Do You Know Where Your Music Is Coming From? words of wisdom by daniel creahan
We’ve got an interesting deal going down right now in the world of music: an effective split of identity. On one hand you’ve got the physical, the traditional, the grand old concept of a local scene, with all the gritty politics, weird interactions, passive-aggression and loud basements you’ve been living out in your hometowns, campuses and brains since your older brother left his Beat Happening CD’s lying around. On the other, you’ve got the placentasoaked Internet music scene of the now to near to potentially eternal future, with blogs, sites and across the country all offering their own tweaks and curatorial picks culled from what actually in many cases ends up being a pretty small selection pool. Alarmingly so, even. I maintain a list of about 30-40 blogs that post relatively frequently, and the amount of bleed-over is a bit frightening at times. It’s a lot of the same stuff, with the smaller places digging it up and sharing it amongst themselves before the big guys swoop in over their heads to launch some laptop-glazed teenager into the limelight in no time. Maybe that signals a good thing: the social act of music discovery magnified to a macro level, to cut out the bullshit like “Payola,” but when the same company (the retchingly-titled Buzz Media) owns Stereogum, PureVolume, Hype Machine and Pop Matters (EVEN POP MATTERS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) I get a bit concerned about the implications of these huge structures and their increasingly narrow scope of coverage towards the already blogger-approved. Mostly because it does two things: First off, it totally recontextualizes the idea of a local music scene. It’s not about what bands you can see at a house show in a single night, because no one’s playing shows with each other anyways. While there is some collective action, everyone goes after their own audience, which is predominantly online, away from the place you’re at. This means a loss of the communal atmosphere where an artist shares shows and ideas with the people around them in the pursuit of a supportive community, and instead creates a strange camp of inwardly motivated culture-beacons for people to choose between and orbit around. Who wants that? Secondly, it glorifies the idea of the fringe as something to be mined, labeled, catalogued and exploited. Nevermind intentions or opinions, labeling an artist alongside others erects lines of association that, given the context of a well-known blog, can effectively box an artist in extremely quickly. What’s worse, when the tag of experimental music gets thrown into the fray, it’s pretty easy for one to assume that that IS the experimental scene of the day, that they’re witnessing the whole of the zeitgeist. There’s no holes in the wall of a web page to let you know what’s going on outside their own DIV boxes and hypertext. That’s all you’re getting, and if you’re not going any farther, you’re getting a singular narrative for a time when the
sheer volume of music being produced is exponentially exploding. Even worse, when we isolate these sub-genres (Chillwave’s a good example), the potency of any music produced within these outsider imposed grounds is immediately robbed of any outside significance. This isn’t to say that people aren’t going to seek this music out anyways, but to assume your listening or taste is now gloriously liberated from any idea of “conformist” viewpoints or dictated bounds is dangerously ignorant. The acting forces are just much more subtle (see: “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”). If you want to really feel like you’re supporting the efforts of independent musicians, the effort to stay grassroots is still an issue, maybe more now than ever. But there is a marvelous alternative rising currently in the independent music scene: the idea of the musician as cultural hub, espoused by labels like Dracula Horse (a cover all collective for a number of Knoxville, TN bands that runs all of their own sites and promo) or the band Vitamins (Altered Zones approved!) in Denver whose drummer Crawford Philleo runs an excellent music blog called Tome to the Weather Machine and who have given coverage to Bears In America (shameless plug) among other very small, budding acts. These acts are at the center of this new evolution of the online music scene, have amazing taste when it comes to writing about new bands that they have released, covered or worked with, and they provide a stellar alternative to repetitive, corporation approved lists of buzzbands. They also answer your emails! But this is only part of the equation. The other half remains as it always has been: PLEASE PLEASE PLEAAAAASE support your local music scene! Embracing a community of people sharing ideas and physical space encourages a longterm proliferation of music in an area better than a string of code ever can. You’re encouraging creativity at a non-discriminate level here, and that’s where the real invention springs forth. It’s also worth noting that bands that don’t spring out of this sort of system are pretty likely to reject any idea of physical identity to be an easily marketed digital property. In short, they’re not coming back to Syracuse or whatever little college town to live after their tour, you guys. They’re going to Brooklyn or L.A., where they can live like kings on label advance money and wait until it’s time for another big-time tour (Ironically I’m in Brooklyn since that’s where there are also jobs…wompwompdisclosurewomp). You have a choice. Music discovery is an individual process, as it has always been in some capacity, but now the effort will never be any easier to consumer with a conscience, and to avoid the money pit of major blogs and music sites that might care a ton about the music they’re writing about, but also have a bottom-line they have to defend. Read with a conscience, friends.
