At The Believer, I talked visual art, music and making things with Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams, Greer McGettrick from The Mallard, and Hannah Lew of Cold Beat. These are smart, talented musicians who offer many fascinating insights into the creativity and creative cycles. You can read it here. HANNAH LEW: I think abstracting on our reality and making our own shapes out of our feelings and responses to our world is vital to our understanding. If we don’t include our emotional responses to things into our vocabulary about our temporal existence, we can’t really move forward as a society. You can get away with confronting a lot of taboo subject matter within the realm of abstraction and reproduction that you can’t in normal dialogue. There is a lot of truth telling by way of telling lies, which is all an artist is really ever doing.
Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
Here’s a feature I wrote in 2007 for the now-defunct music magazine Harp. It covers The Meat Puppets’ return to touring and recording, from the Kirkwood brothers’ first live gig together in eleven-years, to their first new studio album, Rise To Your Knees. As a longtime Meat Puppets fan and a native of Phoenix, Arizona, I had a lot of fun talking to Curt Kirkwood, catching two shows at SXSW, and narrating the band’s life on the page. (The accompanying photo was snapped next to me at the second show.) The Puppets are still touring, still recording, and still as creative and original as ever. For fellow Puppets fans, here’s the article, rescued from its paper grave:
Posted in Music, Travel, tagged essays, Harper's Magazine, Haruki Murakami, Japan, jazz, jazz club, narrative nonfiction, Peter Cat, Portrait in Jazz, Sendagaya, Tokyo on February 10, 2014 | 6 Comments »
Before he became a novelist, Haruki Murakami was a jazz fan. He got into it when he was fifteen, after seeing Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers perform in Kobe in January 1964.The lineup that night was of one of the most celebrated in the band’s three decades of existence, featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wayne Shorter on sax, and Cedar Walton on piano. “I had never heard such amazing music,” Murakami later said. “I was hooked.” Ten years later, he postponed his university studies to open a jazz club in suburban Tokyo, naming it Peter Cat, after one of his pets. In 1977, he and his wife, Yoko, moved the club to Tokyo’s central Sendagaya neighborhood, where he wrote his first two novels, which led to later books whose titles referenced doo-wop like the Dells’ “Dance Dance Dance” and jazz tunes like Fuller’s “Five Spot After Dark.” The music equally influenced his writing style, which he sometimes conceived in terms of jazz rhythm, improvisation, and performance. Continue reading here…
Hey, I wrote this article for Flavorwire about Seattle’s moody, ’80s power pop band The Macs. They released three songs and then split up. You might dig it. Here it is: http://flavorwire.com/411518/unraveling-the-mystery-of-forgotten-seattle-pre-grunge-band-the-macs/view-all
The Oxford American published an article I wrote about Dex Romweber of Flat Duo Jets: http://www.oxfordamerican.org/articles/2012/jun/11/profile-dex-romweber/
Dex is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I’d long wanted to write something that did him at least a bit of the justice his talent and good-heart deserve, and I wanted to do it in a magazine that people who didn’t know about him might actually read. The Oxford American is widely read and one of my favorite magazines, so it was the perfect fit. Dex deserves billions of fans. I hope this article helps lead a few more people to his music. Cheers to Dex.
As a bonus, here’s video of a full Flat Duo Jets show from the final period of the band’s life:
And bonus Flat Duo outtake footage here from the Athens Inside/Out documentary. This is a moment-in-the-life-of, just Dex and Flat Duo drummer Crow goofing around in a roadside market (I think it’s a Stuckey’s), talking to people and a stuffed five-legged dog. A must-see:
Posted in Music, tagged Bandcamp, Burger Records, Cosmonauts, East End, garage rock, homemade music videos, knowing, Night Beats, OR, Pacific Northwest, Portland, psychedelic music, reverb, rock and roll, wicked awesome on May 26, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Here’s some video I shot of the Cosmonauts playing “Psychic Denim” in the brick basement that is East End. Shit contrast:
And here are some tracks from Seattle’s Night Beats. First, “Puppet On A String”:
Then a slow one:
Posted in Music, Travel, tagged beer, Black Flag, Butthole Surfers, Crucifucks, Dead Kennedys, defunct clubs, dives, dumps, ear trash, JFA, Madison Square Garden, Meat Puppets, old Phoenix, Phoenix Arizona, punk rock, punk rock clubs, Sun City Girls, Tony Victor, Van Buren Street, Violent Femmes on May 7, 2012 | 14 Comments »
Madison Square Garden… of Squalor
Phoenix’s Premier ’80s Punk Dump
If you think the original incarnation of punk rock passed entirely over Phoenix, you just weren’t there. I wasn’t there either – I was in elementary school – but apparently 1979-1984 were the golden years, and at the center of it all sat Mad Garden. Short for Madison Square Garden, this seminal punk club took its name not only from the New York landmark, but from a cavernous, 1929, brick wrestling and boxing arena on 7th Ave and Van Buren Street. When Tony Victor, owner of Placebo Records, the Valley’s sole, period punk label, started booking shows in ’81, he booked them at another old wrestling dive. It stood on 37th Street and Van Buren, across from Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, and it too was called Mad Garden.
