31 October 2005

29 October 2005

Ham Fisted

Ah, Local H. Technical problems plagued guitarist Scott Lucas most of the night, so he was in a surly mood -- well, surlier than usual. Therefore it wasn't the greatest H show I've ever seen, but it was still the best concert I saw all week (sorry, Spoon).

I don't know what precisely it is about Local H that gets me so fired up. I think it's the combination of strong songs and accessible melodies wrapped in bone-crushing rock 'n roll firepower, and the fact that it's just two guys doing all the work is the icing on the cake. I never get tired of listening to their albums.

So anyway, my posse and I arrived in Covington just as the second opening act was wrapping up. This show was another "U Pick It You Eat It" deal where everybody votes for seven songs from a list of 60, then the band tallies them up and plays the top vote getters. We rocked the vote, bought drinks and waited for the fun. As usual, Lucas was working the merch booth before the show, so I bought him a shot of Maker's Mark. Since no one likes to drink alone, I got one for me, too.

Riddle of Steel finished -- they weren't bad, but we didn't drive 90 minutes to listen to them -- and Local H set up. Things started off pretty good with two songs from Pack Up The Cats, but something went wrong with Lucas's rig and he swapped guitars mid-song. That seemed to fix things, but all through the night, he kept kicking and stomping on his multiple effects pedals. At one point he was on his knees, smacking one that apparently wasn't functioning the way he wanted it to.

I felt a little bad for my pal Shay, since this was his first ever time seeing Local H. When Local H is firing on all cylinders (i.e., no equipment malfunctions), Lucas will interact with the crowd, take a few shots at whatever is pissing him off (Velvet Revolver, the Chicago Cubs, George W. Bush), but that night, all we got was a mumbled "Congratulations, you're seeing us on a really great night."

No encore, but my buddy Adam got one of Brian St. Clair's drum sticks.

Set list:
All the Kids Are Right
All Right (Oh Yeah)
Fifth Avenue Crazy
Hit the Skids, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rock
Heavy Metal Bake Sale
High-Fivin' Mother Fucker
Heaven on the Way Down/Eddie Vedder
Bag of Hammers
Keep Your Girlfriend Away From Me
Hands on the Bible
500,000 Scovilles/What Can I Tell You?
No Problem
Manifest Destiny Part 2

First time I've ever seen Local H and they didn't play "Bound for the Floor" or "Fritz's Corner."

28 October 2005

The Beast and Dragon, Adored

My friend Shay is the only person I've met here in Louisville who can keep up with me in a conversation about music. Our tastes don't always overlap, but like me, he grew up on heavy metal, which gives us one common bond. Better yet, he's turned me on to a few bands that I've either always meant to listen to but never got around to it, such as Girls Against Boys, or that I've never heard of. Case in point, Spoon (pictured). He gave me a copy of their 2002 album Kill the Moonlight last year, coincidentally a few weeks before Spoon happened to play a gig at Headliners. We went, I enjoyed, but since I only knew the Moonlight material (and barely at that), it wasn't as edifying as it could have been.

Last May, Spoon put out a swell new CD called Gimme Fiction, and when dates were announced for the tour, I was pleased to see that Louisville was one of the stops. This time, I studied the material as best I could, which meant two weeks before the show, I stuck Kill the Moonlight in my car's CD player and swapped it out for Gimme Fiction one week before the show.

I was amazed how many people turned up for the show. I have no idea how many people will fit into Headliners, but trust me when I say it was packed. Happily, Spoon delivered. Frontman Britt Daniel is hardly a virtuoso guitarist, but his playing perfectly complements his spiky, bouncy sound. Two encores.

Better still, the merch booth was stocked with a healthy selection of the band's CDs, so I plunked down $36 for legit copies of the two most recent discs, plus Girls Can Tell from 2001.

No set list because I didn't have anything to write with, or on, for that matter. The played all but two songs from Fiction, a big chunk of Moonlight as well as "The Fitted Shirt" from Girls Can Tell.