SPLITTING THE BILL scenes by andrew mcclain
“What’d she want to talk to you in private about?” Nick asked Joel, as we stood outside the door of the bar they used for load-in. It was 2:30 on a Friday morning, and all three bands had finally been paid. “She gave me $75 and said that if she found out she owed us any more, she’d send it along,” Joel said. “Which means that we’re getting $75,” said Robert “I’m just glad it wasn’t about the fight.” “Yeah, what exactly happened there?” I asked. “That dumbass Australian cokehead was throwing things at Willy, so Willy punched him in the face,” Joel explained as he helped Nick load his upright bass into the small trailer behind their old conversion van. A couple of weeks ago, in Little Rock, Arkansas, a downtown venue known as “Sticky Fingerz” lifted their smoking ban and thus (by way of odd Arkansas law) their ban on those under the age of 21. Stickyz has always booked great acts, but I, being under 21, have never been able to attend. One of my good friends’ band had been booked as the headliner for the September 1 show, and asked me if I could get some friends of mine to open for them (Joel, Nick and Robert among them) who play in a seven-piece band. I obliged, and the seven-piece drove from our smaller college town of Conway and made their debut at Stickyz. I had also driven from Conway and gotten in a pretty bad wreck on the way, bumming a ride to the show with a friend. I was left to find someone else at the show to bum a ride back with. The show turned out to be its own little odyssey of sensational band-to-band drama and breaches of etiquette on the part of the management. There was classic prima donna behavior on the part of the other opening band. There was tension with the sound guy, known only as “Maestro.” There was a fight. I approached Joel out back after the second band played and asked if I could bum a ride back to Conway with him. He obliged, but told me that they had to stay around until the last band finished in order to get paid. It was almost two o’clock in the morning before we backed their conversion van out of Stickyz’ tiny little load-in lot, a process not unlike parallel-parking a semi-truck. I’d taken a professional interest in these guys for about four months because I sincerely believe in their music. I had sat in on a band meeting, but I didn’t really know them personally. But regardless of how I might feel about them on a personal level, I’ll always, as a nonmusical person, be in awe of a seven-person collective who can play well together. These people, I thought, are true musicians. They can’t help playing music. That’s an incredibly romantic notion to me, as someone who can’t help thinking about music, but can’t really play. As we pulled onto the Interstate, we discussed the events of the evening with the windows down, shouting at one another. “What’s it that they say -- you have people who don’t like you, it’s a sign you’re doing something right, you know?” Joel said. “Yeah, there are gonna be people who don’t like us,” Robert piped up, matter-of-factly, “but the better we get, the less those people are gonna matter.” We shifted the conversation towards other people’s music for about 20 minutes. Nick and Robert and I talked loudly about Dirty Projectors and our favorite Bob Dylan covers, our favorite incarnations of Dylan. Meanwhile, Joel became gradually more silent. We were about 3/4 of the way there, when Joel spoke up. “Do they have gas stations in Mayflower?” he asked us. “Yeah, they’ve got a couple,” I said. “Oh. Good,” Joel said as he took the last exit before Conway. The Mayflower exit did, in fact, have two gas stations, but they were both closed at 3:30 a.m. Robert and I sat in the back and discussed our favorite incarnations of Bob Dylan while Nick tried pumping gas from pumps that appeared to be turned on. Robert pulled an out-of-tune mandolin from the cluttered van floor, and Joel nervously drummed on the steering wheel while explaining how dire our gas situation was. We gave up on the derelict Mayflower gas pumps and held our breath as Joel steered the van onto a back road toward Conway. The sign said it was only six miles. We talked less, tense. We sighed as we pulled into Conway city limits, knowing that a gas station was close. The older back highway we were on actually sported an “on/ off-ramp”-type feature onto Conway’s main drag. As we exited the highway, the van stopped. “Aaaand we’re out of gas,” Joel remarked calmly, because he was expecting it. The van slid backwards. Joel tried starting the van. We were braced to jump out. Joel started the van. We drove down to a gas station. We had to push the van the last ten feet to the gas pump. The tension dissolved as we ran into the gas station. “That’s rock n’ roll, son,” said Robert, smiling. We spoke to the attendant, who told us that he was just getting breakfast sandwiches out of the oven. I realized I was starving since I’d been too cheap to spring for bar food. I noticed Nick pocket a pack of chocolate chip cookies as we sat down at the station’s single booth and began laughing about our evening as Joel spent most of the money they’d earned putting gas back in the van. I felt like less of an outsider, sitting there, sharing my breakfast sandwich with Robert and Nick. As we climbed back into the van, I noticed a bottle of orange juice in the back pocket of Joel’s jeans. As soon as we were on the road, a shoplifted feast emerged from everyone’s pockets. “Want some peanuts?” “Sure, dude. You can have the rest of this s’mores bar, though. It’s gross, I’m warning you.” “Ugh. That is nasty.” “I’m glad I stole it.”
