Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I only considered him my best friend after years of closeness, when he confessed in drunken honesty that he smoked cigarettes. I think he was concerned that I would judge him for some reason. I did not. For whatever strange reason, as little and insignificant a fact as it was, this was the deciding factor in ending my quest for a best friend. It meant I could confide in him all my secrets, no matter how big or small they may be.
He died in a freak drowning accident two and a half years ago. That year, 2008, was by far the worst year of my life, for this and other reasons. It was the year my life, as I knew it, self-destructed, imploded, discontinued to exist. I felt like the life I knew was a sinking ship, and I'd luckily been thrown into a lifeboat by some unknown providence. Right now, I'm in the middle of reading "The Life of Pi", by Yann Martel. In the book, a young boy names Piscine (Pi for short), the son of a zookeeper in India is traveling by sea to his new home of Winnipeg, Canada. During the journey, the ship's engines have some kind of malfunction, and the ship succumbs to the brutality of a violent storm. Pi is thrown overboard onto a lifeboat, in the company of two extremely dangerous creatures, a hyena and a Bengal Tiger, both prior inhabitants of his father's zoo.
I felt a lot like Pi that year. The foundation on which I stood shattered, and what was left, I had to cling to with all my might, even though in the midst of dangerous, savage creatures. I can't reveal the ending of "The Life of Pi", as I haven't even finished it, but I'm assured by the writer that it's a happy ending. I'm sure that Jeremy's ending was a happy one. He's in a better place, while I'm in lifeboat, still surrounded by danger. However, I have hope, even though I feel like I've been tossed from the frying pan into the fire. And I've gotten used to it. But there's still a void in my heart, and my best friend may never be replaced.
I hope my ending will be happy too, but right now I really, really miss my old friend.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Hey everybody. I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere and twitterverse. I've been busy traveling since my last entry, and have been relying on facebook and the phone to keep in touch with friends, so I haven't made time to blog. But here's what I've been up to!
Went camping, saw some great bands (New Pornographers, Damian Jurado) and had to cancel the Scurvies East Coast tour, due to lack of responses from promoters (bummer), and got ready for our summer Midwest mini-tour. Here's how that went down:
The tour began with our 4th annual appearance at Cornerstone Festival in southern Illinois. We played two shows, including a surprise slot right after our friends, Pittsburgh's The Last Hope.
The next day, I got profusely sick (thanks, heatstroke, malnutrition, and lack of sleep!), but was feeling better after sleeping in a real bed and getting all the junk out of my system. I also was completely unharmed in a car crash (as was everyone else, while the car I was in was totalled, and the other guys' car was pretty banged up). Can you say lucky?
Afterwards, we went to Cleveland, where I got to visit the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame Museum for the second time. They had some new cool stuff they didn't have last time I went (2 years ago), like the awning from CBGB's, some of Jerry Garcia's guitars, and a whole exhibit on the Boss.
We played a basement show in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then a cafe in Indianapolis, where we got to hang out with our friend Josh, the former bagpiper and mandolinist for Flatfoot 56, and met some new awesome friends. We went from there to Chicago, and then 90 miles from home, our fuel pump went out and we had to get towed all the way back at 3 in the morning. Triple A payed for it, and the tow truck driver was not happy. After a few near misses, we were finally home!
Former Scurvies guitarist Brandon Reid, who'd been traveling in Australia for the last 6 months, was on tour and played a show in Minneapolis, and I got to play (as This Heart) with him and Australia's Evan Buckpitt. I got to hang out with them again, plus a bunch more of my good friends from all over the country in Asheville, North Carolina at my friends Aaron and Grace's wedding. It was a great blessing to see all of these people in one place, catch up and do my fair share of square dancing. We got to visit our good friends in Indiana on the way to and from the wedding, which was a real treat.
I also got a chance to see two of my favorite bands, The Dead Weather and The Gaslight Anthem, in the same week. It pays to live in an area where good touring bands are always passing through!
