hide racism and fear-mongering behind faux patriotism and demands for “security” when you feel like your team is solidly on the winning end (to say nothing about the sad state of affairs in America when people are more concerned with whether their team wins than with what’s best for America). But the Republicans’ politics of fear are finally being exposed with the ascent of their worst nightmare–a Black candidate with a foreign-sounding name who actually might live in the White House in 2009. HOLY SHIT, IT’S THE END TIMES! SAVE ME, JEEBUS! The frayed ends of sanity exposed themselves perhaps the most nakedly while my band was out on the East Coast, driving in deep blue Maryland and Washington, DC. When you run out of stand-up on the iPod and get sick of the music you brought along, a surefire way to stay awake in the van is to listen to conservative talk radio (back when i went to work at 9, i’d listen to Charlie Sykes on my drive downtown. Laughing at the radio is better than coffee! Really!). And lemme tellya, if you think the right-wing loonies on the radio here in Milwaukee are off the chain, you should see how bonkers they’ve gone in states where the polling’s never been close. One dude we listened to in the Baltimore market went into a commercial break saying “i really wish the mainstream media would take a closer look at where Obama’s money is coming from, because i’m convinced a good chunk of it is coming from the Middle East.” …Really? Look, the average donation sent to the Obama campaign may be $86, but even that’s a little beyond the means of the working-class Al Qaeda grunt, isn’t it? Where’s the proof, Cowboy? Watching the nutters implode, i can’t help but wonder about the effect it’s having on rational swing voters. Do you think, on the insane chance that there are still SOME people in America that haven’t decided whom to vote for yet, they look at these McCain/Palin hate rallies and react like when the earth found out that the aliens in the […]

  • What I Learned on My Autumn Vacation

    Fig.1: Logan Jacobs takes really great photos of us In case you’re not paying attention, i play in one of those adorable “local bands” that practices in their basement and writes their own songs and tries so hard! and are totally gonna “make it” once we get in front of the right label exec when they’re just the right amount of drunk to think that signing us wouldn’t get him or her fucking fired with a quickness. Actually, if we ever seriously thought that at any point in our careers, we had it beaten out of us with the reality stick years ago. Still, because packing four sweaty dudes and their gear into a ramshackle Ford Aerostar for two weeks to travel the country and play music for a bunch of people who would just as soon watch the Phillies/Brewers playoff game without your damn racket in the background is always a bucket of laughs, we recently took a trip to the East Coast, playing 16 shows in 16 days with our pals white, wrench, conservatory. Specific tour diaries can be found elsewhere (like our website), but i thought i’d use Cultural Zero to quickly (ha) summarize a few things i learned on this tour (and over the course of several tours). Think of it as “DJ paints a picture of real rock and roll touring for you, the common man or woman who believes in such pedestrian concepts as taking vacations that involve seeing more of a city than its bullshit highway system and crap-ass rock clubs.” Or don’t, whatever: 1) The perception of a tour matters more than the tour itself. On average, my band tours about two weeks per year–day jobs and paid vacation will do that to you. As a result, it’s nearly impossible for us to build any kind of reliable draw in cities like Boston or Seattle, because we only get to them once every two years minimum, if you go by our ideal of hitting the East Coast one year and the West Coast the next (although in reality we haven’t been out west in three years). So every time we go out, it’s the same thing–pulling teeth to get shows in clubs where no one has ever heard of us, with no chance to build any kind of built-in following for next time (think about it–how many touring bands have you seen come through Cactus Club in the last year? Now how many do you remember? Exactly). It’s worked better for pals of ours, like the departed Modern Machines, who had no problem with living in squalor and working pizza delivery jobs in order to tour for months at a time and hit places multiple times per year. But we’re pussies who like job security and nice apartments. They are hard; we are soft. Still, because comparatively, there are many Milwaukee bands who don’t tour at all–or if they do, they don’t blab about it as much as we do–we get this […]