photos by doris gutierrez 5
FOUND FOOTAGE: THE MUSIC VIDEO AS AN ARTISTIC MEDIUM by paul esposito
Music videos came to prominence in 1981, with the creation of MTV, a channel devoted to exclusively playing music videos. From humble and often humorous beginnings (Video Killed the Radio Star) the music video evolved into the big budget videos of the early 2000’s(think Britney Spears & N’SYNC) complete with exotic sets and famous directors. With the advent of video hosting sites like Youtube, MTV’s video programming was relegated to Total Request Live, before finally being phased out completely in favor of reality shows like Jersey Shore. Enter found footage, a rapidly growing medium for our current retro-philia, and a new way to approach the music video that favors artistic expression and remix over pure promotional value. Thanks to the easy accessibility of Youtube and the more artist-specific Vimeo, anyone can make or remake a music video. This makes for great symbiotic relationship between both underground collage artists and new musicians who help boost the value of each other’s art in the hope that a music video will spread virally. Best of all, it’s free. These artists take techniques traditionally used to produce video art and make strikingly beautiful collages of film, TV, and home video footage that is almost exclusively from before 2000. The musical inspiration is typically taken from fringe genres such as witch house, chill-wave, and dream pop but has become more prominent in mainstream pop music and has even informed the art direction of larger scale videos. More so, labels have started to pick up on fan made videos and have approved them as “official” when the artistic quality is at a premium. Some stunning examples follow:
John Maus - Streetlight Who would have though a rape-exploitation film from the 1980’s would have had such a beautiful climactic scene? Literally nothing was changed in the frame-rate or filter of this video, just a simple cut and paste but the addition of John Maus’s appropriately gauzy 80’s vibe is entrancing. Balam Acab - Apart Newcomer and relatively young (19 years old) artist Balam Acab gets some claymation footage that brilliantly reflects the more viscous aspects of his music without trying to imbue too much meaning.
Salem - King Night Trophy for the most obscure compilation of film, find the most disturbing independent cinema you can, goes to the King Night fan made video, which bears a striking resemblance to the “official video” with the exception that it’s way more amazing and includes much more bang in the aesthetic department. Emphasis is also high on rhythmic editing. How To Dress Well – Ready For the World One of the most incredible and affecting collage artists of today is Jamie Harley. His videos go beyond your basic collage and often manipulate images to create a more abstract visual. The footage he derived for “Ready for The World” is from Fassbinder’s In a Year With 13 Moons, a film about a suicidal transsexual. Modern Witch (Alert REMIX) In some cases the found footage can be derived from existing mainstream music videos, such as in Modern Witch’s Alert remix which includes datamosh of Lady Gaga’s mainstream big budget video for “Judas”.
Lana del Rey Video Games Probably the best example of a new mainstream idiom is Lana del Rey, who makes her own music videos, intercut with computer camera style shots of herself. Usually these clips deal with Hollywood and celebrity. Del Rey is already on a major promotions company’s bill and has six figure views on her Youtube singles.
this issue is brought to you by discovery.
Single of the
Here’s a song for all the misfits. “This Must Be the Place” is a classic miscreant anthem. Dance the night away to, without a doubt, the greatest song of all time! 8
HAVE LOVE; WILL TRAVELâ€”THROUGHOUT HISTORY a love letter by wesley wren
A group of snot-nosed kids in Olympia, Washington decided it was high time to make music. Real music. Something raw. They got together, and played the hardest, fastest, and angriest dance music that was around. They started a genre of music. They inspired countless acts. They were the Sonics. History is finally coming to accept bands like the Sonics, Kingsmen, and MC5 as an integral part of their respective music scenes. However, at the time, they were part of a network of independent rock bands, trying to make a buck. The attitude is what kept the records trading hands throughout time. The sonics are the reasons bands like The Hives, Ty Segall, The Oblivians, The Reatards, The Epsilons, King Khan and the BBQ Show, and countless other garage rock acts exist. For this short piece, I just want to thank the Sonics for coming together and creating music that still empowers people today. Have loveâ€”will travel.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS a true story by eric vilas-boas
On a sunny summer morning at Princetown, NY’s obtusely angled intersection of Mariaville Road, Weast Road and North Kelley Road, I finally stopped walking after passing by 4.5 miles of tree-sequestered houses with acres of green lakefront property and Schenectady Daily Gazette mailboxes filled with the Sunday edition. I live on Long Island. I work in Manhattan. I don’t own a car, so when I’m not at school (Syracuse, NY) my life typically starts and stops at the whims of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. For better or worse, I don’t own a car. This situation could have been one of the worst. In Upstate New York, 7.5 miles and 4 hours away from the Penn Station-bound Amtrak train leaving at 2 p.m. from Schenectady Station, I had no access to public transit, and not a lot of friends I really wanted to contact for a 100-mile radius or so. Up for the challenge, I resolutely walked 4.5 miles in 2.5 hours on unforgiving concrete roads laden with two backpacks, a camera bag, a blanket, a sweatshirt and a tent. At the intersection they finally felt heavier than my fortitude wanted to bear, and I had run out of water. So I was stranded, more or less, in the middle of nowhere. Spoiler alert: I made it home safe. Backtracking You might ask how I stuck myself in this particular situation. There are a couple of good reasons and a couple of bad ones. The best reason: I covered my first three-day music festival that weekend -- the tenth annual Camp Bisco