We began our Scurvies Out West Tour with some long drives, as we had to get all the way to southern California in a matter of 4 days. We had two shows, one in Sioux Falls, SD, and another with our friends Munster Boogie, in Denver, CO. We had little time to kill, but we squeezed in some good fun with the Denver kids and family that Nathan had in the city.
Shortly thereafter, we were in Pomona, California to start our 5-day stint on the Vans Warped Tour. Within that short span of time, we did a whirlwind tour of California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, which felt much longer than it was, and we met a ton of good folks. You can check out a review of our show at Washington's Gorge Ampitheatre here. Check out these great bands that we got to interact and share the stage with, if you haven't already:
Riverboat Gamblers My favorite live show of the tour, with Andrew WK (with whom I had a few near run-ins) being a close second. Part of the draw was the rock 'n' roll energy, but another big part was how tight the band was. They're albums, especially "Something To Crow About" and their newest, "Underneath The Owl" have been in steady rotation the last month.
Cobra Skulls We got to know those guys a little bit, as we were playing the same stage and had a merch booth next to them a few times. They have it all: catchy songs, clever and sophisticated lyrics, and genuine DIY spirit. Awesome!
Same story with Cobra Skulls, these New York City kids were on the same stage as us, and we played back to back a few times. Their songs give a healthy nod to Bouncing Souls and Operation Ivy, and have all the contagious spirit a feel-good band should have. Keep a lookout for them!
Larry And His Flask
We played with LAHF a few years ago when they were a 4-piece punk band, but now have morphed into a six-piece hillbilly acoustic punk jam with enough power to give you a heart attack. They've also picked up Dropkick Murphy's merch guy as a manager, who's getting them huge shows left and right. I predict by this time next year, they'll be a household name in the punk community.
We also got to hang out a bit with a few bands we've played with previously, like California's Longway, Boston's Far From Finished, and The Casualties, who we got to play with in Alaska back in October, and it was great to hang out with all of them again. There are way too many stories to tell about Warped Tour, but suffice it to say that by the time it was over, I was sad and wished I could have gotten to spend more time with the people I met.
The next phase of our tour was with Portland's husband-and-wife folk punk duo Destroy Nate Allen.
We did about 12 dates with them, with some wild adventures intertwined into the tour, including getting one show shut down by the LAPD, swimming at the beach, camping in the redwoods, and finding a place in Oregon that had about 5 treehouses on the premises, and this sweet Lord of the Rings-inspired door.
After splitting up with Nate and Tessa, we played a handful of shows in Oregon before heading back east. We'd almost been on the road a month, and were ready to be home. We had a few canceled shows between Montana and South Dakota, so we ended up camping in our van a few nights in a row, which was augmented by several stops to Starbucks, for coffee, wifi and free hot water for our Cups o' Noodles.
In South Dakota, we set about re-enacting National Treasure 2, and snuck into Mt. Rushmore from the backside. Punx!
After being off for a few days, we had 2 final shows. One in South Dakota that our friend Jake set up for us, and then a homecoming show at Minneapolis' Triple Rock Social Club, home to punk rockers from near and far. Our buddies Dead Bundy and the Neat Neat Neats opened the show with a brilliant display of psychobilly, then Crankshaft, the amazing one-man-blues-garage-punk-band and our new friends Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band closed out the night. It was a wonderful way to end the tour.
Now that I'm home for a bit, I hope to be blogging and tweeting a little more often than I've been doing. A little bit.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
The Dead Weather "Sea Of Cowards" Third Man/Warner, 2010.
Much like they did on their 2009 debut "Horehound", The Dead Weather dive right into a miry, mucky, fuzzy avant-blues-punk set, leaving you once again in a dizzy trance, wondering when one song ended and the other began, and just who it was singing that last part, Allison Mosshart or Jack White.
Deviating little from their first album, "Sea of Cowards" is full of White's, well, dark side, a breath of fresh air for anyone who thought The White Stripes were getting too polished on the last few albums. While White is obviously stepping out from behind the drums on a few songs to play some signature howls and screeches on the guitar, the album also features fellow guitarist and Detroit native Dean Fertita playing more organ and keyboard (his main duties in his other band, Queens of the Stone Age) to flesh out the sound.
