Taiwan!

Wait a minute, what happened?  Where am I?  How did I get here?

All common questions, but let’s forget about those for now.  We’re back in action.

I just returned from a brief jaunt to Taiwan for the wedding of Web Master Eric Tarn, and it was a lovely time.  Let’s call it our wedding party world tour, since technically we formed a band that went through a lineup change and played 2 nights.  The performances consisted of one song one night, and 2 songs the next, and I sat in with a strange miscellaneous European dude, in Taiwan looking for a bride, who just wanted to play rockabilly tunes, but let’s not get caught up in the details.

482372_10103383539411711_1257301282_n

It’s a wonder what jet lag and watery Taiwan Beer can do to a group of out of towners! There’s a strange little ex-pat music scene, where international business people go to play classic rock jams at all hours of the evening on a Wednesday.  Very strange.  It felt like we were in a Terry Gilliam movie at times, and that’s pretty much where I want to be cinematic-ally when having a surreal travel experience.

Taiwan+Beer

In what may have been the greatest wedding band decision of all time, a local Taiwanese Ska Band was hired for the reception, and it was fantastic.  Some old R&B covers, some traditional swing songs, all fantastic.  We even drank enough Taiwan Beer to get up and play a few numbers

46965_10103383541263001_1055081840_n

Note Mr Tarn looking extra McCartney-like in his grey 3 piece suit and Hofner bass.  Was it any good?  I have no idea!  But it was a great time.   That’s all for now.  Workin on some new ideas.

The Stones.

The Rolling Stones are turning 50.  That’s entirely too long for a rock band to be together.  It provides far too many chances to disgrace oneself, as we have seen.  Of course they are one of the greatest bands in the world, but maybe, they just needed to hang it up after Emotional Rescue and call it a quarter century.

As with all anniversaries these days, the occasion is marked with a commemorative release and some shows.  Didn’t they just do this for Exile last year?  There’s a new single out, its OK, I’m not going to talk about it.  What we will discuss, is the shows.  There were rumors the commemorative events would take place at the newly minted Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  This would make sense, its a brand new arena, they’ve been booking lots of high profile events, who better than The Stones to say “This is the new Madison Square Garden, and like everything else, its in Brooklyn, now start gentrifying Staten Island already”  And yes dear reader, I had a plan.

barclays-center-rust

This would be my one last shot to experience The Stones.  I have never seen them live.  I worked on a session with Charlie Watts (as an assistant…) and it was a fantastic experience.  Full of great stories, great jazz musicians, he smelled incredibly expensive, everything you would want in the experience of meeting someone of that stature.  But it was no Rolling Stones show.  We must face the facts, the members themselves are also a bit past their prime.  It’s just facts.  A Stones show in 2012 will be very different than 1972 for a plethora of reasons.  So If I could not bring the Stones to 72, I would bring myself as close as possible.

keith-richards-coors-456-102610

What I’m saying is, I would get as intoxicated as possible.  If you know me, you may be aware of the fact that I like to experience music fairly sober.  I really don’t want to be “that guy” screaming shit the entire show, passing out before the encore, then calling everyone the next day and saying “DUDE THAT SHOW WAS FUCKING AWESOME.”  It’s just not who I am.  But I would make the exception for this show, because at their ticket prices, I cannot afford to have a bad time.

I would purchase the least expensive ticket possible, walk to the Barclays center, get as drunk as possible at the nearest bar, and Wooo Hoooo my way through the entire show.  I would hopefully have convinced a friend to join and help document the experience…but if not, that’s ok too.  Afterwards, I would hope to find a cab back, and not die in the process.

But no, it was not to be.  The shows were in fact announced, but in Newark.  Yes, Newark.  I guess Cory Booker had a hand in that, he’s probably helping the road crew lift cases and scanning tickets at the entrance.  I’m just not going to go to Newark for this.  That’s one hell of a commute for a plan such as this.  Also, I have never thrown up on the PATH train, and that’s not a streak I want to break.  One final thing…..The tickets range from $95-750.  Are you fucking kidding me?

Who would have thought these guys wouldn't age well???
Who would have thought these guys wouldn't age well???

With fees, that makes the cheapest nosebleed seat well over $100, and that’s just not OK.   Is this tour sponsored by fucking Bain Capital?  At this point, only the 1% can afford to see the Rolling Stones.  Yes, their production is going to be hideously large and expensive.  Yes, they have 15 extra musicians on stage to play the parts Keith is too fried to remember.  Yes, they’re greedy and British.  But this is ridiculous.  It’s also not worth it. I’ll just stay home and watch Shine A Light if I want to see a band sounding mediocre in a nostalgic setting.  The sound will also be better.