festival. Armed with press passes, I seized free admission to the festival, VIP sections of the event, complimentary stolen VIP beer, complimentary stolen VIP water, ample opportunities for drug use, and best of all, face-to-face access to musicians. By the time I woke up the Sunday morning after the three-day festivities, I was still too drunk off the past three days’ experience -- especially photographing my noise-rocking idols Death From Above 1979 and talking to their bassist Jesse Keeler -- to think anything particularly negative of the prospect walking the 12 miles to Schenectady. And I made friends with my fellow members of the illustrious music press. In addition to those obvious provisions that us writers and photogs got, we took advantage of ample opportunities to use the (comparatively) clean VIP Port-a-Potty, commiserate through career-based-heart to-hearts about our poverty (real or imagined), and of course, a slamdancing camaraderie to some of our favorite acts. Full disclosure: I could have asked any one of them for a ride to the train station. I never pressed the issue because of personal insecurities including but not limited to my relative age to my press peers (not-yet-legal-to-drink novice versus twenty-something-concert-covering veterans), my lack of people whom I’d consider good friends at the festival (mostly everyone I knew in attendance I had met at the festival) and -- of course -- the sheer embarrassment of traveling three hours north with no ride home. As far as socially inept cock-ups go, this weekend took the cake. I was either too humble or too stupid or too (pathetically) unconsciously desperate for a story like this (and not entirely sure which of the three would be the most problematic), to ask (read: beg) for something as simple as a ride to a train station little more than 10 miles away. Hell, I knew how to hike, had been enjoying it for six years on and off. What was another one? Twelve miles on even terrain equated to a cartwheel underwater in a three-foot pool: child’s play. Stupid? Maybe. Unjustified? I still don’t think so. Leaving camp Waking up early that Sunday, I packed my tent and supplies quickly, not wanting to waste any time. GoogleMapping the route on my smartphone, I verified that the 12-mile walk along country roads would take -- ap-
proximately -- just under four hours. I left the campsite at 6:30 to make the 2 p.m. train to Manhattan, hoping for a cushion for lunch and assorted breaks. Cool morning dew from my tent wet my hands and clothes as I stowed it into its green carrying case. At the campground’s gate, monitored by a heavily tattooed and swirly-mustachioed biker wearing a black tank top, I watched the morning sun pop out of the white clouds and erratically swaying leaves in the trees lining the street in the direction I was heading. A brunette exited the gate with me. She looked like hell and frizzy hair after three days of sweat, hallucinogens, rain, mud and malfunctioning showers. This chick eyed me: my drugrug cotton/synthetic sweatshirt purchased in a moment of frigid Upstate NY desperation, my own dirtily frizzed hair long since afro’ed by the humidity, the 50 pounds of essential gear (water, tent, backpack, smaller backpack, DSLR bag) that clung to my back and cut into my shoulders through frayed, duct-taped backpack straps. “Are you hitchhiking or taking a cab somewhere?” she asked with more confusion than pity in her voice. “I’m walking to Schenectady. It’s only about 10 miles,” I answered cheerily. For a full ten seconds, her mouth sat half-open on her jawbone like a fish sucking for air out of water. “It’s a beautiful day,” I offered. She shifted uncomfortably, looked away. “O.K. well, good luck, dude,” she said, turning in the opposite direction. I think she took a cab. Four words Sun on my face and effects on my back, I set out. I hike. I bike. I think of myself as physically fit as a person who actively fails to proactively concern himself with fitness can be. None of that helps your tarsal bones, your bladder or your morale after 4.5 miles of beating feet on a concrete road. Sure, I saw wonderful sights, and I heard the morning chirping of birds, and I enjoyed every second of it. But by the time I got to that wonky intersection in Princetown, I wanted to sit down for the remainder of the day, with a cold beer, with my best friends, or with my girlfriend. Solitary spiritual revival on a road in the middle of nowhere no longer rang quite as glamorously in my head as I or Jack Kerouac had hyped it up to ourselves. JK, indeed. I stopped for a drink of water and an opportunity to check my directions: jotted-down journalist’s scrawl on a small notepad the back of which sported a scathing critique of shitty boring jam-rock band the Disco Biscuits. I ended up scrapping the critique because if it weren’t for the Disco Biscuits’ shitty boring jam-rock, Camp Bisco would cease to exist, and I wouldn’t have embarked on an Americana-doused pursuit for spiritual renewal after a festival I had already exhausted myself working at. I was walking in the right direction. I was walking slowly, but pointing the right way. Stowing the directions back into my camera bag, a car blew by, a small black sedan filled with twentysomethings...on a Sunday morning. Unlike me, those festivalgoers drove. My mind wandered back to what my brunette from hell said. Hitchhiking hadn’t even occurred to me until she mentioned it. New York State Law explicitly forbids it, as do the laws in most of the United States: “No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride, or to solicit from or sell to an occupant of any vehicle.” Of course my mind also wandered to the horror films, perceived dangers, socially reified taboos, and I just frightened myself. Chickening out, I resigned myself to keep walking. I could do this. Still, an act so easy and convenient to execute, an extension of the thumb, the opening of a car door: I could arrive in Schenectady with hours to spare. As I continued walking, though, shifting the weight of my backpack every fifteen to twenty minutes, transferring my tent to the opposite hand to alleviate the pressure on my back, realizing that I had run out of water, maybe I began to think a little more liberally about the potential cost versus gain argument of asking a total stranger for a ride.