  • “Why are You so Cool, Michael Gerald?” Or

    In which I Attend the Forward Music Fest, Day 2, Part 2

    fig.1: Droids Attack, attacking Here’s one thing i didn’t do all weekend during the Forward Fest that i feel should be pointed out—i didn’t get drunk once. There’s a reason for this; it’s because despite running into people i knew all weekend, i was essentially going it alone. And look; stories of romantic rock ‘n’ roll excess play really well when the intrepid music journalist has a traveling partner or two, but alone there’s nothing Hunter S. Thompson about being drunk on Leine’s at three in the afternoon. When you’re 34, live in Milwaukee, and a humble blogger for a local publication, that’s just sad. So yeah, not so much with the drunken antics this weekend. I point this out because when i walked from the Frequency to Wisconsin’s best live music venue, by far (sorry Cactus Club), the High Noon Saloon, i managed to meet up with some pals who took care of all the alcoholic revelry for me in spades. Not two minutes into my High Noon visit (whereupon walking into the venue my first thought was “oh sweet! I didn’t completely miss Helliphant!”), i heard a “HEY DJ!” and ran into my yes-it’s-only-9-PM-but-god-dammit-i’m-loaded Chicago buddy Tanya and her pals Ashleigh and Kara, who weren’t far behind. What rules about Tanya is that she has the best musical taste of any 21-year-old i’ve maybe ever met. Cute girls who are barely drinking age are not supposed to be fans of music that falls under an umbrella referred to in the 80s as “pigfuck,” but there you have it. Tanya’s favorite band in the universe is Killdozer, and she is here, at this festival to see Killdozer and Killdozer alone. Oh, and the Heroin Sheiks, because apparently she’d totally blow Shannon Selberg. She said so about 20 minutes after she threw up in the High Noon’s beer garden. (NOTE: Tanya’s gonna kill me for writing this. My only possible redemption will be convincing her that because this is a new blog, no one is reading it yet, so no one will know her shame. Look, Tanya, at least i didn’t run the pictures.) After a completely ripping set from my boys in the Madison stoner-riff combo Droids Attack, i was tickled to hear a bunch of people around me exclaiming sentiments similar to “who were those guys? Droids Attack? They were awesome! Why haven’t i heard of them before?” Argh. BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION. Droids have been around for almost as long as my band (8 1/2 years, guh), so there is no excuse for anyone who attends shows at the High Noon on a regular basis to have not heard of them before Sept. 20, 2008. End of story. Tanya gets a pass because she’s from Chicago. Speaking of Tanya, it was around this time that her friends were cutting her off because she apparently had enough to drink for the night (it was about 10 at this point). After an extended debate among the three […]

