ssion @ Pistol Social Club, 10-5-07

October 6, 2007

I needed some rock and roll so bad.

Ever since the Phil Lesh show on October 3rd, I’ve needed lots and lots of spastic, agressive, high energy to balance the aimless jamming and boring cover songs. That night I’d gotten a little relief, catching half the Pixel Panda show at the Record Bar (it’d been over a year since I’d seen them last, and this time they had a better lineup than recently), and then the end of a Billybats show at Jilly’s. But I was unsatiated.

Welcome First Friday.

I stopped by the Billybats’ show outside a gallery across from Grinder’s. Then some friends and I had dinner at Grinder’s, and I wandered alone to the outdoor “Beer-A-Rama” behind the building. This event had been advertised as a nonstop beer sampling festival, with all-day music from a bunch of bands I didn’t know. There weren’t many people there, and in the darkness, the field of mulch looked like everyone was lined up and paying for beer just as if it were any normal night. At one end of the field was a huge stage occupied by a decent rockabilly band. But I came for the free beer–so I walked into the opposite corner of the venue, into some densly-packed area roped off by the same metal fencing used on pig farms. The pig fencing was covered in Pitch banners, and as I walked through the tiny opening and past a man who looked like a bouncer, I had the feeling like I had to pretend I belonged there. So that’s what I did. I walked up to a row of tables lined with sample-pushing representatives from area restaurants. It was hard not to put my gum into the T.G.I.Friday’s coupon for a free appetizer as I picked up their chocolate-mint mouse sample. And with the barbecue sauce-sized thimble of dessert in my hand, I made my way to what I thought was a free sample of Bud Lite. Turns out it was a whole plastic cup of free beer. As I tipped the amused bartender, the woman beside me said, “they have these about twice a year.” I asked, “What, the Beer-A-Rama?” She replied, “no, the Pitch parties.”

I called my friends to join me, and I stood by the entrance, waiting for them while taking in the rockabilly. I lead my 3 free-beer-seeking joiners to the gates of the Pitch party, and walked in just as before. This time, I found out that guy really was a bouncer, when he aggressively approached me and asked if I was on this list. I said no and, “how do I get on the list?” He angrily near-shouted that, “YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR THE PITCH. YOU KNOW, BE AN EMPLOYEE FOR THE PITCH NEWSPAPER?” Okay, I got it. We left empty-handed, so I shared my beer with my companions.

Then we headed to the West Bottoms.

We made our way past the abnormally crowded 12th Street entrance to the West Bottoms, crawling through the crowds migrating to the legitimately scary “haunted houses”. I usually get a little lost in this part of town, which is a fun pasttime. Seriously. But we quickly found the ancient industrial building-turned-loft/art gallery/all ages club; the magnificent turn-of-the-centry gun marking the entrance was impossible to miss. I thought the event started at 9:00, but it was obvious that we were too early, as everyone else there was either working or reading a book. After paying the very reasonable $5 cover, we turned around and pretty much risked our lives to fight our way to the gas station for beer and bottled water.

By the time we got back, the artsy audience started to trickle into the hot second floor party arena. We sank into the old couches, which were apolstered with some sort of fabric that pumped more heat into our bodies. As our skin withered into wetness, one of my friends became ever-more annoyed–at the heat, at the waiting, at the bizarre crowd (I’m assuming), and at the fact that she was, “at a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol.” Oops, guess I forgot to mention that ahead of time. But I had let her know several times that I was bringing Coke and a flask of Jack, and didn’t we just go to the gas station for beer? But the rest of us enjoyed the underground scene and felt privileged to be there.

Cody Critcheloe, author one of my favorite videos , is the frontman/genius behind post post post punk/dance/experimental group the ssion (pronounced “shun”), was in top form holding court in the underground danceteria. Singing, dancing, playing guitar, and shouting at the audience alongside crazy-sick drummer J. Ashley Miller, the screen of animation one foot behind him, the choreographed boys fighting for space from the advancing dancing mob…

The purity of artistry and punk-dance fun was almost overwhelming.

It was the best all-ages show I’ve ever attended, to say the least. It was so great that I never remembered I was at an all-ages show…which is usually a factor so overwhelming that I can barely force myself to stay around to see whomever it was I came to see.


