Archive for the 'Music' Category

Sour in San Francisco

Buxter Hoot'n in San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, California, 01/09
Randomly Appropriate Music: Buxter Hoot’n or The Cure

I’m in a sour mood, mostly related to An obvious route would be to churn up some happy memories, blog about some better times, and swallow the panacea of choice on the way to bed: Tylenol PM or Vodka. The thing is, I don’t condone over the counter medication, and I’m in a really pick-axe-sized-thorn-in-my-side sour mood.

So, in honor of Mr. Dave Splash, our newest contributor at, a guy who by all accounts I like, I’m drudging up some foul memories.

You see, in order to get his column ready to publish, I had to find a music-related photo deep in the archives of the Photo Vault (it’s sort of like Fort Knox, only with the White House’s security…Zinger!). I don’t find myself photographing bands too often because it tends to take away from my enjoyment of the show. And they play in low light settings, which makes my lens frown. So, I really only had two potential photo locations to offer: some shots I took of my friend Jeremy’s band, Buxter Hoot’n, and some shots of a band I lied to, gained an interview with, and thoroughly pissed off the publicist of, Wild Light.

Let’s deal with Buxter Hoot’n first, shall we?

First question: why is this a sour memory? Good first question. The night of the concert, we were snarfing jelly beans and other goodies (non-candy), as we had been all afternoon, due to the beneficence of Jeremy’s other high paying gig, wedding band drummer. And the weather in San Francisco was gorgeous. He had played at some casino in the desert next to a Jelly Belly factory where they sell the mistake beans by the bag full. They call them Belly Flops. I still get a kick out of that.

Buxter Hoot’n took the gig on a whim. They play a raw, moonshine Americana rag at times, but they can rock, too, and they have some devoted fans. It makes for high comedy to see the audience intermingle, though, because only the Americana fans are die-hards. Their crowd made for a snippet of San Francisco that I won’t soon forget: a true melting pot city like few American places outside of New York.

The best fans, the most die-hard of the roots music lovers, were what I’ll call the Busker Boys. They hid somewhere in the back of the club, maybe in a time machine or something, and, as if on cue, exploded onto the dance floor the second the band came to life. Each one had a look, and that look was usually “1930s Depression Era beggar.” Tired leather shoes, suit vests, rolled sleeves, men’s hats, strange facial hair. Suspenders held between the the thumb and forefinger! Their boot stomping, floor board shaking, knee slapping dances were ridiculous.

It would have been kinda cool, I guess, upper bodies rigid, feet doing this crazy legs routine,  the occasional touch to the toe + heel + outsole perfectly on rhythm, like some DDR combo in black and white. Except I couldn’t shake the idea that it was all an act. The classiest possible incarnation of the indie-scenester, one sartorial step up from an emo kid with eyeliner. They were…silly.

I’ll admit, I was perhaps over-analyzing. I tend to lose the moment from time to time.

They stomped around, I drank PBRs and got progressively more annoyed, which, in a low light setting where I can’t keep my stupid brain busy with photography means writing notes on napkins for novellas that will never be written (and taking far too much pleasure in alliterating sentences to strangers who won’t pick up on it).

I eventually found a cute, stable-looking blond in a crowd of pan handlers/fans of the band. She was with work associates and had no idea there would be music that night. And, drunk as I was, and annoyed, I managed to get her number.

It was one of a few numbers I got after I had left my teaching job in South Korea and began the months long journey traveling back home. This isn’t meant to sound too impressive. Meeting new people every day, wondering if you’ve hardly ever left an impression: I hated hitting on girls, always knowing my story would get the conversation going, my foot always in anyone’s door who would say the magic words, “What brought you here?” I hated hitting on girls with the same old story, but I just did it to feel human again.

And each time it started, I knew I’d be gone tomorrow. Seriously, not in the Bob Segar/Allman Brothers whiskey blues way, but in the literally “I’m leaving tomorrow, and unless you want to go back and make love on the air mattress my friends lent me, I’ll never see you again” way.

I think I had 36 hours to kill by the time I met the blond, so I called the next day, hoped for somewhere interesting to meet for dinner, and got a perky, depressing voicemail message instead. She had given me her work line of all things. Was this perhaps a feeble escape route for someone too noble to lie? Perhaps. These are the things you think when you’re spending a lot of time alone.

I left her a ridiculous voicemail indicative of someone who knows very few people in a very large city and was highly unsurprised when she didn’t call back.

And yet, I had a GREAT time in San Francisco, probably a lot more than I can legally tell you here. But by the end, it was time to go, and when you get that feeling week after week, the “I’m just on the verge of wearing out my welcome” feeling, it tires you. So, no ill will toward a great Buxter show, but seeing this shot reminded me of a time when I was rootless and feeling alone among friends, tired of crashing people’s lives, attaching myself to place after place I had no real foothold in, learning the names of the people that made up a friend’s world, and having to explain my presence all over again.

And now I’m rooted again, sort of, feeling alone among far less friends, and giving a lot of energy to something that could fail quite easily unless we hold its brittle little hands through each step of a long growing process. I hope it works.

And somehow, this has turned into a Live Journal post.