  • “Paul Sanders is Charming!” Or

    In which I Attend the Forward Music Fest, Day 2, Part 1

    fig.1: The two Nicks from The Box Social yowl some words or something I spent the night at my pal Norah’s place a hop, skip, and barely a jump from the Capitol square area, which was just too damn perfect. She had met me at the Corral Room Friday night and we stood outside and chatted while the boys in Brainerd closed things out (yeah, um, sorry i missed you guys, John!). This was a good thing, as i had not seen Norah since March, when we played that very same Corral Room. The next morning she treated me to a Red Baron 4-cheese pizza breakfast (i sort of saw this weekend as an opportunity to get my digestive system in shape for our tour, which starts Friday) and a private screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which, for frak’s sake, where have i been? Joss Whedon rules at nerd musicals, as the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer obviously demonstrated. I should have downloaded this weeks ago. Anywho, you don’t care about nerd shit; you care about rocker shit (which is essentially nerd shit, but louder. Face it). As the final credits rolled i made my way from Norah’s pad to the Stage Door, the side theater of the Orpheum on State Street. I got there just in time to check out my pals in the Brewtown pop-punk power party The Chinese Telephones throwing down a fairly solid set, despite some sound issues that were beyond ridiculous. Seriously, if there were a Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares for sound dudes, these yahoos would have qualified for a season finale. The Telephones got off easy compared to Things Fall Apart, who i suppose had it coming, what with naming their band that after all. During portions of their set, the PA threw out filling-rattling bass at inopportune times and cut out entirely at others. Completely ridiculous. Things seemed to get back to some level of competence for Canadia’s Brutal Knights, who played some killer Zeke-tempo speed punk. They were followed by a band called Star Fucking Hipsters. Now, ok. When you name your band something like “Star Fucking Hipsters,” your band is going to either destroy so much that it’s the best band name ever, or your band is going to suck so badly that your name reads like a desperate way to get people to pay attention (i mean, if i see a band called “Adolf Hitler Raped My Grandfather” on a flyer, i’m going to the damn show, ya dig?). In this case, the name turned out to be a case of “oh, you’re on Fat Wreck Chords and playing the exact same music they’ve been putting out for the last 500 years, but because you dress like New York gutter punks and have neck tattoos, you need just the MOST BADASS NAME POSSIBLE, don’t you? Awwwww, so cute.” Which basically meant it was time to head to The Frequency for some rippin’ Indie Rock. After a more […]

  • “We have more hair than all of you Americans!” Or

    In which I Attend the Forward Music Fest, Day 1

    fig.1: Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons tear it up at the Majestic Theatre So here i am, blogging for VITAL Source for some reason. Because, hey, i sure don’t do enough blogging elsewhere. Nothing like spreading yourself too thin, right? Look, i won’t lie—I’m not here to be entertaining, and I’m not here to inform. I’m here because Matt Wild told me that blogging for VITAL nets you crazy mad tail.* For my first Cultural Zero assignment, i was sent by my benevolent overlords to Madison for the first ever Forward Music Fest. A crapload of venues hosting an assload of bands for what amounted to be a shitload of bargains ($25 general admission pass plus a $10 VIP guaranteed access pass to the High Noon Saloon on Saturday night for the mighty and reunited KILLDOZER? Sign me the hizell up). Note: by “was sent by my benevolent overlords,” i mean that i said, “well, benevolent overlords, i bought a pass for this thing like two weeks ago; i suppose i could write it up for you guys.” So off i was, driving toward South Central Wisconsin (yo) in my badass Kia Optima blasting the Albini re-recording of Cheap Trick’s In Color, which knocks the original on its ass, in case you were wondering. Upon my arrival i was immediately hit with a dilemma, as often happens at a music festival of this magnitude–do i head to the Frequency to see my pals the Skintones? It turns out the answer was “no,” because i was instructed by the internet to be sure i did not miss Israel’s road warriors Monotonix, who are gaining a reputation as one of the best live bands anywhere. So it was off to the Majestic Theatre with me. The less said about the first band i saw at the Majestic, High Places, the less entertaining this entry will be, so let me consult the notes i wrote myself in my phone (take a notepad to a show? When i can send myself text messages? I am the future of music journalism!). Let’s see, what did i send myself…ah yes: “High Places: two white douchebags from New York sing over their half-assed cover of the Akira soundtrack.” Seriously, it’s a rule these days: when two people set up some boxes of noisemakers, call themselves a “band,” and then say they’re from NYC, you’re pretty much guaranteed some sort of “arty” self-indulgent bullshit which automatically commands respect simply because it’s from New York City. Sorry, i don’t buy salsa made in New York City, and i don’t buy artsy duos not named “Suicide” from there either…especially when one of them is dancing around like goddamn Robin Goodfellow playing a few electric drum pads and a woodblock. Gah. Let’s consult my phone again: “The high point of the set was when Shane from Cyn Cyn patted my ass and said ‘good hustle.'” fig.2: Make sure that woodblock is properly miked, asshole “Cyn Cyn” would be Screamin’ Cyn […]