Roadtrip: Return to the Desert

August 19, 2007

I went to school for a year in New Mexico. It wasn’t a place I’d ever thought about, let alone been to. In fact, I’d never been to the desert except during flights to California. I’d seen a few moments from the sky but nothing from the ground. And I didn’t plan on going to school there until my cousin, who was living there at the time, suggested that I consider going to a college I’d never heard of. The suggestion came only weeks before school would start, and with luck and help from many people, I was admitted at the last minute.

I’d barely driven on the highway before that two day trip to Socorro. Just when Missouri started drying up at the height of August, I blindly plowed into a brown land of mountains. Curiously, it happened to be the week of that region’s “rainy season”, and everyone exclaimed that they’d never seen it so lush. “Isn’t it GREEN here?!” they’d gasp, and my mom and I would look around and say, “Looks dry to us.”

The first few days of my desert life, it rained every day. Several times a day, in fact. But the clouds were pushed to the sky by the mountains, so in my relative valley, I’d look straight up to watch the lightning, which was so far away that thunder never followed the flash. I was confused and maybe a little spooked by that. Between the storms, the town would return to its normal, blidingly bright self.

Like I mentioned, my mom helped me move to the desert. But her pre-scheduled vacation time did not coincide with the beginning of the school year, so I lived at my cousin’s house for two weeks. Her house was a block from campus, so I’d walk to the administrative offices and try to secure a dorm room, get a class schedule, and look into possible job opportunities a research-oriented student like myself might land.

The transition from ambitious teenager to a takin’ care of business adult wasn’t too shocking. But the whiplash induced by abruptly ending my all-consuming social life with my witty, cultured friends, to crashing into an empty ramshackle of a town on the dark side of the moon…that was overwhelming, to put it mildly. All of those friends were about to attend the KC Art Institute together–and I was so jealous. I am not from KC but desparately wanted to live there. Suddenly I found myself in completely foreign territory. Oh, and did I mention isolated?

Wal-Mart (where I now refuse to shop) was an hour away. And that’s going 85mph on the interstate. There were two grocery stores in town: one that everyone shops at, and one that I was encouraged not to visit. There was a tiny dollar store, where everything looked like it’d been rejected from Mexican dollar stores, and all the merchandise was covered in brown, earthy dust. A small outpost of ACE Hardware housed the only toy aisle in town. One of the gas stations had magazines, but I could never find Allure. There was a 24-hr, neon-lit diner that served chile cheese fries. (I later learned these are not the disgusting chilli cheese fries associated with Chiefs-watching, colon-diseasing free-for-alls.) Everything but the campus was on the one main road in town. Starting with a gas station, followed by a saturation of fast food chains, and then to the hardware and grocery stores, the diner and the Roadrunner Steakhouse, the road faded into old Route 66 tourist shacks, and then to a sign announcing that the next city was Truth or Consequences.

Unfortunately, I never visited what the locals called “T or C”. And I was told that, even though I was a vegetarian, I should have the Owl Diner’s famous hamburger there. I had some fear of T or C. Was there a reason it had been given such a terrifying name? Should I test it? Figuring that the only thing in that town was a hamburger, I decided not to test fate in a car by myself in an unfamiliar land that had no cell phone signals.

But back to the campus. I’d only been in town a few days, sleeping on a cot in my cousin’s house, when she and her husband and 2 young daughters left for vacation. Having no job, no classes, and not even a dorm to visit, I hid in the house. I watched Destiny’s Child videos in a dark, air-conditioned room while indulging in a personal pan cheese pizza, set up my first email account, and wrote long letters to my unresponsive friends back home.

The dorms opened and I moved in by myself, watching everyone else greet their best friends and tell their families where to put their boxed-up computers. It takes me awhile to warm up to people, so I’d still soak up alone time at my secret hideaway before my cousin returned. My most precious moments of secrecy were in the echoes of music riquocheting off the dining room’s hardwood floors. Again and again, I’d test my relative’s claim of having unlimited dial-up (a new invention) by playing and re-playing a sample of the Tori Amos song “The Waitress”. The deliberate tempo, interrupted by a loud burst of emotion and piano-pounding couldn’t have sounded sweeter boucing around in that minimal room.