Stones1

I think it’s time to give up the dream.  The Stones are kind of like Bach or Mozart at this point.  They’re an ancient form of music, still relevant and influential to millions, but they themselves no longer exist.  We must not pay attention to their new work, not acknowledge any performances.  I think we’re all better off for it.

Prohibition.

New York is a wonderful city.  All the rumors, good and bad, are true.  You can find anything at any time.  The cost of living is completely insane.  The worlds best music and food are readily available.  Along with this, comes alcohol.  There are fantastic bars.  Known both for atmosphere and unique and/or delicious drinks.  Sure, you can drink Miller Light if you want, but even the fratty bros have caught on.  The sports bars probably have more taps than those guys have roofies in their pockets.

By far, my favorite New York beverage is the Old Fashioned at Fedora in the West Village.  They make their bitters in house, and use some type of maple syrup/pecan concoction along with the citrus.  I would place it up against any beverage in history.  Much like the city itself, it is ridiculously expensive, but completely worth it. There are many establishments that have their own version of a signature cocktail, many of them incredible.  Its not just mixing some ingredients together, its the care put into the preparation, the quality of those ingredients, and the setting, it all plays into it.

But in the last month, I have been put on the bench for the game of drinking.  Once in a while, I experience cluster headaches, which can be triggered by alcohol.  Any amount of alcohol…even 1 drink can cause hours of pain.  As good as the Fedora Old Fashioned is….its not THAT good.  So for a month or two, I must remain stone cold sober.  And that is in fact quite a cold stone to remain on.  I experienced great relief when watching an old episode of Parks and Recreation, April says she’s getting a cluster headache because of Ron Swanson’s antique typewriter.  Pawnee knows my troubles!

Drinking in New York is such a big part of everyone’s lives.  We don’t have to drive anywhere, and most people don’t have a home big enough to entertain in, so we meet up in bars by default.  After work happy hours, birthday parties, Wednesdays, all good occasions to visit a drinking establishment.  Got to the restaurant first?  Have a drink.  Being the dude that just asks for water and hangs out for a bit, not so cool.

But while I’m waiting to return to the game, here are a few observations from the land of sobriety:

1.  You save a TON of money.

Lets just do some simple math.  Your average beer is about $7 at a bar.  A fancy cocktail will be around $13.  On Friday you go to dinner and have 2 cocktails, on Saturday you go out to a friends party and have 3 beers.  That’s around $50 with tip.  Those also may be conservative estimates for many…not counting weeknights.  That’s a few hundred dollars we spend on booze every month.  In most cases, completely worth it (something needs to numb the pain over how much you spend to live in such a tiny space) but expensive nonetheless.

2.  You look ridiculous and smell terrible when drunk.

I have decided not to function as a hermit, but actually venture out into the public completely sober.  While this may be a mistake, it has also lead to some observations on human behavior.   Man, people look fucking ridiculous when drunk.  I apologize to all of my friends who do not drink for any past events.  When you’re taking part, it makes no difference.  But if you’re not…all the drunk stereotypes are true.  People slur words, talk super loud, yell the dumbest shit possible…oh how I miss it.  Also, dude, you better hope that girl you’re talking to is fucking hammered, because you smell like death.

3. Not drinking is probably great for your health.

Yes, doctors have said this for a while, but it really has to be true.  I’ve lost a bunch of weight, and my physical activity has remained just about the same.  The liquid calories do make a difference.  I also sleep amazingly on weekends.  Not that I was constantly hung over, but if you go out late and have a few, you don’t wake up feeling like a spring flower.  I don’t feel like a spring flower, but maybe like a dandelion – still a weed, but looks kind of nice in the right lighting.

4.  There is nothing to do and you have no fun.

Those 3 positives?  Pretty much forget them.  Being the sober guy is zero fun.  I have 2 rules in life.  1, never be the most sober person at any gathering.  And 2, never wait more than 5 minutes at a restaurant serving breakfast.  This period has put me in stark opposition to rule #1, and I don’t like it at all.  People don’t need to go out and get hammered all the time, but we do need some form of intoxication now and then.  The lowering of inhibitions is very important to life in such close proximity to others.  Just imagine being in a small dimly lit room with 100 other people talking loudly.  No one wants to be in that situation.  This is every bar or restaurant.  Why do we do such things?? I really have no idea.

