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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

Glen Hansard @ Housingworks 6.12.2012

Let’s come up with some new rules for attending concerts.

1.  As we’ve discussed before, be respectful with your camera.  Don’t be an asshole.  If its an SLR, don’t be snappin’ all up in someone’s ear.  If its an iPhone, make sure the light is not on when you’re taking video.  Simple enough.

2.  If you’re going to yell things in between songs, be cool about it.  Do it once, then back off.  The performer is not there to have a conversation with you.  That’s what they have friends for.  And their friends don’t exclusively see them at paid events.

3.  If you must sing along, do so at appropriate times, at an appropriate volume.  Don’t hold out your notes longer than the performer.  Don’t do harmonies with them at full volume.  Don’t add vibrato to said longer notes and harmonies to get attention.  Because it will certainly get you attention.  But it may be far more rage filled than you would hope.

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I say these things, in order of increasing importance, because we experienced all of them last night.  Glen Hansard played an intimate benefit performance at the Housingworks Bookstore in Soho.  A beautiful little bookstore, which donates all of its proceeds to charity.  What a lovely guy that Glen is.  Too bad his number one fan came to the show straight from hell.

Let’s talk about some positives.  Hansard has a voice like no other. He means every note, there is no hint of BS.  At one moment he can be joking with you, the next there are tears in your eyes, and you fight them back with the force of a thousand tiny Bono’s (which I guess is just regular Bono) just to look like you’re keeping it together.

He’s had well deserved astronomic success recently, he won an Oscar and a Tony, and is just a Grammy and Emmy away from an EGOT.  Let’s make that happen.  He has a new solo album coming out which I have not heard, but the songs he played from it were promising.

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We won’t get too much into song specifics though, because there was a greater issue at hand. This terrible person in the front row.  Lets call her “Sheebaz; Queen Of Evil” or just Sheebaz for short.

Man, this girl knew how to get right in there.  There were maybe 20 seats, the rest standing.  She must have waited in the pouring rain for 2 hours.  We were outside in line for quite a bit, and had to stand.  There was no one in front of her.  People surrounded the stage, but there were no direct eye lines to give her a death stare.  And clearly, her powers of supreme evil fought off all the collective dirty looks sent her way.

It started simple enough…she was singing a bit too loud when the crowd was asked to sing along.  “Who is doing those annoying harmonies?”  Who’s holding out the notes a little too long?  Man, that’s just not cool!” But we all figured it was a passing incident.  Oh no, oh god no it was not.

It just didn’t stop.  It was clearly coming from one source.  A brunette with “The Crazy Eye.”  You know “The Crazy Eye”…it’s unmistakable.  That look someone gives you, which clearly says “I’m going to kill you, then eat your hair*” The look that makes you think “Wow, I have to get out of here, wait, where did everyone else go?  Oh no, they already left.  FUCK.  How do I get out of this one…….NOOOOOOO”  but by then it’s too late…she’s already started talking about the independent theater productions she has acted in.

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Between each song, she would respond to anything Hansard said.  Like a full on response, not just “Woo!”  woo is ok, you’re supposed to do that.  This is a direct quote:

Hansard:  “So I got this new record coming out, I’m gonna play some of these for the first time

Sheebaz Queen Of Evil:  OHMYGOD Glen I heard the new album today and I love it I just had to tell you that I’m such a big fan and it sounds so great SO GREAT!!!

I’m not exaggerating that in any way.  She went stream of consciousness on him.  Someone yelled “You were great on Fallon!”  a nice little note, and she chimed in!  Giving a full rundown of what she liked about it!

We looked to Hansard for guidance.  The man was a busker on the streets of Ireland, this must look like amateur hour compared to the characters he’s seen.  But honestly, I think he was a little thrown off at the crazy this queen of evil was throwing his way.

After a few comments, he finally addressed her head on.  Hansard donned his armor and was going into the cave of supreme darkness.  “Oh ‘tanks, ‘tanks.  You’re very sweet.  You can yell whatever crazy crap you want, but ya know, I feel like you might be affecting some people’s joy by doing that.”   The first dagger was thrown.  He had calmed the dragon in the way only he could.  He didn’t punch her in the head, like Jeff Tweedy, although maybe he should have.

He turned to the guy with her and said “Is this your boyfriend?”  she says “HUSBAND!”  oh wow, someone help that guy.  I didn’t hear what the guy said, but Glen echoed “NOT AFTER THIS?????”  Clearly the man had been through hell.  We all wish him the best.

For the most part, it quieted down after that.  She continued to sing her annoying harmonies, but only when the crowd was prompted to sing.  There was no more chatter. I had to position myself in such a way that the head of the person in front of me was blocking Sheebaz: Queen Of Evil, so I would not be distracted by her writhing about during the songs.

