Thursday, November 29, 2012

David Bazan plays Control — The Social, Orlando, FL 11/28/2012

One of my favorite songwriters/musicians/performers played in Orlando last night. I've seen David Bazan perform with his former band, Pedro The Lion, acoustic solo, electric solo (opening for Spoon), with his electronic-influenced band Headphones, and with his new backing band as a solo act.

He's one who likes to vary melodies and do slight variations on arrangements from time to time. But for the re-release of the Pedro The Lion vinyls (remastered), he decided to launch a tour where he'd play through one entire album, Control. Why that album? He's also known for taking questions during shows, and he answered this one for us: that was the only album he could stand playing all the songs off of.

One of his main "turns" (and a talking point in interviews / press releases) is Bazan's fallout from hardcore Christianity into agnosticism. He's open with it, he wrote an entire album about it, and he dismisses earlier songs he'd written for being closeminded and dogmatic.

Anyway, here's what they played last night.


Indian Summer


Gas and Matches
Cold Beer and Cigarettes
Foregone Conclusions
How I Remember
Eating Paper
When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run


Second Best
Priests And Paramedics

And for a close-up look at the gear used on this tour, someone at a different show posted this:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Road Trip 2012 — An Introduction

Buried somewhere in the reptilian part of my brain between “Write The Great American Novel” and “Write The Great American Concept Album” has been “Take The Great American Road Trip.” Jack Kerouac. Steinbeck. Che Guevara motorcycling around Latin America. Fievel Goes West. Uhh, Nabokov. (Though he wasn't 'native' American, Lolita does have quite a bit of road trippin'.)

(The second result for a Google Image Search of "road trip.")

I spent this past (and my last) academic year in Italy. When it came time to leave, I realized it would take me a while to find a job. And I realized that all my friends and family were spread out across the USA. And that I hadn't seen them for at least one year (in some cases many more). I moved back in with my parents in Melbourne, FL where I grew up, and I started thinking about heading north.

While applying to jobs, I began checking in with friends and noticed that many of them formed a giant hook across the eastern US. From Melbourne on the east coast of central Florida, up to Tallahassee in the panhandle, Atlanta at the top of Georgia, Nashville above that, Cincinnati to the northeast in southern Ohio, Chicago to the northwest, Amherst eastward into northern Ohio, then northeast to upstate New York, down to New York City, and finally in Baltimore. Each location was just about a day's drive (all fewer than 9 hours) from the next. The only black hole was the southeastern USA, from Baltimore down to Florida.

I tend to think of myself as an easy and lightweight traveler. Many times in Europe I would board a plane with just a backpack for a week's vacation somewhere (to save money, but also to simply travel light, to not have to worry about moving a lot of stuff). I would stay at cheap, crowded hostels. So I'm not generally concerned with where I roost, or about the facilities I'll have access to, or stuff like that.

Since I'm unemployed I'm immensely flexible. I wouldn't have to plan for myself (I can go wherever whenever), but I'd have to plan around my hosts' schedules. Coincidentally, things decided to work themselves out during the month of September, which buffers the dreadful summer heat and the worrisome winter chills. (Florida driver here: I've only driven in icy conditions once, briefly.) I would stay with my friends (who are in various stages of university or professional development) on weekends and with family during weekdays.

But because of various factors (one being home football games in Tallahassee, which I'd like to avoid if possible because of the intense crowds and general chaos in the city), I ultimately decided to reverse the hook — head straight from Florida up to Baltimore, knocking out the longest stretch first, when I'd be fresh and invigorated at the start of the road trip. Thus (bookended by "Melbourne, FL — Incalculable Amount Of Time"):

Baltimore, MD — Weekend
Upstate, NY — Week
New York City, NY — Long Weekend
Amherst, OH — Week/end
Chicago, IL — Extended Week
Cincinnati, OH — Weekend
Nashville — Extended Week
Atlanta, GA — Variable
Tallahassee, FL — Variable

Here's the map:

(If you view this zoomed out it kind of looks like a giant "thumbs down" ...)

So I'm about 90% planned out, but allowing for a little leeway. Weekends are prized times for visits, but unfortunately there are a heck of a lot more weekdays than there are weekend days (let's work on that, America; I know we can do better).

And I haven't planned anything outside of the dates and cities. I'm not searching out landmarks or events, not getting tickets for things, not really worrying about What To Do When I'm There. I'd prefer, actually, to simply see my friends, see what they do on a regular basis, and feel things out. It's always easy to ask locals questions — Is there a good diner around here? Anything fun to do in these parts? And I recently got my first smartphone with GPS (which works even when I lose cell phone reception, yay!), so I'm set on directions.