27 October 2005

Rock, Rock 'Til You Drop

Even though I went exclusively to see Cheap Trick (see below), Def Leppard was the headliner last night, and since the promoter comped LEO two tickets, I thought it would only be polite to watch a little of their set.

First, it has to be said, but the overwhelming majority of the folks in the crowd were all on the high side of 30. This was cool, because it shows that us "old folks" will go out to see bands, and it was cooler still because I seem to be aging much more gracefully than much of Def Lep's core audience, i.e., people who were in high school between 1979-1989.

So after Cheap Trick tore through their by-the-numbers set and a 30-minute teardown, Def Lep hit the stage. The house PA was blasting the usual classic rock mix. Queen's "We Will Rock You" came on, and got the crowd pumped up. About 10 seconds before Brian May's outro solo ended, the house lights went out and the show started. This struck me as a little peculiar. Not too many bands use another band's tune as a teaser... and using a teaser by a band that is about 200 times better than your own band is counterproductive, but whatever.

Def Lep takes the stage to a pulsing, driving, vaguely familiar riff, and singer Joe Elliot starts singing, "So you think you'll take another piece of me/To satisfy your intellectual need..." Yes, folks, Def Leppard opened their show with a cover of the Sweet's "Action." A gutsy move, and one that allowed me to mentally congratulate myself for recognizing the fact, smug in my awareness that I was most likely the only person in the arena besides Def Leppard themselves who knew that this was not a brand-new Leppard tune. Yeah, I'm a dick.

Then they did "Let's Get Rocked," one of their songs that I find kind of puerile and annoying; then they did "Foolin'" from Pyromania, which I like (shut up). Next was "Let It Go" from High 'n' Dry, which I also like (hey, fuck you, I was in the eighth grade). Then things get blurry. They did a couple of songs that I can't remember (which says a lot), then they did "Love Bites," a song that I thoroughly loathe, but I decided that the next song they played that I didn't a) instantly recognize and b) actually like, I would split.

As if reading my mind, they played Badfinger's "No Matter What." Then Elliott started telling the audience how they hardly ever play this next number and they've only been breaking it out on special occasions and blah blah blah, and they played some recent song whose name escapes me and that's when I hit the road.

All in all, they delivered for their aging fanbase, so good for them. As I was walking to my car, it occurred to me that if someone had told the 12-year-old me that 25 years in the future I would leave a Def Leppard concert early even though I had free tickets, I would laugh in your face.

But here we are.

26 October 2005

Déjà Vu All Over Again

I love Cheap Trick, but their set list tonight at the Gardens was a virtual carbon copy of the one they played when I saw 'em at the Kentucky State Fair in August. Sure, they were opening and not headlining, but damn guys, could you mix it up a tiny smidgen?

Set list:
Hello There
Big Eyes
If You Want My Love
Best Friend
I Want You to Want Me
I Know What I Want
Never Had a Lot to Lose
In the Street (a.k.a. That '70s Song)
- - - - -
Dream Police
California Man

Compare with their last Louisville show.

My dream Cheap Trick set:
Hello There
Elo Kiddies
Tonight It's You
She's Tight
I Must Be Dreamin'
Auf Wiedersehen
Baby Talk
Gonna Raise Hell
The Ballad of TV Violence
I Want You to Want Me
- - - - -
He's a Whore
Dream Police

...or something like that.

25 October 2005

My Brilliant Career

Did a phoner with Bob Mould today on my lunch break. This is the third time I've interviewed him. A nice guy. No, I don' t think he and I are friends or anything. Mould's good in that he knows that talking to a bunch of writers from the various little alt-weeklies in all the markets in which he has gigs booked is part of his job, so he does it without any attitude or ego.

Most of the show biz professionals I interview aren't huge stars; some are, but most aren't. They may have national reputations and worldwide record deals, but by and large they're just working musicians. And I've been fortunate in that most of the interviews I've done with personal favorites have been pleasant. Andy Partridge was super cool, Scott Lucas is extremely funny, Ted Nugent is a right-wing wacko, but he's still funny. Gene Simmons is pretty self-important, but that's his whole schtick, so I put him in the "cool" pile, too. The key is to NOT tell them that you're a huge fan. Just be professional and courteous, so when you ask them about some obscure Japanese B-side from 1994, they'll think that you've done a lot of painstaking research.