I had to find several moments and places for escape while I lived there. On Easter, when the town was completely, and I mean completely empty, I drove up to the VLA. I’d been once before, but never by myself. I started off actually wearing shorts in the 90 degree village. After taking a few pictures of rusty old signs and the aluminum shacks shanty town (for real), I hit the road.

Depending on the source, the VLA is listed as being in Socorro (50 miles) or the closer Magdalena (25 miles). It’s on a plateau 7000 feet above sea level. Socorro is at an altitude of 4200 feet, so it’s a significant climb, winding through beautiful mountains. I stopped halfway up for lunch at an ancient cafe in mystical Magdalena. If David Lynch had served me my milkshake, I might not have been surprised.

Then I got back on the road. I stepped out of my warm car unprepared for the bracing, cold wind. I put on the extra shirt I’d brought along in case it was less than 70 degrees, but still I froze in those stupid shorts. I ran to the visitor’s center and yanked on a locked door before reading a sign on it saying it would be locked on windy days. Running to the next door, I took refuge in the calm, tiny museum. I readjusted myself and wandered outside for awhile, taking pictures of the cows roaming under the mighty telescopes, until the unending arctic wind forced me back into my car. I stopped somewhere on my way back to take pictures of piñon bushes (called pine nuts out here). Then I sneezed all the way back to Socorro. The next time I got in my car, my returning sneezing fit made me realize that the piñon air was bottled up in there…and I guess I’m allergic to that plant (but not its seeds).

Ever since I left New Mexico, I’ve wanted to return. Sometimes I’ve desparately wanted to escape there. And finally, after my layoff this fall, I might be able to. Sonic Youth is playing Marfa, TX in October. That’s a mere 5 hours from Socorro, and 6 from the VLA. So perhaps I’ll return just in time for my pending “quarter life crisis” (isn’t that precious?). I don’t plan on having a crisis at all, but I do plan on having a vacation. I’ll probably get a car charger for my cell phone and a membership to AAA, just in case.

Ziggy Marley @ The Crossroads 5-4-07

May 6, 2007

This post is about Kansas City. Because…I just don’t have that much to say about the actual show.

On that very warm Friday evening, Kitka picked me up and we drove to the Nelson Art Gallery. After opening a few false doors, we found the Kansas City Art Institute’s showing of its students’ best animation shorts. Very entertaining. And it made me feel like I got shafted on my own education. (Really, I just studied the wrong subject taught the wrong way.)

From one free event to another:
We moseyed around the art walk, stopping at the new shop for Christopher Elbow chocolates. It’s the most chic thing I’ve ever seen in this city. I feel like I’ve stumbled into the future when I walk in there. Please see for youself; it’s next to Tomboy around 18th & McGee. I recommend everything (try the lavender while it’s back for a moment). Okay, so the chocolate wasn’t free, but Kitka bought me a piece. Thanks, Kitka! Delicious.

Then we went across the street to the Pearl gallery. It displayed vintage kimonos, which were billowing in the breeze. Upstairs is a sterling silver shop. Very interesting stuff and most of it is botanical. Maybe I’m just cheap, but I’m concerned that the person who buys a set of napkin rings for $1620 is being impractical. Unless that price includes tax. I forgot how much the silver pasties were…

We went on to wander around Grinders and the surrounding galleries and new outdoor Crossroads venue. Robert Randolph was on stage. As we walked by the side of the stage, Kitka was convinced she saw Ziggy Marley. She waved and he waved back. I had my doubts.

I also had doubts about some stoned lady’s story that Ziggy is staying at the same Comfort Inn as she is. (But I don’t doubt her claim that whoever it was shooed her away.) Wow she was stOOOOOOOONed. She was standing in the doorway of the MoMa gallery, which was closed for the evening. It looked like some fashion shoot was going on inside, and the participants took a break to watch the fireworks eminating from Union Station.