Then it sped by, slowly, but deliberately, an ominous camera-motion shot cut out of a Coen Brothers film. The voice from the car spoke as I dragged my feet westward. “This is the way.” I swiveled my eyeballs upward from the white painted line on the road to its vanishing point ahead. A blue SUV pulled farther and farther away, shrinking steadily tinier, with a shirtless young man my age sticking his head outside the back seat, wearing a baseball cap turned backwards. I almost stopped walking. That punk kid changed everything. He had assumed I was either hitching or walking or both. He had taken it upon himself to cast his support. He had given me strength. He was the greatest random, serendipitous bullshit experience I had the whole time that my feet touched pavement. Four words made my day. This bro tossed me a ball. His compassionate monosyllabism illustrated my inclusion, my involvement in a wider range of human beings beyond the one punk kid with 50 pounds on his back trekking through the middle of nowhere. Maybe he and his boys in the car were even rooting for me, or hoping I got home all right. Just maybe. He, they, someone, anyone…gave a shit. I knew it before, of course I did -- but hearing it on the middle of the highway from a total stranger shifted the meaning entirely. He’d evened the playing field. It didn’t fucking matter that I didn’t own a car. “This is the way.” And I was on it. The dangers of hitching stopped mattering at that point. Whoever that dude was, he knew I left the festival. He knew for the same reason I knew that he and his friends in the car did. Because what other reason existed for anyone lugging a tent and a drugrug to be on the highway at 9 a.m. on a Sunday in Princetown, NY? Regardless, someone gave a shit. Someone I didn’t know, had never met, would never see again, gave a shit. At the end of the day who cared about Eric Vilas-Boas who hadn’t met Eric Vilas-Boas? The answer: no one, plus that guy. Getting home “Where are you headed?” two college guys asked as rolled their Subaru to a stop beside me, farther down the road. “Schenectady,” I said, squinting in the 10:15 sun. (It’s a lot hotter than you might think.) People routinely pass over the best of New York State when they look at a map, glazing over thousands of square miles and instead pointing directly to the heart of commercialist America, like magnets drawn to iron and steel. In exchange for honking horns and liberal expletives, they miss out on bona-fide mountains, seas of green, overexcitable poodles barking up a storm on a well-trimmed lawn owned by an old lady who’ll think nothing of filling up your water bottle, they winding country roads where all you need is a hair of incline to cruise for miles downward in your justifiably purchased SUV -- or at least your four-wheel-drive Subaru hatchback. Music festivals cultivate a situation in which, like the Internet, a fan willing to pay can access literally dozens of live experiences in a short amount of time. That access operates at varying degrees, from the economical, to the emotional, to the commercial, to the physically artistic (i.e. the proximity of the artist to the interviewer or to the photographer’s lens). I value none of it more than I value the personal -- the ability to make a friend in seconds, the comfort in a kindred spirit. Carrying that access over afterward can lead to surprises and connections in the real world. But no one offers access freely. No one. It doesn’t happen. Music festivals are paid for by attendees. Networking events, regardless of their context, are navigated with selfish goals in mind. The ability to travel the countryside costs time and money many if not most good people do not possess. That weekend, I got all three for free. Good people offered peace of mind. “It usually helps if you stick your thumb out,” Aaron, a Union College student said as I climbed into his Subaru. I hadn’t even had to ask Aaron for the ride. He just stopped on the side of the road to see if I needed a ride. No laws broken, no one harmed.
“brothers,” submitted by ray mcandrew
photo by daisy chen 13
by benjamin zuerlein You’re in a car tunneling in the wake of its own headlights. Last you remember, you were in a bar, and you had walked there. As you come to, you realize the car is full, and people are still drinking. The driver is still drinking. (c.f. Mississippi open container laws). They’re playing Elvis, or Paul Simon--whichever seems more appropriate--and Faulkner’s Big Woods are illuminated by your vehicle’s headlights and those headlights only. You are going to Graceland, Too. You are going to Paul’s house. Graceland, Too is the home of a certain Paul MacLeod, the most dedicated Elvis fan in the world. This is an easy claim to make, because no matter how much you love the King you don’t operate your actual residence as a 24-7-365 museum to the legend, you don’t name your only child “Elvis Allen Presley,” and you don’t divorce your wife when she presents the ultimatum “me or the collection.” Hell, compared to this guy, nobody even likes Elvis. Anyone who even came close put their head beneath a Cadillac when the King slouched off his porcelain throne (reading about the Shroud of Turin, Paul will tell you.) You see Paul’s got all this insider knowledge on Mr. Presley, because the two were best buds, or Paul was a stalker, or he was just really lucky to be there for the legendary musician’s last moments. The narrative is never really clear with Paul. What he tells you is usually 99% bullshit and 1% gammon. He’ll point to an album on the wall and say in a rapid-fire Mississippi backwoods accent, “There’s an album where Elvis answers four questions the backside is blank Time magazine says its the most expensive album in the world 50 million dollars” and then his dentures will slide out and he’ll slurp them back up and clap them into place. He’ll proceed to tell you that Bill Clinton popped round (with his daughter “stoned out of her damn melon” Paul will be sure to add) because the president’s secret service codename was “Elvis” and that ole Bill offered Paul 100 million dollars for that one album. What was Paul’s answer? “You can take that money, you can burn it.” And when you say, “Wow Paul, that’s incredible!” he’ll say “No brag, pure fact” and lead you into the next room, which like all rooms in his house is literally littered with Elvis paraphernalia. I hope you’ll excuse the cliche, but there’s no better way to express how the man keeps the Guinness Book of World Record’s largest Elvis collection. The really valuable things (those that Paul claims are in the hundred million dollar range) are locked up, but his equally impressive collect of every time the word “Elvis” came up in the TV Guide (cut out and pasted by Paul himself) just lays around on top of a stack of poster sized pictures of Paul dressed up as different film badasses wielding guns (which he decides is relevant enough to the tour to show you, every time.) Paul makes many claims: that he owns the last footage of Elvis alive, that Montel Williams once came in and tried to kill him, that in that picture that Paul’s pointing at right now, Elvis is having sex with four women at once, even though you can only see his face, and that Tom Cruise came in once with a dog standing on his head (this one happens to be true. I’ve seen the picture). But what’s absolutely true is that Graceland will charge you $31 for the tour, more for parking and never ever make you a member. However, if you go to Graceland Too, you’ll pay five dollars, and only ever three times, because after that you receive the coveted “Lifetime Member” card and will never have to pay another cent in your life to go to an insane man’s house in the middle of the night so that he can rant about Elvis and offer to something or other your girlfriend’s panties.
