My Grudges Linger

The band Mastodon is coming to Missoula in a couple months. Whenever I encounter a friend or acquaintance from the local heavy rock scene, there is often a moment when they express enthusiasm over the show, and then display befuddlement when I reveal I have no interest in going. When asked why, I say it’s because I hate the band.

This is why I hate Mastodon:

It’s a limited edition “Thanksgiving” t-shirt design they put out in 2013. There was a kerfuffle over it. Of course the band claims they were making a cultural statement. I call bullshit. For a great breakdown of what played out and Mastodon’s response, you can read an excellent piece HERE.

At the time it came out, I had minor interest in the band. I loved their album art, and their noisy kind of prog/metal thing and heavy concept records were interesting at times, but I was on the fence. After this episode I unloaded my CDs and deleted the electronic versions of them and haven’t considered them since. I only think of two words, in fact, whenever they are brought to my attention.

Fuck Mastodon.

Should I be over it? Nah. Soon as pussy hats aren’t necessary, soon as we don’t need a Black Lives Matter movement, soon as places like Standing Rock don’t have to worry about having their cultural values steamrolled, then I’ll think about getting over it. Until then, lines in the sand, people. Lines in the sand.

This Will Wreck You

Maybe like me, you didn’t like Hillary that much. You didn’t care for her politics, whatever, or how the DNC handled the primary. She bore the brunt of all the rage and anger that has built up toward the DNC; it comes with the territory, and I’m sure she understands that. But what she stood for to so many isn’t something I take lightly, and I feel for all those folks who are crestfallen. Hell, a huge chunk of me is too. I’ve been in a funk in the aftermath that has come as a real surprise, frankly. I understand failure and heartbreak and not achieving something you wanted so badly, and I’m not such an ogre that I can’t feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. What a shitshow the last months have been, what a shitshow Tuesday was, and what a shitshow it’s going to be moving forward.

Anyway, if you have a heart, this will crush it. Context: this is the cold open from this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon playing Hillary Clinton, as she has brilliantly all election season. She is singing the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, who also died last week. It’s beautiful.

Many people are hurting out there these days. I hope it gets better.


Scatterer of Crows

I’ve been listening to this song a lot the last couple days. It was recorded by my last band, Lazerwolfs (or, “The Goddamn Fucking Lazerwolfs! as our friend Yale Kaul used to say, the guy who gifted us with the name). To me, the song represents a tendency of mine to go through life kind of bull-headed, a trait I’m not proud of that I try and keep a rein on, sometimes more successfully than others. You know how all the self help books say you need to shed yourself of poisonous people and relationships and situations in order to be happy? When I think of all the friends, lovers, family members, et al who aren’t in my life anymore, or aren’t speaking to me (some for decades), I wonder if I was that person in their “get right with myself” regimens. Who knows. I try to be kind, but goddamn it’s a process and I fuck up sometimes. Reflecting on Father’s Day about the loss of my dad, listening to this song and reflecting on the loss of my friend who plays drums on it, reflecting on leaving a job after 13 years and not having one lasting relationship from that era as a result, all of it . . . I can’t afford to be that guy anymore.

Anyway, there is a story here. As I said, the band was called Lazerwolfs. This was on a CD we released in 2005, which means it was probably written in ’03 or ’04. I adapted the lyrics from a poem I discovered, and loved, called “I Am The Stone That Breaks All Hearts” by Bill Lewis. In an amazing, and bizarre, coincidence, I later learned (via this posting of the poem) that he originally published it in a collection released by a publishing house called . . . Lazerwolf Press. How freaky is that?

Some things I like about it. I love the power and dynamics (though my bass line I modified slightly after recording it, and I prefer the new version, which I play every show when sound checking for the sound man). I love Bubba’s drumming so much. We were all three really into the grunge era band Mad Season at the time, and he lifted a couple drum fills from that record. But goddamn could he play those drums. There is a live recording of us in Bozeman, just weeks before our last show with him and his disappearance (we learned of his passing away last fall). Back to back we play my two most favorite songs from that era, 16+ epic minutes combined, and I don’t think we ever did that before or after. RIP, Bubba, damn it.