We’ll just have to deal with Wild Light tomorrow. To set the stage, that one hurts a lot, LOT, more. They were a band I really got into at a very delicate time for my bruised ego, and they have a singer I could still drunk dial if I got off on some perverted form of minor celebrity stalking.  It’s a real shame their publicist hates me, and I’ll never stop feeling bad about why. Til then…

If anyone can relate, answer this question in the comments below please: is it easier to meet people when traveling alone (because you have to) or harder (because you have no social capitol and people think there’s a 35% chance you’re carrying scurvy)?

Festival 8 Video Dump…Rise of the Balloons!

Videos from Phish Festival 8 in Indio

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The rest are on Viddler. Find them. Halloween night is starting, costume donning must commence. For the evening, I’ll be playing the part of ______.

This Is Just a Tribute

What do Rolling Stone, Spin, (the sadly defunct) Blender, and even Tenacious D all have in common? They’ve all spilled a lot of ink trying to crown the Greatest Song of All-Time. Losers. The greatest song ever recorded, in fact, the single greatest thing to ever happen to humans, is Luciano Pavarotti’s performance of Nessun dorma from the opera, Turandot.

Turandot was Italian opera master Giacomo Puccini’s final work. Performed posthumously, it was first voiced in 1926 by members of Green Day. It came out after American Idiot. I think. Either way, it would be Pavarotti that would make Nessun dorma supa’ famous as the theme to Italy’s 1990 World Cup.

Pavarotti, whom I like to call The Round Mound of Sound, can be identified as the only morbidly obese member of the famous Three Tenors. He looks like Dom DeLuise in a penguin costume. Not a sexy answer for any Greatest of All-Time discussion. But the man can sing.

Onyx + Okkervil River are often seen eating fallafel together. With guns.

Onyx + Okkervil River are often seen eating fallafel together. With guns.

This is not a choice in defense of opera, either. Depending on my mood, I’m more likely to listen to Onyx or Okkervil River than opera. Simply put, Pavarotti’s Nessun dorma is the greatest and best song in the world because when Pavarotti is done singing it, he will eat you. Alive.

The songs builds slowly, and I always get swept up by its propulsive optimistic beat. It smells like heroism and winnage. I can imagine Matthew Broderick in Glory listening to this on his iPod, right before he dies trying to take over Ft. Wagner by himself. He dies. But Nessun dorma lives on!

At around 2:20 into the video, the camera closes in on our star. Watch his mouth quiver, shaping the notes. His eyebrows remain pensive, troubled by his character’s secret in the cold twilight of a sleepless night. I’m touched.

It’s not until about 2:50 into the video that Pavs really unleashes the money shot. He pauses, digging deep into some repressed childhood priest memory and belts out a thunderous note. Yet, his face says, “I have no idea how I got here.”

Me: “Pavs, it’s OK man, you took some bad acid before you went up on stage.”

Pavs: “I’m going to kill all of you with any available object, even a lint roller.”

While releasing his famed high C’s, he fashions the kind of face people make when they’re passing kidney stones. In fact, it’s worse: he looks someone who just walked in on their 2nd grade school teacher being felt up by the janitor.

And then, in his moment of greatest glory (making his face, being a pimp, etc.)…he stops. Coincidentally, Peter North has done this many, many times, and there is absolutely no way I can link to it.

Pavs looks like he’s about to go for more when…well…I don’t know what happens. Maybe his butt cheeks unclench or something, but he looks around like, “What the hell have I done. What in God’s name have I just done.”

Shock. Realization. This is his greatest moment in the Greatest Song of All Time. This is the face that invented fire and sake bombs and Bacon Maple donuts and everything good in the world. He can’t even believe himself. If he started to magnetically levitate, no one in the audience would be surprised.

It’s a great face.

Mind you, Pavarotti is not the only person to demo this face. Eric Cantona, whose French national side failed to qualify for that fateful 1990 World Cup, has also tried it on. Cantona, who’s arguably more famous for charging into the stands Artest style to kung-fu kick a fan (leading to perhaps the greatest seagull related non sequitur ever*) than anything he ever did on the pitch, tried the face on often in the mid 90s.

Note how much he enjoys what he has just done. His self-satisfaction borders on tumescence. As he pans the audience, I imagine he is scanning for attractive female fans. Making eye contact with his ogling could pass for coitus in some African cultures.

So, obviously the greatest and best and most wonderful thing to ever happen, which coincidentally would probably end the world, would be a staring contest between Pavarotti (in the silence following the final notes of his last pre-death aria) and Eric Cantona (seconds after scoring the winning goal of the Champions League on a free kick from 75 yards).

Their gaze would lock, eyes bulging with an inflated sense of self-importance. With corneas aligned, they would share in the surmount of implacable odds, like Vulcans stuck in a mind meld, feasting on the surfeit of self-aggrandized blandishments.

Then they would probably start making out.

And though I never saw it, Wikipedia tells me the song was used in Bend It Like Beckham. So…there’s that.

*So, a reporter asks Cantona how’s he going to deal with the increased scrutiny that comes with assaulting a fan on the field. Cantona pauses, takes a sip of water, and in his heavy French accent responds, “Sometimes, when the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” before getting up and ending the press conference after one question. Return…