UNCLE STEVE by liz kenny
I grew up having several family members in the gorgeous state of Vermont, one of which being my Uncle Steve. Almost every trip we took up always involved a late night trip to Steve’s with my parents. My earliest memories included me playing Sonic on the Sega Genesis while sitting on the floor of their apartment as his son, Drew, would try to teach me how to actually play, in replace of my idea of smashing buttons until good things happened in the game. As time played on, our families had numerous barbeques, games of Wiffle Ball, and attended many Red Sox games together. However; my most treasured times visiting Uncle Steve came to be the nights my parents and I would visit his condo that not only had every issue of Rolling Stone one’s heart could imagine (*ahem* December of 2004’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”) sitting upon his coffee table; but, also, as you walked throughout the first floor, nicely framed black and white posters of the legendary Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, and even the Beastie Boys filled the deep red painted walls. After getting to his apartment, catching up with what was new, and a few rounds of gems like “Rainbow 6” or whatever other games were “in” at the time, it was time to pop in a concert DVD to show on the big projector, for all of us to watch and enjoy the rest of the night. When I was still at the age when Steve would worry about what was appropriate for a young girl to watch, he would put on a concert and skip over the sexually explicit songs, one example being “Closer” by the Nine Inch Nails. At that point I knew what sex was, I mean we had cable in our house and I went to public school, but I still appreciated Uncle Steve’s need to watch out for my young little mind and the fact that I didn’t have to watch such songs be played with my parents sitting next to me. Many nights at Steve’s introduced me to concerts and shows I couldn’t be more blown away by, between watching them on a huge screen and listening to the music blare on their surround sound system, it was almost as if you were there. As a preteen Steve would pop in a No Doubt or Red Hot Chili Pepper’s concert for me while following one of those with groups who really took their own path, such as- the Pixies, or Depeche Mode. On holidays such as the 4th of July it was time for the classics, the key one being The Band’s “The Last Waltz.” To this day I’ll watch that DVD if I’m ever having a rough night, forget emo music; I got The Band. Thanks to Uncle Steve playing the Talking Head’s “Stop Making Sense” concert one evening, envisions of my dad dancing to “Burning Down the House” have forever been engraved in my head. As nerdy as it sounds I treasured all of these nights and all of the music Steve encouraged me to give a chance. As my parents and I left his condo certain nights he would hand me off a CD of groups such as Sleater-Kinney, made up of songs from their Boston show set lists. Those CDs were then played on our 4-hour ride home back to Massachusetts, even if my mom was getting sick of those sounds. Upon my high school graduation approaching Steve came down to Massachusetts for the all-important graduation party. He had no gift, but I honestly didn’t care. I was just happy to see my Uncle Steve in good spirits, talking about what summer concerts he had lined up, and meeting all of my friends that filled my house and backyard. A few months later, after the move to college officially occurred, I received a small brown package in the mail from him. It was a belated graduation gift. I opened up the box to find easily the most thoughtful gift I had ever received. I’m a huge Arcade Fire fan, I can’t help it; I just am. Uncle Steve’s present included a burned CD of Arcade Fire’s Boston set list from when they played at the Orpheum Theatre, a printed out and laminated book of all the song lyrics off of that CD, and to top it off- their amazing “Miroir Noir” film, which I recommend any Arcade Fire fan to see at least once. The songs and visuals of “Miroir Noir” are honestly incendiary, not to mention how gorgeous the CD case is in and of itself. It was the greatest gift I could have asked for, yet, never could imagine receiving, and it was all from my Uncle Steve. Uncle Steve and I continue to keep in touch and bond over our passion for music. Just last summer I stopped by his condo with a close friend of mine to see him and Drew while we were visiting “the Green Mountain State”. I told him about the Crosley turntable I had gotten this summer as an early birthday present. Steve then immediately found and flipped through boxes of his old vinyls. He handed off to me a huge stack for me to borrow. Gems of albums such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors,” Blondie’s “Parallel Lines,” Run D.M.C.’s “King of Rock,” Led Zeppelin’s “In Through the Out Door,” multiple Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, and even more, are now in my possession. My box of albums has now officially become my Holy Grail that I can’t help but smile at while I flip through. A majority of the records still have newspaper clippings about the shows my dad and Steve saw when they were youngins in them, along with old concert tickets that typically read a price of five-dollars per admittance. Just as viewing these legendary artists on Steve’s big screen made me see certain musicians in a whole knew light (one of which being DMB covering “All Along the Watchtower,” which is surprisingly sick, seriously) the old vinyls spinning on my Crosley at night allow me to listen to the music in a way in which I’ve never heard. The crackle on some of these old albums as they play on the turntable adds a certain, unexplainable, heart, personality, and depth to the music I grew up cherishing; I’d like to thank Uncle Steve for that.