Others: Sonny Rollins was incredibly pleasant, and considering that I knew (and still know) virtually nothing about jazz, he was incredibly patient as well. Woodroe Weatherman from COC was a nice guy and he has one of the coolest names ever. Ditto Patterson Hood. Ozzy Osbourne was unintelligible but sweet. Brann Dailor from Mastodon. Liz Phair. M. Gira. They were all decent to me, so they rule.

Who sucks? The absolute worst interview I ever had was with Martina McBride. She was a total bitch. It was painfully apparent that she thought her time was much too valuable to be spent doing a 15-minute phoner with some hack journo in a tertiary market, and I wish I had had the balls to tell her -- at minute 14, of course -- that I thought it was funny that her record label "encouraged" her to do local press because ticket sales were sluggish for that tour.

23 October 2005

Amused to Death

Mission: Kings Island was a success.

The PR guy came through with the comp tix, and a thank you letter will be written and mailed tomorrow. Better still, Mother Nature came through -- all the online weather sources I checked promised intermittent showers all day Saturday throughout the greater Cincinnati area, but they were incorrect. Sure, it was a bit brisk, but that's why God invented sweatshirts and skull caps. Thusly, attendance at the park was not as sparse as we had hoped, but we were still able to breeze through the lines in a prompt fashion.

Best ride was Flight of Fear. Since it's magnetic, you go from 0-55 m.p.h. in four seconds, which is pretty cool. Worst ride was the Racer. Don't get me wrong, the Racer is a fine roller coaster, but they had the backwards train shut down, which kind of negates the whole premise of the Racer, and for some reason, the spinal adjustments I was dreading all happened on that single trip on the Racer. Ouch.

One other point of suckage: The Son of the Beast was not running.

20 October 2005

A Correction

I was mistook: Bob Mould's upcoming show in Louisville will be solo (Bob + guitar). While this does not diminish the fact that he's coming to the town in which I reside, I was looking forward to seeing him with a full band. Easy come, easy go.

Beastie Boys

This coming Saturday, me and some of my boys are going to Kings Island -- excuse me, Paramount's Kings Island -- to ride the roller coasters. Yes, we're arrested adolescents -- sue us. I hope that it's not raining, but if it is, I got a jacket. I also hope it's not too crowded. I also hope that the PR guy who said he hooked me up with four freebie tickets comes through.

We went last year and it was all delightful and shit. The only bad part was that the day after, I was all stiff and sore. Those coasters really jostle the spinal column, and I'm not as young as I used to be. This year, I'm taking some Advil along and hoping for the best.

19 October 2005

Crying in the Chapel

As I've mentioned previously, in the Magic City last weekend, our pals Tony and Sarah got hitched. And then they got married. (Eh, it seemed funny when I typed it.) It was a lovely ceremony and I'm sure that they'll be happy together, especially since they lived together for two years before the actual wedding.

However, during the ceremony, Tony cried. I'm not talking about a few tears rolling down his cheeks or some sniffling, either: these were heaving sobs -- his shoulders were moving up and down. For a few seconds I was actually afraid that he was going to stop the ceremony and say, "I'm sorry but I don't want to get married after all! My bad!" But he was just all verklempt.

Men cry. This I know all too well. Get enough liquor in me and I'll burst into tears if certain songs come on the radio. In his defense, he warned me that he'd probably lose it at the altar, but I was surprised by how emotional Big T got. Then again, he is a dago. Regardless, he composed himself after a few minutes and everything went OK.