And there you have it, just some non musical thoughts for mid October.  Yes, Sober October is a phrase some use.  And when in doubt, rely on the rhyme.

Oasis is Guns N Roses and Other Thoughts On The Olympics Closing Ceremony

That Olympics closing ceremony has me thinking.  First off, when you see any form of Ska band on (inter)national television, something has to be wrong.  Then the Madness sax player wearing a kilt starts flying through the air like a mix of David Lee Roth, Peter Pan, and Rowdy Roddy Piper, and I’m left there like a frightened child.

628x471

david-lee-roth_b

rowdy-roddy-piper-interview-20070103015702914-000

I don’t so much understand sports.  They just don’t connect with me.  This is the first time I’ve actually watched more than 20 minutes of the Olympics, and as Good Morning America probably prefers, I’m more interested in the emotional drama associated with the event than the sport itself.  Yes, its fantastic that a 15 year old can do 15 flips on a balance beam, but I just want to see the reaction of the relatives who have mortgaged their house to get her there.  But these ceremonies are a different concept altogether.  I feel like we’re in ancient or futuristic times. Celebrating the gladiators, or some hunger games type shit.  I don’t partake in psychedelic drugs, but I imagine that opening ceremony is about as close as you can get to a trip gone horribly wrong.

The closing ceremony taught me so many things.  The Brits view music much differently than Americans.  Now let me just say, I missed  The Who  and Brian while partaking in the widely accepted Sunday night phenomenon known as “Catching Up On Your DVR” but caught several performances, which we must now discuss.

The Spice Girls.

I have never felt so many conflicting emotions while watching a performance.  It can best be described as “Bewilderment.”  Is this a joke?  Wait, people are so into this!  These lyrics are terrible!  Wait, there is actually kind of a positive message behind them, not just materialism and objectification!  This is hilarious, they look ridiculous!  But they’re kind of pulling it off!  I wonder how they feel, a few years past the height of fame.  That mean looking one seems to still be well known, what do the others do?  Maybe she’s the Timberlake of the group, and everyone else is Joey Fatone.  That’s the same band, right?

George Michael

Is fucking awesome.  I was not around for the original WHAM era, but he just looks so comfortable occupying his unique roll in the music world.

Oasis

article-2187415-14855656000005DC-180_964x582

Or Beady Eye, or whatever they want to call it.  They didn’t invite Wings to play, ok?  Can we also make the observation that the British rock and roll haircut likely owes a lot to the Hasidic concept of Pais?

Was that not a look of sheer terror on that Gallagher’s face the entire time?  Was it withdrawal, stage fright, anger, all of the above?  I would love to know what was going through his head.  He certainly did not look like he was having a good time.  Is he disgracing the legacy of Oasis by branching off into this alternate universe where to most non Brits, basically Oasis is on stage, except for one dude who wrote the songs?  I have no idea, I just know the hits.  But he probably is.  The best I can do is compare it to our American version…Guns N Roses.

Axl_Rose_and_a_friend

Had Axl and his new outfit “Guns B” appeared in the bizarro New York 2012 closing ceremony…many of us would have had a good chuckle.  Yes, we all love Paradise City.  But the singer in both cases was not the heart and soul of the group.  They may be the face, or the mouth as it were, but they didn’t create the most beloved parts.  Their temperamental behavior goes well beyond what is accepted for their level of talent.  Chris Rock recently commented on NPR’s Fresh Air, that he can attribute some of his longevity in the entertainment world to “Acting appropriately for his level of talent”  and not trying to get away with anything too crazy.

The crowd won’t mind if it’s a different drummer, all rhythm guitar players on the planet look the same, and you can even substitute Duff McKagan as long as you have Tommy Stinson, but you have to have Slash there.  I’m going to assume its the same for Oasis.

Wilco @ Prospect Park, July 23rd 2012

The phrase “Dad Rock” has become glued to Wilco in recent years. If you know someone’s dad, possibly your own, who fancies themselves not on the cutting edge of music, but close enough to see over the cliff and realize they don’t want to hang out down there, they probably like Wilco.

It’s accurate. Their music is not too controversial, it’s not face punchingly loud, and there are some nice little melodies in there without sounding watered down. Dads and hipsters approaching and over 30, enjoy them some Wilco. Call the music what you want, personally, I am a Tweedy Enthusiast.The band is on a little New York run this week, and we attended the opening night at Prospect Park. I’m not going to give you a full show rundown, but I would like to discuss a crowd incident we witnessed which brought the whole concept together.