A SCHLUB AFTER MY OWN HEART by sir lance st. laurent
We would all love to be gorgeous, rich, and famous, even if all our hipster impulses tell us that it’s an empty aspiration. More than that, we feel as though we have the potential to be one of the select that we see on TV or in the theater. There is a part of us that tells us that the difference between us and them is a heap of luck and maybe a smidgen of talent. It is for this reason that we fetishize the idea of the movie star. Not only are they everything we hope to be, but the paparazzi culture has (sometimes erroneously) shown us that behind the glamour, the perfection, and even the philanthropy there are petty, fucked up people that are just like us on the inside, only to an extravagant degree. We fetishize the minutiae of the lives of people we will never meet, and we feel as though we are among the gods themselves, a place we feel like we belong. At least that seems to be the case for most people. I’m a little weird, you see. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) When I was a young man, my favorite actor was the venerable badass Jack Nicholson, a man whose cool cannot be adequately put into words by a troglodyte like myself. I liked him, not only because he was ridiculously cool and talented, but because there was a deluded part of me that felt like I could be him. That’s not that strange in hindsight; in fact, I know a guy right now whose favorite actor is Jack Nicholson right now for what I suspect is the same reason. Let’s jump ahead a few years, though. Who are my favorite actors right now? Phillip Seymour and Paul Giamatti. Strangely, though, I don’t seem to be alone on this matter. “So what?” you may say. Those guys are, objectively speaking two of the best working actors in Hollywood right now. There’s something about these guys, though, that’s unique. People like Jimmy Stewart and Tom Hanks have successfully played the everyman in cinema, but done so with a sort of internal strength. Comedy always (repeat: ALWAYS) has a place for the funny fat man. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot think of any actors who both 1) play so many distinct shades of schlub and 2) carry so many stellar films on their hunched, beleaguered backs like Hoffman and Giamatti. These guys aren’t even limited to typecasting anymore; look at Giamatti in HANGOVER II and Hoffman in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III. This kind of shit is wholly unheard of for completely average looking (and seemingly normal) people in Hollywood. What’s the deal? The crazy cultural analyst in me (aka my inner Klosterman) wants to peg it as the dark flipside of the business I mentioned at the top of the page. We love to watch what we see as an idealized version of ourselves cavorting on screen, but that has left a void. We are now so self-absorbed that even the dark part of ourselves that see us as unfuckable sasquatches needs to see a reflection of self on screen. That theory is borderline insane, though, which means 1) it applies directly to me, but maybe only me and 2) I will quote it at parties to sound intellectual until the day I die, while never truly believing it. In truth, I’m beginning to think that there’s a certain type of person (me) that, even on screen, wants validation that life is hard and you’re not inherently a fuck up. If the face of George Clooney or Brad Pitt tells us a story of how our life should be, then Giamatti and Hoffman (and other actors that I may be forgetting. These two are just the best.) tell us a story of how we think our life really is: complicated, tedious, exasperating, and cruelest to the weakest of us. More than that, they do it in a completely unvarnished, unsentimental way. More often not, they play men who are stressed out, overworked, unhappy, and reticent about the paths of their lives. They’ve tapped directly into the essence of the recession-era beta male, and they do so while nimbly avoiding the trap of being crushingly depressing. They, in essence, make making it look hard look so very, very easy. So even if my inner Phillip Seymour Hoffman doesn’t have the charm or the swagger of my long-dead inner Jack Nicholson, I like to think he understands my troubles a whole lot better.
MOTHER AND KITCHEN poetry by kenzie weeks
I’m not in my mother’s kitchen- haven’t been for years- slick soles sticking to grainy tile while teapots, coffeepots, all those grown-up pots wink at me, beckoning to a ten foot-tall world nestled in their essence. The kitchen wraps its arms around a young one; inclusive, exclusive but ever mothering. The dandruff flakes of her childbearing days coat the smooth, uninterrupted blacktop of the stove like inches of snow on my elementary parking lot. Everything was green, did it mean something to her? The green countertops- she hated thosegreen mugs on painted green shelves, I guess she hated it all. But I didn’t know as the Sunday cowmeat clung desperately to the tawny handles surrounding that bathtub of a sink, hung suspended in anticipation. I haven’t seen that lush garden of a kitchen for some time now, but my sister crawls into its lap still each morning and it greets her, shakes her awake, Mother Earth in a suburban tundra.
art by mirrah stoller
Extracts from an Emersonian Lecture to the Academy of Musical Miscreants a list in no particular order by matt gasda
It is better, fellow miscreants, to be an honest miscreant than a dishonest egoist. And what do we find today, in our dear cultural scene, but dishonest egotists! Why does one write a song, write a poem, make a film, or paint a painting if not because we feel something great within us that we must somehow bring in to the world? And if we do not feel this great power, this creative fertility, then dear miscreants, why are calling ourselves artists? Why are we saturating the blogosphere with our work (there is nothing more worthless than a writer who refers to something as his “work”) if we do not feel that this work is something special, that we are something special? Either we are lying to ourselves or we are lying to other people. Oh false modesty! Oh please listen to my humble little song please Mr. Blogwriter in your mother’s basement, please, please, it is nothing really, just a little song, nothing important, but please, please listen! Miscreants, this is the worst lie, the worst deception. Either you know the song is good or bad. If you know the truth then you must be honest with the truth. If you know you are good, demand that the world gives you it’s due.