What brings a person to do this? To have complete disregard for those around them, and pretend the show is happening just for their own enjoyment.  We came to the conclusion that she had one of the following professions:

1.  Works with animals (they can’t tell her to STFU)

2.  Theater Manager who everyone hates

3.  Degenerate Gambler (I just made that one up, it has to be one of the top 2)

That must be the ultimate challenge for a performer.  Not that a crowd hates you, because then you just want to try harder, or just say fuck you.  But when someone loves you to such a degree, that they’re ruining your show out of pure love and admiration.  That is precisely why some famous people have handlers or bodyguards.

Glen Marketa

The show was still fantastic.  Marketa Irglova showed up, and they played some Once/Swell Season hits.  The two have such beautifully matching voices, and everyone could clearly feel it.  Even Sheba kept quiet, well, only during their first song.

I think we need to start a committee.  It will be way more organized than the Occupy movement. Lets call it “People For Ethical Behavior at Shows”  or PEBS for short.  It should probably be a .org.

(*credit to J Aptman I for that line)

I Miss The Mixtape

We all know about DRM, SOPA, CISPA, FROLUTA (I made that one up) and so on.  This will not primarily be a diatribe on these restrictions, but rather on the joy they are taking away.  With technology advancing as rapidly and powerfully as it is, its still a wonder that any law can even attempt to stop the sharing of music.

It seems like we’ve been focusing on nostalgia recently, and maybe that’s true.  I turned 29, so why not see it as a chance to look back and reflect, while anticipating the various apocalyptic events that the internet tells us are about to happen.

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How is there not the greatest app on the planet for creating a “Mixtape” or playlist, and sending that to your friend.  Like, fucking really.  Can the soon to be pointless RIAA really prevent a programmer from anonymously writing this app and just putting it out there?  Napster 2.0.

Most of us came up in the CD era.  Mix CD’s were fantastic.  I guess they’re still out there, but at a rapidly dwindling rate.  I’ve only used a CD recently on one car trip, but before that, it was many months before I hit an actual play button.

Sure we have a billion blogs out there, but you really can’t trust one of them all the time. Once in a while a gem comes through, but you don’t hang out with a blog.  You don’t know who it’s going to try and yell at when it gets drunk.  You don’t know its real favorite bands, not just the ones various PR agencies get it to promote.  Music should come from your friends.

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The majority of new music I have fallen in love with has come directly from live humans telling me about them.  And you know what?  They still cant just send me a link to a fucking mix they’ve created so I can load that shit on my iphone, enjoy the music, pay $20 to see the band live where a way bigger share of that $ goes to the band, then buy their release on vinyl.  All because someone sent me a link.

Bands will always record music.  It’s just something that happens.  It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to record.  Make it yourself.  If it’s a successful band, spend some money and do it in a studio, and you will have better sounding music that will inspire people to come see you live and buy your kick ass merch (signature spatulas, twisty straws, temporary tattoos, that stuff) and special release music.

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Amanda Palmer raised A MILLION DOLLARS on kickstarter.  Stop complaining.

Back to the point though, I miss the mix.  You get a chance to peek inside someone’s brain.  What song did they open with?  Is there a common theme to discover in everything they want you to hear?  THIS SHIT IS FASCINATING.  I can tell you precisely the last Mix CD’s I recieved.  A group of friends would all pass around burned copies of mixes, numbered by volume.  I even took part, dubbing mine “Serious Business.”

All of the elements involved only contributed.  Even writing the tracklist, putting your handwriting on there, it all makes it more personal.  Not that I’m pining for the analog days, the same effect can come from any text, turn your mixtape cover into an internet meme.  (I’m In Ur Tape….Mixin.)

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The labels are going away.  There’s really no point to it now.  The rights holders to anything recorded before this very minute, will all seek to defend their copyrights to the death, which is understandable if someone is using music for commercial purposes, but perhaps one day, music sharing will not be seen as so negative.  All we can hope, is that it becomes almost like prohibition. The RIAA either needs to disappear, or run out of money so they can’t sue single parents on welfare who rescue adorable puppies and walk old ladies across the street, for downloading a Toby Keith album.

Spotify is an annoying mess, the search doesn’t turn up the results you’re looking for.  And if you have to link it to Facebook, its just a headache.  A mix of music isn’t something you want to share with ALL of your friends, just a select few.  When I see that a friend has used Spotify to listen to the collective hits of Collective Soul, they don’t want me to see that.  Frankly. I don’t want to see it.  Some things need to be kept private.

We need another Napster.  It killed an industry that was already dying and exploiting all sorts of people.  Some things can’t be monetized forever.  Why not just share it?  Yes, that’s the most idealistic free love sentence I have ever typed, but I stand fully behind it.  Let’s end on that note.