Prospect-Park-Bandshell

Prospect park is a lovely venue, plenty of lawn space, even when it’s crowded, its not unbearable. You get there early, stake out a spot, maybe eat some turkey avocado sandwiches from Union Market. Compare tote bags with the crowd around you, stuff like that. We got an atypical spot at the front of the lawn, figuring everyone would just stand up when the show started, we don’t need to picnic for hours on a Monday evening. We were right. You know who wasn’t right? The forty something dad who perched in front of us about 1 foot from the concrete walkway.

While the opener Lee Fields was on, we were enjoying the aforementioned sandwiches, having a wonderful evening. Suddenly, out of the the crowd walked said dad, lets call him Dennis. Let’s imagine his wife calls him Den. Dennis stood there nervously, trying to guard a space that was way too big for one person, on a highly traffic-ed piece of lawn real estate. He asked us “do you think people will stand when the band goes on?” We said “Yep!” he said “Ok!” all was well. He waited there for about an our. Equally as suddenly, a mom and two kids emerge from the crowd, looking flustered, carrying lawn chairs. Immediately we knew, something was off. Lets call her Denise.

This dialog is scripted, buy conveys the emotions we witnessed. Dennis is D1, Denise is D2

D2: This is the spot you picked?? We can’t see anything!
D1: Denise, people are just gonna stand as soon as the band starts, it’ll be fine!
D2: Den, we brought lawn chairs, we have organic locally sourced corn salsa from Union Market, how are we going to set up the table I special ordered from Pottery Barn with this location?
(Denise then starts pacing around, looking for another spot. Its 7:45pm, the show started at 7 and the place is packed, she is clearly not happy)

42-15641400

At this point, Denise took 2 chairs and set them up about 10 feet away, near some garbage cans. Dennis walked over to discuss some more, at which point, they clearly noticed our group laughing at them. I would like to tell you we felt bad, but that was not the case. You can’t be showing up at an outdoor general admission show 15 minutes before the headliner goes on and expect to have a leisurely family picnic, complete with flax seed gluten free pita and chipotle hummus. We also had some fantastic beers in the 90 degree 100% humidity weather.

To his credit, Dennis was just out to have a good time. His heart was in the right place, his execution was just all wrong. The path 1 foot in front of their spot, is the only path to get through the park, there’s no way around it. He spent a good portion of the night shooing people off from his spot…a futile effort. We on the other hand were very grateful for Dennis and his lawn chairs, which provided the perfect boundary to prevent people from stepping on our blanket.

Jeff Tweedy & Cleetus from the Red Heel Monkey Shelter

So Dennis, if you happen to read this, like that queen of evil from the Glen Hansard Housingworks show, may I propose a few points of advice:

1. Reserved Seats If you’re going to show up with a bunch of people right before a band goes on, and would like to have some semblance of order, have reserved seats. Skip the general admission show if you’re going to arrive in shifts. Especially if the latter shift contains more people. They play theaters more often than these park things. If you want the musical experience, tailor it to your group.

2. Show Selection Or, if you’re after the outdoor concert experience, just don’t go to a super popular show! You’re a dad who likes to rock, who do you think all the other dads in the area are going to want to see? Wilco occupies a special space, since a few youngsters also like them….like the Khaki Pants Dudes drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle while chain smoking behind you. Pick your family shows wisely! Let’s look at the Celebrate Brooklyn calendar right now….Saturday Aug 11th, Lyle Lovett and his band. There you go! Just go to that one, the crowd won’t get rowdy, and you’ll be able to stake out a nice civil spot on the lawn. Sure he’s not the same as Wilco, but Denise isn’t going to criticize your poor choice in lawn space!

3. Travel Light Again, if you want to show up right before….travel light! Half your night was ruined because of your lawn chairs. Sure it made our night better, but you gotta look out for yourself! Had your whole group just stood in any of the smaller open spaces nearby not able to fit 4 lawn chairs….you would have been fine! You also would have avoided the argument with Denise, and the shame of being laughed at by several groups around you.

I am aware that it is not easy to attend shows with an entire family, and I commend your effort. But if you want to rock out with all the other dads and rapidly aging hipsters of Brooklyn, you might need to adapt your routine slightly.

As for the show? The music was great. The stage setup looked like something out of Peter Pan or Where The Wild Things Are, mixed with the lighting storm going on in the distance behind the stage. We’ll discuss more music soon.