Kitka and I decided to see what we could get out of the wristbands she’d received (also for free) for this Union Station extravaganza: the mayor’s inagural ball. I guessed that the fireworks announced the end of the party. But when we got there, a band was still playing in the parking lot. People were dressed and dancing as if they were at a wedding reception. That made me apprehensive, but I had a combined sense of lets-be-punk-and-crash-this-party and ah-ow-I’m-terribly-underdressed-in-these-gardening-clothes.

Probably half the wedding receptionistas had left or were on their way out; the others were stealing flowers or sitting at large round tables, not wanting to go home and end their exciting evening. The average age of the a member of the remaining crowd could probably start drawing their Social Security benefits. They obviously knew the value of all these birds of paradise flowers (what does that plant have to do with Kansas City? bad choice); it was entertaining to see these elegant geezers walking out with stolen goods. They encouraged Kitka to “leave the vases”, so she just took a couple of flowers. On the way out of the large hall, some middle-aged drunk guy yelled “heeey!” at me. I supposed that was a greeting. He reached for my boobs. I kept walking. I like the new mayor but hope that unwanted groping isn’t a part of his mission.

After the quick walk-through, we went to Pierpont’s for a drink. Again, I felt out of place, but it made me feel like a plebian getting their deserved place in the party. But even if my clothes were more formal, I’d still never have fit in with the annoying wasps running around with beer bongs. I’m not worried about ever accidentally falling into a membership with that crowd. Anyway…Kitka and I were really thirsty, and I knew an $8 martini would knock me on my ass, so I just sipped water. I didn’t have any cash, so I didn’t leave a tip…sorry about that. Another drop in the bucket of free.

Planning on driving around the Ziggy Marley show–sure he was on stage by now–we ended up getting a really close parking space where we could hear (and almost see) everything. Someone was on the phone that whole time (ahem) and missed the extra show that exploded next to the car: a 5′ police woman slammed an old man into the corner of an SUV bearing a Deadhead sticker. Then she threw him on the ground. A dangerouscrazyoldman’s cane flew about. The guy got cuffed and received a screaming at by the woman. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear what she said. The guy laid on his side and at one point kicked the police man standing beside him. But the kick wasn’t too virile. It was like footsie. The policeman laughed and footsied back while casually walking over him. Several minutes later, a van came and hauled him off.

But then we got an even better view–of the actual show, that is. The concert became free. Not sure why it suddenly turned free, but I heeded the security guard’s annoucement. My proof of 21-overness was all I needed to walk through the chain-linked fence and into the soft mulch that perhaps still is the Grinders Sculpture Park. The ten-member band was tight. Ziggy has a great voice and stage presence. I loved his dancing the best.

Someone did a painting of him that was decent. The round yellow moon rose through the clouds. The drunk white guys danced embarassingly. Kitka took a few pictures. The break before the encore lasted maybe one minute. They came back and played a few songs…and that was it. After all that free-hopping, we went home.

The Sperm @ The Record Bar 3-26-07

April 2, 2007

Went by myself. There was a spring rain so I wore my short-sleeved trench coat that I’d just gotten in Chicago. Stood at the bar, drinking Old Style, wistfully remembering that Chicago trip I’d just returned from. Briefly spoke to two of The Sperm guys (two of “the Sperms”?). Then the first guy started–dammit, I forgot his name. He used a drum machine, a tiny Korg, and looped his voice. His friend drew little scribbles and words on the overhead projector, which was half-obscured by things like lights, speakers, and old megaphones. Or whatever those things are that amplified old phonographs.

I was standing by the door and enjoyed watching the reactions of people walking in and getting their first earful of this spectacle. A few people left–actually, those were frat boys who had obviously stumbled upon a scene that was not theirs. They were pissed and I was amused. A few people enjoyed the first act, but it looked like most people were there for the justification for the $8 cover charge, which was Man Man.

So what the hell was that first act? I just tried to find the name…couldn’t. I’ll update this later, when my lazy ass feels like it. But I did like whomever that first guy was. Especially the last song, which was a dance ditty. The music was weird, and for me to say that take a lot. For lack of a better vocabulary, it was just weird. Part of that “weird” genre. And I love weird. This guy’s set was unskilled in the technical sense, but raw in the way that a toddler can express himself: without abandon, slightly embarassing, and admiringly self-indulgent. It was kind of scary and kind of funny: the bizarre graffiti of electroclash. Like this.