Not sure how much I'll be able to blog, but I'll try. (Social media aside: So far I've barely been able to have the patience to take the time to Instagram all the photos I'm snapping. I don't like uploading right after I snap one because I'm usually on the move. So I batch upload like 20 at a time, and deciding on crops and filters and captions ain't easy, son.) I'm sort of treating this as a vacation, but I still plan on continuing to apply to jobs.

Is there any one thing I should do during the trip? Yell something from the window of my car? Ask people what they love about living in America? I don't know. Maybe I'll find out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why You Should Always Write in Google Documents: Mostly Lost Thoughts On Gangster Rap

Progression leading up to this post: 

  • My brother sends me a link to listen to.
  • I listen, then search out other rap, which gets me listening to Biggie Smalls again.
  • I remember a (great) list my brother made for Kanye West's guest spots and searched around to find a list of Biggie's guest spots.
  • I found a list of The Ten Most Underrated Notorious B.I.G. Guest Appearances.
  • I listened to all of those, very slowly (still on a DSL connection at home here), searching out rappers I didn't know.
  • I realized this link should be shared, but I wanted to dish on it and also make a YouTube playlist of the countdown for easy listening (linguistic juxtaposition between 'rap' and 'easy listening music' intended) purposes.
  • I lost the drive to make a playlist after I lost more than half my blog post here (see below).

Hip-hop has a ton to offer, which always makes me cringe when someone says or writes "I listen to all music. Everything. Except for rap." I also cringe if they say/write that about other genres of music, since each has something to offer. I just cringe more when it's rap.

I grew up in the Will Smith era. I watched Fresh Prince religiously. I listened Willenium. I watched The Wild, Wild West. So this was rap to me for a while. A long while.

Other rap was always around me though. Coolio, for example, had a massive crossover hit with "Gangsta's Paradise." A friend of mine in junior high school was more or less obsessed with Eminem. Some other non-friend skinny white kids in junior high walked around in XXL-sized Wu-Tang Clan t-shirts. I had never heard a single one of the group's songs, but I dismissed it all outright as 'kids trying to be cool'. I was mostly listening to rock at that time — classic rock, grunge.

Fast-forward about 10 years. In college, in the midst of listening to indie rock on a daily basis, I slowly became introduced to all kinds of hip-hop. There was some mingling with indie rock and rap — Gorillaz is a good example. OutKast's "Hey Ya," which was basically playing every day for a good year there. The Streets was very hip (I still dig it, more than 10 years after Mike Skinner started). But once I started listening the floodgates were opened. Jurassic 5, Jay-Z, Kanye early on. Luda, OutKast. Then Brandon (my brother) gave me all of Biggie's recordings and it was pretty much over. I dumped them all in MP3 format onto a CD and listened to it on shuffle in my car, for weeks, maybe months.

Gangster rap is a hard sale. It's still hard to consciously reconcile my progressive liberalism and my 'not caring much about money' with what are pretty obviously gangster rap's basic tenets — getting cash, toting guns, using women as objects, embracing homophobia, reinforcing macho masculine stereotypes. (Other tenets — cursing a bunch, non-violent drug use — I have no qualms about.) Biggie is listed as one of the best rappers in general, but in specific he was in gangster rap and he hits on all the things I just listed in just about every song he did. Still, there's something in his songs that just isn't elsewhere.

I liked 300. I liked Shoot 'Em Up. But not for the machismo so much as the over-the-top style. They were movies that were just this much short of utter ridiculousness. A kind of surreal take on macho behavior. But maybe I was reading too much into it because I've gathered that most people liked those kind of movies (and Fight Club and Tarantino movies, and others) for different reasons — for the violence, for the machismo, for the reinforcing male stereotypes (being 'strong', hating on women, etc.). I find it hard to defend Frank Miller's art as being more sensitive than it is macho, though, especially after reading through the Sin City series. I enjoyed that movie and those comic books for the same artistic reasons I mentioned above, but it's very difficult for me to determine the artist's intent behind those pieces of art. For most art I don't care about artist's intent, but for these things for some reason I feel like if other people are enjoying them for different reasons than I...

Wow, I just lost several hundred (thousands of?) words and maybe an hour's time of writing on this post when I hit the backspace key and my browser navigated back a page instead of my writing cursor moving back a space to delete a letter. And Blogger did not auto-save my writing (despite a sleek redesign they made since I last wrote here) and so now I'm really not liking Blogger very much and I think I'll compose everything I write in Google Documents from now on.

Suffice to say it was all brilliant and I was just closing out the post with this quote:

"If I wasn't in the rap game, I'd probably have a key [kilo] knee-deep in the crack game. Because the the streets is a short stop. Either you're slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot." —Biggie