While "Horehound" gave us our first impression of TDW, "Sea of Cowards" is a denser, more complicated look at what these four musicians are capable. Here's hoping they dish out more.
4 out of 5 stars.
The Gaslight Anthem "American Slang" Side One Dummy Records, 2010
For the last few years, New Jersey's The Gaslight Anthem has been both praised and criticized for their emulation and mimicry of greats like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but their reputation as one of the best rock bands was set in stone with the release of 2008's of "The '59 Sound", which boasted a pitch-perfect blend of punk and arena rock that took America by storm.
That being said, their new album, "American Slang" is one of the most anticipated records of the year, but don't hold your breath if you're expecting the same record all over again. This time around, Brian Fallon and Co. delve into new territories of soul, blues, and gospel, especially on back to back stand-out tracks "The Diamond Church Street Choir" and "The Queen of Lower Chelsea".
Although it might not be the feel-good album of the year that "The '59 Sound" was, the maturity on this record proves that they are worthy successors, not copycats, of their heroes.
4 and a half out of 5 stars.
Uncle Tupelo "March 16-20, 1992" Rockville Records, 1992
As the title suggests, this acoustic-only album was recorded in just a few days, under the supervision of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who decided to produce their album after seeing them play the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia. Although tension between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar had begun, their chemistry works so well on this album, it's hard to tell why more people don't herald this as their best.
Standout tracks are the traditional song "Coalminers" and a reimagined roots version of The Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog".
4 out of 5 stars.
Band Of Skulls "baby darling doll face honey" Shangri-La Music, 2009
These guys were the supporting act for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when I saw them recently, and didn't quite know what to expect. Live, they effortlessly switched between swampier garage-stomp blues, and beautiful, harmony driven haunts.
Lead vocals are shared by Russell Marsden, guitar, and Emma Richardson, bass, but they also share songwriting duties with drummer Matt Hayward, and they compliment each other well, like a set of siblings each taking turns to showcase their talents.
4 out of 5 stars.
River City Rebels "Keepsake Of Luck" Silver Sprocket, 2007
I can't find anything negative to say about this album. Catchy punk inspired rock and roll with soul for miles. I caught a set from these guys a year ago, and they put on a fantastic show. I picked up their newest album, "In Love/Loveless", which is also great, but this one is the cream of the crop.
For some ungodly reason, the Rebels didn't get the label support they should have had for what I would consider the peak of their creativity and perfection. This belongs in every punk and rock and roll fan's collection.
Absolutely 5 out of 5 stars.
Titus Andronicus "The Moniter" XL Recordings, 2010
A brilliant second effort by Glen Rock, New Jersey's most engaging pessimists. Style-wise, you'll have a hard time pigeonholing them, but if I had to take a stab at it, I'd call it "post-shoegaze indie fuzz folk punk".
Somewhere in between The Arcade Fire, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, and The Replacements, this band's sound is drowned in punk rock noise, fury and abandon, and resurrected in catchy melodies and passion. A concept album based on the Civil War, "The Moniter" curses the futility and hopelessness of the youth of America, and the prospect of growing up, but offers solace in musical freedom, which they don't take lightly. The fuzzy guitar solos, violins, keys, and shout-along choruses make these guys one of the funnest and most heartfelt punk bands these days.
It's not hard to find yourself chanting along with haunting refrains like "You will always be a loser", "The enemy is everywhere" and of course, "Tramps like us, Baby, we were born to die".
Angst never sounded so good.
4 out of 5 stars.
Johnny Cash "American VI: Ain't No Grave" American Recordings, 2010
Johnny's last set of recordings with Rick Rubin begins with the death rattle of a chain dropping the ground, bells tolling, and a frail Cash singing "There ain't no grave can hold my body down". His version of the spiritual takes a personal tone as the song was recorded the week he died. The title track sets the mood for the whole album, which features themes of death, redemption, and his heavenly soon-to-be home. Though you can hear the mortality in Cash's voice, Rubin has a way of casting his songs in immortal gold.