Then The Sperm played. The art kids were dancing around, enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, I’m more reserved, and I stood on the sidelines drinking more Old Style. The three-piece band is lose and tight at the same time. In that way, and because of their crazy energy, they remind me of The Liars (although The Sperm disagrees). They sound like Primus-meets-early Beck (One Foot In The Grave era). Lyrics seem to be about masterbating or failed serial killers. Kinda creepy. I think my super-scary basement would be the perfect venue for their thump-clash groove. No, wait: the falling-down porch on an Ozark shack. That’s the perfect venue.
Check out their myspace.

I also bought their cd; at a starting offer of $10, I was able to purchase one for $8, which was all of the remaining cash I had. It has 9 tracks; the last of which is an old Idaho Joe Winslow (I prefer to call him “Joe From Idaho”) song called “Dying to Die”. It’s hilarious, as are all his songs. But in The Sperm, he skips singing, and instead plays bass with his whole body. Quite a show. Most entertaining band in town. Go to their show. Purchase a cd too; they are unique works of art and come with a bonus condom!

Because I was by myself, had not heard Man Man before, and am enslaved to my boring day job, I went home. No Man Man for me, but I bet I missed a good one. At least I saw what I wanted: The Sperm.

Who won the “Young Folks” battle?

April 2, 2007

The catchy Peter Bjorn & John song that I’m sure inspired an advertising bid-off…was won by AT&T.
Blah. It was bound to happen.

But since the song says, “old style”, I think Old Style should use it.
And if I ever saw an Old Style ad on tv, I think I would cry. That’s an advertising company I’d like to work for. But they probably wouldn’t let me dangle my prepositions…since they’re old style and whatnot.

Ludacris @ UMSL parking lot, April 2001

March 6, 2007

“At the airport Mariott!”
That’s what Ludacris’s posse shouted at the end of every verse. What a weird event…Ludacris plays an UMSL parking lot, I’m stuck on a bad carnival ride (whose wind makes my eyes water; looks like I’m crying) during my favorite song (“Ho”), struggling to understanding his other lyrics alongside my Korean friends. Tuition pays for some funny things sometimes….

Just a little flashback.

Recommended Record

February 26, 2007

I “recor’mend” this record (sorry):

“Up Against The Wall” by Peter Bjorn and John.
They’re a Swedish trio. If you like The Shins, anything resembling Irish music, or mellow pop (and I mean that in the best way possible), listen to this. I really like these songs, but more than that, I like it as an album. It’s the perfect mid-tempo, happy-sounding pop melancholishness that is especially suited to driving around or doing random activities in your home.

Vocals sound trash-cany sometimes–think The Raveonettes. I love the accent too. “Each other” becomes “eeshothar”. Cute.

This album is like remembering an old love, like “aww, that was sweet and fun. I love them. Man, that sucked too.” A wistful pain that’s fun enough to dance to. Only fun when you have enough distance, that is.

I feel like I’ve heard these songs before. It’s not just the mod/Irish folk combination…I’m bracing myself for hearing these songs pimped to all hell on every commercial for cars and whatnot aimed at my preciously hip demographic. But for now, these songs are mine. And I’ll never turn the tv on again…at least until I see these guys live. So far, there are no plans for them to come to Kansas City. But they will be at my pseudo-brother’s neighborhood club, The Empty Bottle (in Chicago) on May 8th. That’s a Tuesday. Hmmm. Tricky. But it’ll be heaven; how can I waste that moment of my life at work? Well? I can’t!

The album is actually called “Writer’s Block”.

A promise

February 21, 2007

I’ll catch up soon. I promise. Or at least, sort of catch up.

Tonight I went to the Mardi Gras “parade”, which was squashed by 1,350 cop cars. Bullshit. Then squeezed into the Mutual Musician’s Foundation. Quite cool. I was dressed as a pirate. Might post pictures soon too.

Forward Russia, Nomathmatics @ Record Bar 12-8-06

December 9, 2006

Forward Russia and Snowden? Sounds good. Not too familiar…but sounds good. Not much else going on in KC. So with my trusty Kitka, we dive into a potential scene, with a big appetite for action, rock & roll, fashion, boys, and anything else interesting. My list also includes alcohol, but not to the utmost extreme.