The Greeks had a word for it: atunement. To be atuned with the gods. A great lover was atuned with Aphrodite, to be a great warrior was to be atuned with Ares. To be a great musician, of course, meant to be atuned, like Orpheus, with Apollo. To be atuned means to have one’s soul strung so that vibrates in perfect tenor with heavenly musicians, the gods themselves, to know their will, to know and embody the highest perfection of one’s craft! That my friends, fellow Miscreants, has been lost. We no longer know Apollo from Pitchfork, ambient from Ambien, Beethoven from Bach. Today, everyone is in a band, everyone has a record, but how many records can appeal to the soul? How many records touch upon the universal? How many artists are atuned with eternal, graceful Apollo? Ah my Miscreant fellows, there are so few, so very few. And it is so hard to tell. ProTools is the great deception, masking the good along with the bad, equalizing and compressing and mistake-erasing our musical artists. Every pretender with a laptop becomes our latest genius. But can it be so easy? Is it so easy Miscreants? If a blog tells you at the end of each year that they are presenting you with a list of the 50 best records of the year do you really believe that in a year you will listen to but a handful? To more than one or two? Will you even listen to all 50? Have they? And what if you do? Is there time? Time to track down each spark of genius until there is no more? It is impossible, the sea is too deep, too wide.
Ha?! Is there any greater threat to the American democratic tradition than Vampire Weekend? Nay, nay I cannot conceive of one.
And then of course there is the myth of the Great American Music Scene. Yet does anyone know what this scene is? What it looks like? Where does it end and where does it begin? Is a scene two bands? Three? Ten? Must they all be friends? Must they be good? Or must they merely be enthusiastic? Is a music scene with twenty enthusiastic but repugnant bands better than a single songwriter living alone with a single good song?
What happens when music is the only art we have discourse with? There was a time when the educated person would know all of philosophy and literature and painting and sculpture along with the works of the greatest composers, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. But now? Our educated people might listen to Kanye West and read the esteemed works of the British fantasist J.K. Rowling. What kind of education is this? Miscreants, I am not saying you must be person of “high culture” but simply suggesting your learn the whole geography, the whole map of art. Our young people today only know a little town in a little state. A farm community in Pennsylvania perhaps- but there are fifty states, and great cities, and vast plains of art and music and literature that are there, waiting to be rediscovered and loved again. Tradition is not your enemy, it is not anti-contemporary, anti-modern- it, our great past, is the mother of the present! We love our artists today, our stars, our gods, but we do not understand them, we do not understand where they came from, who they worshiped, and who was worshipped before them.
I have often been asked, “What does it mean to be a musical miscreant?” And I could say, for instance, that a miscreant is someone who causes trouble, who plays games, who tickles the great swollen belly of society, and to say this would be the truth. That is the simple answer. But the question itself is too simple. We should ask rather, “Why ought we be musical miscreants, why bother?” And the answer is because the world, in all it’s aspects, but particularly it’s culture, is stultified, insecure, and often entirely worthless. How often do you find yourself talking about some film or record or book that will be completely forgotten in a few days or weeks? You all know the difference between a well-nourished soul and soul deprived of the beautiful and the good. You all know the tone your voice takes when you discuss those rare and solitary works of art that have moved you and remained lodged in your heartit is a confident, excited tone. It is the tone of a person who wants to share some incredible mystery with the world. But how few works alter your voice in that way? A handful, if we are lucky. A musical miscreant must be one who knows the difference between the good and the mediocre, between genius and mere talent. But a miscreant must also be one who knows that they are up against a world that wishes to name every mere talent a genius, and so they must, like Odysseus or Hamlet, or any other great miscreant, hide their true nature, their true intent, and mock, and trick, and deceive the musical world into realizing it’s own absurdity. A miscreant must hold a mirror up to nature, but make sure that the mirror is well disguised as reality.
A musical miscreant knows that death is the enemy. That music must fortify us against death and must give us more life. Music can deaden us, if it is entertainment without art. And so much of it is. Music for the internet generation. Music for people who want a million ideas to bombard the surface of their minds, but who cannot let a single one sink to their core. Do not turn to music for distraction! Do not put your earbuds in out of habit! Turn to music when you feel your soul shrinking, when you have lost contact with your best memories and feelings. Music is a weapon, it is knife that you must wield against yourself. But wield it too often and you dull it, and become insensitive to its universal power!
WANT MORE MISCREANT? Thank you all for reading issue 9 of the Miscreant. This is the very first print issue of the magazine, and has wonderful submissions by fellow miscreants from all over. I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read and that you’ll be inspired to submit your own works! Send your album reviews, your concert photos, your love poems to Jeff Mangum, et cetera to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Love, jeanette, the miscreant
the miscreant. copyright 2011, jeanette wall