Bands played in the wrestling ring at the building’s center, setting their amps and drums on the padded floor between rubberized ropes. The stage wobbled during performances, adding visible bounce to the already agro musicians’ antics. Scratched wooden bleachers lined walls decorated with black and white publicity photos of small-time, largely deceased wrestlers in period regalia. A chain link fence enclosed the stage in order to protect fans from flying wrestlers; a previous owner installed it after a wrestler landed on someone in the front row. Instead of protection, the fence provided the perfect monkey-bars for punks to climb during shows.
While London and NYC already boasted legendary punk scenes by 1975, Phoenix’s started in ’78 with the birth of The Consumers and largely ended with Mad Garden’s closing in ’84. In the interim, local bands like JFA, The Feederz and Mighty Sphincter left a lasting impression on their generation, with Mad Garden serving as the center of the action. For big-name touring acts, the rowdy ring provided a reliable playground. Everyone played there: Bad Brains, Black Flag, Violent Femmes, The Minutemen, Butthole Surfers, Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Husker Dü, and, of course, locals like Meat Puppets, Victory Acres and Sun City Girls. Mad Garden was, as JFA’s singer Brian Brannon sang in a song penned specifically for the club’s closing night, “A hall where weirdoes sometimes wrestle/A fitting place for us freaks to nestle.” The word ‘freaks’ was key. That early crowd wasn’t punk in the formulaic fashion sense – liberty spikes, combat boots, Clash patches on jean jackets – it was diverse, equal parts skater, student and New Wave.
Victor made a natural booking agent. His uncle leased the 37th Street building for wrestling events, and being a music fan with a bassist for a business partner, Victor knew all the angles: keep covers cheap and Mad Garden BYOB so minors could attend; blanket the city with hand-drawn fliers; use your uncle’s karate school employees as security; then sell beer inside where cops couldn’t see. The result was a grubby, grassroots, communal atmosphere that one clubber described as “the rowdy punk rock equivalent of the company family picnic.” Like any killer picnic, though, the ants eventually arrived to carry off the food.
Police surveillance, obstinate neighbors and a raucous parking lot party squad sealed The Garden’s fate. Fire regulations kept crowds under 350, but a few gigs, like two back-to-back Dead Kennedys shows, drew over 500 people, along with the Fire Marshall. Despite fliers bearing desperate warnings (“Please! Help keep the Garden from closing down! Don’t show up until you’re actually ready to go inside!! Okay?”) The Garden closed in January, 1984, after a beer-soaked, full-house, adrenalized goodbye gig featuring JFA, TSOL and Crucifucks.
Then the building became a Spanish bible study center. Or was it a plastic flower warehouse? It depends who you ask.
1) You can download a soundboard recording of a searing 3/23/83 Meat Puppets show here, for free. It was recorded at Mad Garden: http://www.wohlers.org/puppets/madgardens/
2) Footage of JFA playing Mad Gardens in 1983:
3) Fliers from the final JFA, TSOL and Crucifucks show, along with numerous others, are available at http://www.shavedneck.com/Phoenix/index.htm
4) Missouri-born painter Thomas Randal Farnsworth snapped photos of that same 3/23/83 Meat Puppets show while earning his BFA at Arizona State University. The pics and a flier can be found here: http://homepage.mac.com/tfarnsworth/PhotoAlbum31.html
5) The entire B-side of the 1982, Placebo Records compilation This is Phoenix Not the Circle Jerks features tracks recorded live at Mad Garden. Apparently it’s tough to track down.