But while I was standing up there fulfilling my duties as a groomsman, I couldn't help but recall my own wedding to dear sweet Hibboo Thugg -- every time we stole a glance at each other, we would start giggling like monkeys. Retarded monkeys, at that. And much to everyone's chagrin, at the time I was infatuated with the phrase "so mote it be" and kept muttering it under my breath throughout the ceremony. (I later discovered the correct quote is "so mote be it," but I think my phrasing sounds better, so fuck you, Aleister Crowley.)

All of this made me wonder: Since Tony was crying at his wedding but I was acting up like a sixth grader, did that mean that he takes his vows more seriously than I take mine? I don't think so. It's just indicative of our personalities, for better or worse (no pun).

Congratulations, Tony and Sarah -- you're awesome motherfuckers and we love you.

12 October 2005

Concert Calendar

Several shows are looming on the horizon.

1. Def Leppard/Cheap Trick, Louisville Gardens, Oct. 26: I'm man enough to admit that their are three or four Def Leppard songs I don't mind, but the only reason I'm attempting to weasel some comp tix from the promoter is, of course, Cheap Trick. I'm also trying to weasel free tix because admission to this show is $49 and up. When I was a small kid, riding in the Galaxie 500 with my dad, listening to 1280 WGBF The River City Rocker, I remember hearing ads for all the shows at the Evansville Coliseum and Roberts Stadium that I was too young to go see: KISS, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Rush, even Cheap Trick, and the tickets were all between $5-$8. Yeah, I'm aware it's not the 1970s any more, but no wonder concert attendance is dwindling.

2. Spoon, Headliners, Oct. 27: I saw Spoon last time they played here. They were excellent. Hope they're as good this time. Mary Timony opens up. Don't care for her, but there's a bar at Headliners.

3. Local H, Mad Hatter Club (Covington, Ky.), Oct. 28: Fucking A. Not looking forward to the drive, but it's the H.

4. Bob Mould, Headliners, Nov. 19: Bob on tour with a full band, playing songs from his entire career.

10 October 2005

You Can't Spell "Creationism" Without "Cretin"

There's no delicate way to put this, but I firmly believe that anyone who thinks intelligent design (i.e., creationism) is a valid scientific theory is a total idiot. I'd like to think that if, given a day or two, I could write a piece as dead-on as this one from Kurt Andersen, but who am I kidding? Suck on this:

“Evolution is a theory, not a fact,” say the stickers that another school system, in Cobb County, Georgia, affixed to textbooks. But all scientific knowledge “continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered,” and therefore all science is nominally theory—theory that exists along a spectrum, however, from deeply knowledgeable speculation (like superstrings in particle physics) to virtual certainties (such as evolution). In science, there is no such thing as fixed, irrefutable truth. That’s the difference between empiricism and faith.

So here’s a compromise: I’m willing to print the reasonable-sounding liberal core of the Cobb County disclaimer on every textbook in America—“This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered”—as soon as the Christians agree to put the same sticker on all of their Bibles.

05 October 2005


Ah, Europa. Where to begin?

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm kind of cynical and sarcastic, but despite my crusty, and at times irascible nature, I was more than pleasantly surprised by how fucking cool the whole thing was. It was a downright magnificent experience and it exceeded most of my expectations. All the places we went were clean, most of the locals spoke English fluently and were delighted to assist the tourists. More than one person advised us that if asked, we should tell people we were Canadians, but we didn't have to resort to that. All of the Germans and Dutch with whom we interacted didn't seem to hate us when they discovered we were Yanks.

On that note, Amsterdam is a beautiful and amazing city. It's impressive to be smack in the middle of a town with so much history. A lot of the buildings were built in the 1800s, 1600s, 1400s and earlier, so you get a real sense of... permanence, for lack of a better word, even though, like New Orleans, Amsterdam is below sea level. Tons of bicyclists, and they take no shit from motorists. They took us to a little village with windmills and a wooden shoe factory -- touristy, but cute -- and then we went to another little village and walked around. That night we went out to dinner at an Indonesian place (??) and then the group walked around the Red Light District. No, I didn't smoke any dope or hire any hookers, but they really do sit in the windows waiting for customers. Watch out if they make eye contact. Also, most of the prostitutes? Were pretty fucking hot. I'm just saying.