4 and a half out of 5 stars.
Vivian Girls "Everything Goes Wrong" In The Red Records, 2009
For their second album, Brooklyn's Vivian Girls dish out more girl-group-meets-lofi-punk and prove that they're not going away. Brash, catchy, sad, spacey and sassy. Somewhere in between the Shangri Las and The Coathangers.
3 and a half out of 5 stars.
Randy "Randy The Band" Burning Heart/Fat Wreck, 2006
Catchy-as-hell Ramones style punk rock from Sweden. I first came across this album as a college radio DJ a few years ago and have been wanting to get my hands on it ever since. It seems to me like most rock and roll bands from Sweden have their act down (The Hives, Turbonegro, Sahara Hotnights, The Sounds, The Hellacopters) and put out nothing but perfect records and Randy is no exception.
3 and a half out of 5 stars.
Against Me! "White Crosses" Sire, 2010
Working again with famed producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Green Day, Garbage), Against Me! cranks out another slick sonic assault in the vein of their 2007 major-label debut "New Wave", and boasts the same flailing dissonant guitars, rapid-fire vocals and catchy sing-alongs.
Along with the jump from an indie label to a major came accusations of selling out, a loss of innocence, and a deep look inside that seemingly prompted a lyrical and musical change. Thus was born "New Wave" which focused on highly emotional themes of integrity, lust, and apathy. Though these themes are still prevalent on "White Crosses", the album takes us on a more intimate, personal journey that shows us that Tom Gabel is still true to himself.
Be it for better or worse, we can't be who we once were, and although Gabel may have veered off the political course he set out on when he first started his band, his passion and songwriting still stand head and shoulders above any political statement he ever made. From "Baby, I'm An Anarchist" to "I Was A Teenage Anarchist", Against Me! is still a band that makes you think twice before you think you know it all.
Gabel sums it up on the Sex Pistols-esque "Rapid Decompression", one of the standout tracks on the album:
"Before you point your finger,
Before you cast your stones,
Take a look at yourself.
How can you expect from someone what you won't do yourself?"
4 out of 5 stars.
Flatfoot 56 "Black Thorn" Old Shoe Records, 2010
Chicago's celtic punk rock road warriors return with their much anticipated Black Thorn, produced by Street Dogs bassist Johnny Rioux.
As I expected, the themes of the working class struggle, bagpipes, and gang vocals are as abundant as their previous records, but there is a sense of maturity and growth in the lyrics as well as the diversity of sound. There are full-on hardcore songs and more folk sounding songs that you won't hear coming from just any punk band.
To top it off, the songs are more personal, and give you the idea of what it takes to be on the road for 9 months of the year, and how it feels to be in the same band for 10 years and still be going strong.
4 and a half out of 5 stars.
Recommended songs: Black Thorn, Courage, Smoke Blower, Shiny Eyes, We Grow Stronger
She And Him "Vol. 2" Merge Records, 2010
I have to admit, I anticipated this record a lot, and at first, it kind of disappointed me. It's not that it's a bad record at all, but I had high expectations based on "Vol. 1" being one of my favorite albums of the last few years that led to my disappointment.
That being said, there are some high points. One, M. Ward adds more of his lush, atmospheric vocals to the mix, which weighs the delicate balance in his more folk-driven direction to compliment Zooey Deschanel's swoony 60's girl-group style vocals.
Two, most of the songs are longer, which is nice, because as wonderful as "Vol. 1" is, it feels like a quick kiss that you wanted to last longer. This seems to be a sign of maturity for Zooey's songwriting, as most of the songs from the first album were written over several years, whereas she threw herself into writing the songs from this album, despite her busy acting schedule for "Yes Man" and "(500) Days of Summer".
Highlights include the first two tracks, "Thieves" and "In The Sun", the NRBQ cover "Ridin' In My Car", and the emotional closer "If You Can't Sleep".
3 and a half out of 5 stars.