After we, and a few other friends met at La Bodega for their 1/2 price happy hour (a food and sangria ecstaticasm), we eventually made our way to The Record Bar. My $8 cash was still $2 short of getting me in the door, so thankfully, Kitka spotted me. We weren’t prepared for that steep of a cover. Well, it was expected to be a good show, and what else was there to do? Might as well walk in.

So immediately I ran into a sort-of friend, a Russian guy playing the Elvis pinball machine. (Note: a man who plays pinball has a head start on my heart.) I updated him on our mutual friend’s recent move to Chicago…and it was off to the bar.

Today I’ve switched to Jim Beam. I guess it’s less sweet than Jack Daniels. And it’s rougher taste is more like the whiskey-soaked cherries at Dave’s Stagecoach. Taste the memory of a bomb…so I got a Jim & Coke. Shouldn’t I stay away from Jim? That’s kinda what my grandpa died of, when my dad was still a child.

Anyway, it was only 10pm (a Friday), and we just caught the last two songs from Snowden. They were good but were far from hypnotizing.

After their set ended, Kitka’s sister finally made it to the RecBar, after driving an hour with her boyfriend. They were there for Snowden. It’s not their fault they missed them; who starts a Friday show that early? Then Mr. Boston walked up and eagerly talked to Kitka but seemed offended by my presence for some reason. He was also disappointed about missing Snowden. I guess there was another band before them that we had all missed. So what was that $10 for? Some band I’d never heard, and a couple of dj’s? You can’t trip on this town without spilling a drink on a dj. They’re mostly good, but they’re quite common.

Kitka, her sister and boyfriend and I got a table for the Forward Russia set. According to the Pitch, this was a top 40 band in Britain. I’d heard of them a few times but had never heard them. Was this going to be the UK version of BRMC? I had no idea what to expect.

There were four members, dressed in matching i! white t-shirts. The drummer was a girl, which is nice to see. The bass player could’ve passed for that former Panda who’s now in Flee the Scene. The guitar player looked like a chubby version of midtown Derek. The small lead singer with rockstar unwashed hair really did do the rockstar thing. They announced themselves to a murmuring, not-too-dense crowd.

The first song exploded. The genre is whatever that trend stuff is now. The disco groove post-punk, post-post-punk stuff. I’d be bored with it if that damn disco groove weren’t so much fun, and if Forward Russia didn’t rock so damn hard. Man, they put on a show. In that first song, the singer jumped off the stage and onto the bar, nearly swinging from one of the lights (I thought it would break). Lots of that falsetto yodeling screaming stuff. Very British. But he was very good at it. The whole band was tight, polished, and high-voltage, despite the fact that their egos were probably demolished for playing such a small place with a nearly indifferent crowd.

As the show went on, the singer kept alternating between walking around the place with a cocksure rushing energy and turning his back on us to get a catharsis from playing the synth. He even went out the door at one point, and the mic wasn’t even cordless. Usually that cord was wrapped around his neck. When he fell onto a speaker, nearly hitting the front of his neck on the edge of the stage, the rest of the band didn’t flinch. And he sang right through it.

Towards the end of their set, the singer announced, “We’re gonna play a song you might not know now.” And the guitarist added, “Ha! Unlike the rest of them!” So they had a sense of humor (humour? sorry) and rocked it without the need for a stadium’s reply.

Well done, Forward Russia.

Afterwards, I got sucked into the dance party who goes by the name Nomathmatics. Was good, and I danced even though I was one of very few out there…and lots of the remaining audience seemed to be bored and watching us. Mr. Boston did his thing. He loves to dance; maybe our communal dancing made things a little friendlier between us? His twin, the noname Nomathmatics guy kept giving me and Kitka pit-bys. Pheremone-bys. Instead of a drive-by with bullets, he’d swoop a lanky arm over our heads, brushing his pits on the crown of our heads. I requested Peaches so he put it in the lineup, but we left–almost an hour after we started–before it came on. Sorry, but I can only take so much dancing.

Goodnight, dears.