Next day, Wesel, a little town on the Rhein River. Beautiful scenery, beautiful hotel, which makes the stay more pleasant. I managed to find a Simpsons rerun dubbed in German (it was the one where Principal Skinner ditched Miss Krabappel at the altar) -- a good omen. We walked into town and bought some Diet Cokes, which tasted a little weird, but what are you gonna do? There were activities arranged for me and the other three spouses; one day we went to a mall, which was about as exciting as it sounds, but I did snap a few photos of strangely-named household products.

One night they took us to Köln (Cologne) and we saw the Dom (cathedral). Had dinner at an authentic German pub with the wurst and cabbage. Lots of the local variety of beer, which is called Kolsch or something and by law can only be brewed in Koln and blah blah blah, still tasted like every other beer I've sampled, i.e., crappy. Sorry, I know, I'm a Philistine. Spent Thursday night at the hotel bar doing shots of Jagermeister with a crazy Rumanian and a Frenchman, both colleagues of my wife. No, I don't know what got into me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Final day, München ("Munich" to us Yanks). I thought the city looked really cool. For starters, they had an IKEA and the world headquarters of BMW and its Mini Cooper subsidiary (GOD, do I want a Mini Cooper of my very own!). Anyway, we went to Oktoberfest, but I was very hungover -- see above -- so I was pretty wobbly until I got some food and non-alcoholic beverages in me. Fun fact: They don't serve water in the tents.

Again, I sampled the special beer that can only be had at Oktoberfest and it too tasted like ass, as far as I'm concerned. They have these big-ass buildings (they call them "tents," but they ain't tents) that seat 10-12,000 people elbow-to-elbow. Oompah bands blast out German folk songs and they really do link arms and sway back and forth with their one-liter beer steins, and the waitresses all dress like the St. Pauli girl, though they're not all quite as hot. Jen polished off a full liter by herself. She's more macho than me. Regardless, it was something to witness, that's for sure, but I probably wouldn't go again.

We made it back to the hotel around 6:30 p.m. and after a little bit of chill time, we decided to explore the city a little bit. The fraulein at the front desk suggested a district that had the word "Freihaut" in its name, so we had a cabbie drop us off there. Again, it was hella cool, with many shops and cafes and a subway station every two blocks. And yes, the public transportation in Germany is top-notch, something America might have to emulate more if gas prices stay as crazy as they have been.

Anyhoo, I drank no alcohol that evening, as the mere thought of a transatlantic flight while nursing a hangover made me sick. Everything after that was pretty much typical, although once again I must tout the superiority of the German and Dutch airports to their American counterparts, although to be fair, the Munich airport just underwent a full renovation, so it was pretty much brand-new.

One last tidbit: On the flight home, I was seated across the aisle from a German family that included a mother-father pair, two grandparents and two small kids. The kids looked to be about 3 and 5 years old. I was afraid that we’d be in for nine hours of whining and crying or hyperactivity (or even worse, some combination of both) but I was pleasantly surprised. These kids were so well behaved it was a little creepy. Whenever they spoke to Mom and Dad or Granny and Grandpa, the whispered in their ears. The older one watched both in-flight movies (Herbie: Fully Loaded and Monster-in-Law – give him a break, he was too young to know any better) and the little one had a coloring book or something. Maybe their parents threatened to beat them unconcious if they acted up on the plane, but whatever they did, it worked.

Contrast that scene with what greeted us back in Louisville: two rotten kids shrieking at the tops of their lungs, climbing on the conveyor belt that sends your luggage around, wrestling on the ground and otherwise embodying every “spoiled brat” cliché you can imagine. What made it especially galling was that in between their obnoxious antics, they would glance around at everybody with these “Aren’t I just adorable?” little smirks on their greasy faces. Walking advertisements for abortions, these punks. Even better, their father was standing right there, blithely ignoring his demon spawn as they terrorized a bunch of people who just flew in from halfway around the world. Welcome home!

Advantage: Europe.