Fucked Up "Couple Tracks" Matador, 2010
A nice collection of F'd Up's singles and B-sides. This is one of my favorite punk bands of recent times, and steeped in the tradition of lo-fi punk rock, they've put out over 35 7"s in the last 5 years. Highlights include "Dangerous Fumes", "Ban Violins", "I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You" and "Teenage Problems".
4 out of 5 stars.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Beat The Devil's Tattoo" Abstract Dragon/Vagrant, 2010
After BRMC had already perfected a blend of garage, shoegaze, and psychedelic rock with their first two albums, the band blew everyone's minds with the beatnik inspired folk rock album, "Howl".
With "Beat The Devil's Tattoo", the boys (and girl) return to that form, with another perfect album. This one mixes the sonic garage boom of "Baby 81" and the hypnotic pysch-folk of "Howl" for another classic in the BRMC canon.
5 out of 5 stars.
The White Stripes "Under Great White Northern Lights" Third Man/Warner, 2010
I bought the vinyl companion to the "Under Great White Northern Lights" DVD, which followed the Stripes on their Canadian tour supporting "Icky Thump" back in 2007.
The songs on the audio version are compiled from several shows on the tour, and the live album offers several classics like "Seven Nation Army" and "We're Going To Be Friends" and also has the crowd favorite "Jolene" (Dolly Parton), and songs dating back to their early Detroit days, such as "When I Hear My Name" and "Let's Shake Hands".
Though the album is by no means a glossy, produced account, it proves that they are still spontaneous, explosive and raw as hell.
3 out of 5 stars.
Jay Reatard "Blood Visions" In The Red Records, 2006
From the infamous cover that puts even Andrew WK to shame, to his early death, this is a punk document at it's best. A modern classic.
3 and a half out of 5 stars.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Besides tour booking, songwriting and merch design, we've spent a lot of time getting ready for the magnum opus event-of-the-year contender Punk Rock Prom, which is an 80's themed dance party our guitarist and bassist have been putting on for the last 4 years. Every year, analog synth legend Joy Electric has headlined, accompanied by host of local bands doing originals in addition to favorite 80's jams. This year, The Scurvies will be playing along with local pop-rock band Hyland.
However, I have been on a few notable excursions into the city and beyond, represented here by a photo recap.
Flyer for the esteemed Punk Rock Prom
Selected works from the Foot In The Door 4 exhibit in Minneapolis.
And last but not least, the Scurvies' newest toy, a Hammond M3, which we will be putting to use at Punk Rock Prom.
I've also been maintaining a photo album on my facebook of new music I've gotten this year, which I'm going to be posting here shortly.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I got to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club last night, and it was one of the best shows I've ever been to. Judging by the first half of the set, I thought it was going to be all new songs, but once they had played nearly all of their newest album, "Beat The Devil's Tattoo", they blasted into a classic after classic assault, which featured songs from each of their albums.
Sandwiched in between two middle-school aged kids and a 40-something couple, I enjoyed watching the kids amazed at what was probably their first rock 'n' roll show, hardcore fans screaming out their favorite songs, teens moshing, and the older crowd singing along in a haunted state.
One of the best parts of the set was when bassist Robert Been came out alone with an acoustic guitar and announced while lowering the mic, "This stage is too high, I feel like I'm too far away from everyone". He then sat on the stage about two feet away from me and my friend Eli, and played Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna". After the song, he shook Eli's hand and gave him his guitar pick.
From there, they dove right back into their diverse catalog, with scorchers like "Weapon of Choice" and "Spread Your Love" and haunting songs like "Red Eyes And Tears" and "666 Conducer". Although their folk driven album "Howl" boasts some of the mellower songs of BRMC's canon, I thought that some of these songs were the most powerful and charged songs of the whole set. "Ain't No Easy Way" and "Shuffle Your Feet" had everyone stomping in a frenzy and they shouted along with the lyrics.
Above, guitarist Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro. To close the show, the band played "Open Invitation", the secret closing track from Howl.
London trio Band Of Skulls (pictured above), who opened the show, were a great compliment to BRMC and I highly recommend checking out their debut album "Baby Darling Doll Face Honey".
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Ok, so remember that post I did a while back about all the amazing albums coming out this year? Well, so far my theory has been correct.
More albums I can count seem to be dropping every week. The new Titus Andronicus record is outstanding, BRMC's "Beat The Devil's Tattoo" is solid from start to finish, and if Johnny Cash's "American VI: Ain't No Grave" doesn't shake you, you probably aren't alive.
The Dead Weather have released a promo video for a "Die By The Drop", a single off their new album, "Sea Of Cowards", due May 11th.
Check it out here.
I'm hoping to go into the city today to get She and Him "Vol. 2" today. Crossing fingers.
I get to see BRMC tonight, with Band Of Skulls opening, and then I'll be seeing Titus Andronicus next week, so I'll report further on that then.
I love my life.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Last week I embarked on my first trip to Nashville, Tennesee, which entailed:
2 sleepless, 7 hour Megabus trips from Minneapolis to Chicago (1 there and 1 back)
1 deck of cards completely destroyed during multiple games of Jackson Fives
1 25th birthday celebration
1 plate of brownies and a 6 pack of birthday root beer (thanks Andy!)
1 Kangaroo spotted in kentucky
2 trees climbed
3 staged amateur wrestling fights, complete with swearing 80-year old women, spandex, spikes and the arrest of 1 "wrestler"
$150+ spent in records and CDs
about the same amount spent in food
40 minutes spent trying to find a non-existent bathroom in Gary, Indiana
3 all-nighters, 2 Cracker Barrel visits, and one 3AM Waffle House visit
4 visitors from Atlanta
6 days packed to the gills with non-stop activity and no sleep
X number of new friends made (don't make me try and count)
1 cave explored
too many Danzig jokes
And I'd gladly do it again.
I'm looking forward to tour.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I recently took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and caught a set from Memphis' alt-country-punk heroes, Lucero.
Though they're known for their raw recordings that embody the lifestyle of boozing, all-night drives, and hard luck, their new album, "1372 Overton Park" is a sizable step up in production and arrangement.
Producer Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Bouncing Souls, Flogging Molly) brings a gleaming presence that gives each track a gritty-yet-warm shine that pulls you in and makes you forget what year it is, as all good music should.
The album, whose title is a reference to the famous Memphis park where Elvis Presley played his first paid gig, rightfully brings to mind a sense of American tradition that Lucero not only pays tribute to, but owns. The full horn section, organ, piano and pedal steel arrangements echo the maturity of Lucero's near 10-year existence and puts "1372 Overton Park" in the upper echelon of modern rock and roll classics, alongside The Gaslight Anthem's "The '59 Sound" and River City Rebels' "Keepsake Of Luck"
While knowing going in that they are accustomed to playing for 3-plus hours, I stood up front for the whole show and was upset when they didn't keep playing highly requested songs all night.
I raised my glass and shouted for more, but after two hours and a short encore, the band retired for the night and announced, "We'll see you tomorrow night". I wasn't able to attend the second night, as I was heading back home to Minneapolis, but at least I get to listen to this album as much as I want, close my eyes and get lost in Overton Park.
Friday, February 26, 2010
A. Sat around a lot, getting to know the family I live with.
They have two dogs, Honey and Bentley, that are really cute and fun (but fart a lot).
B. Gone record shopping. I got Jay Reatard's "Blood Visions" (RIP) and Fucked Up's "Couple Tracks" on vinyl, and have to figure out a preamp or whatever it takes for the record player to work.
C. Started working on booking for The Scurvies as we prepare to tour and work on our second album. Our first show will be this coming Thursday at Station Four in St. Paul, Minnesota. I've heard from several sources that it's a well established venue, so it should be a good time.
Last weekend was also my second show premiering the Daniel Firmin/This Heart Mixtape at The Marlin in Fairbanks. We released Mixtape 1 on the 12th of this month and played a second release for the 21+ crowd last Friday.
Above, copies of Mixtape 1 await listening. Dan accompanies Ephy, Ryan and Rebecca, Fairbanks' great new band, Feeding Frenzy.
It was a really good time and Dan and I are looking forward to doing another cassette in the future.