Finally, Jimmy’s abuse of his Stratocaster on this one. Especially the short solo that kicks in around 6:52. This was always a very emotional song for me to sing, though I learned to sing it better than it is here, and it often brought me to tears on stage, just the power of three guys making it happen and what the words mean to me. How they felt to sing. Something about the single note that Jimmy hits starting around 7:05 and hammers over and over thirteen times or so are like a fist just clenching on my heart. It still gets me. The final refrain — I am the stone, that breaks, every heart — is delivered with the kind of angry, frustrated passion that I haven’t been able to get with anything we’ve done yet in American Falcon. We used to make music that was sometimes meaningful. I’d like to get back to that.

Okay, so maybe this post is a little melodramatic, self-serving, personal, whatever. But this is my place, people. This one means a lot to me. If you’re reading it, you mean a lot to me.

Reviewing 2015 via Bullet Points

I had big plans to sum up the three areas of popular culture I engage most with — music, movies, and books — into three expansive, individual posts. But who wants to read that? And do I really want to write that? Not really. So I thought I could cover the same ground with just some random bullet points.

  • The first recording worth mentioning is called Ritual Rising, from the band Swamp Ritual. Yeah, my kid is the drummer, but the CD kicks ass and I’m proud of him and Dustin (Fugere, the bass player; the band is a heavy bass/drum duo).
  • John Vaillant and Kim Heacox both wrote novels I really enjoyed (The Jaguar’s Children and Jimmy Bluefeather, respectively), but the one I had the most fun with was probably Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea.
  • If my records are correct, I saw 29 of 2015’s movies. The first one of the year I saw was Selma. The last was The Hateful Eight.
  • I loved staying in the Goat Chalet at the North Fork Hostel in Polebridge not once, but twice.
  • Last fall, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Motörhead all released new records within weeks of each other and they were all fantastic.
  • I read a total of 101 books in 2015. They weren’t all 2015 releases. 16 were eBooks. 11 were poetry, which is probably more than in all years prior combined. 46 were fiction. 44 were nonfiction.
  • My second favorite movie of the year was Mad Max: Fury Road. The soundtrack is also excellent and has gotten heavy rotation during my periods of writing . . . like right now.
  • I enjoyed having my father-in-law help me stalk Jim Harrison‘s house in Patagonia, Arizona.
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s Mothers, Tell Your Daughters and Matt Pavelich‘s Survivors Said were my favorite short story collections.
  • If my records are correct, I purchased 25 of 2015’s musical releases. The first was Ryan Bingham‘s Fear and Saturday Night. The last was South Broadway Athletic Club by The Bottle Rockets.
  • My favorite movie of the year was Creed (aka Rocky VII). I cried from beginning to end the first time I saw it. I hope Stallone gets a supporting actor Oscar. This movie probably deserves a blog post of its own.
  • I walked out of the theater early during Furious 7 because it was so bad. And as bad as Jupiter Rising was, I think The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was worse.
  • The best live show I saw was Nikki Lane at The Filling Station in Bozeman. Great band, fun show, and she kissed me on the cheek afterward.
  • Should I mention TV? I suppose. I really only watched three things. The most recent season of Game of Thrones (HBO) nearly jumped the shark for me, but pulled it together by the end. True Detective (HBO) was fun to heckle but probably doesn’t deserve another season. Surprisingly, Daredevil and Jessica Jones were both excellent (and both Netflix originals) and a lot of fun to watch.
  • For poetry, Mary Oliver and her book Felicity gets the nod, while I also dug Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall.
  • In my final year of work travel, it was fun to visit all the monuments in Washington, D.C. at 3 AM.
  • I don’t usually go to horror movies, but It Follows was excellent. And I usually hate comedies, but I laughed my ass off during both Spy and Trainwreck.
  • The closest my head came to exploding this year was when Dita Von Teese posted a picture to her Instagram account of herself holding Grumpy Cat.
  • Chris Stapleton got all the country music industry love for his Traveller record, which is awesome because it’s a great record and it isn’t pop country bullshit, but for countryish music my nod goes to John Moreland and his High On Tulsa Heat record.
  • Documentary films Meru, Cartel Land, and Jumbo Wild were excellent.
  • My favorite listen of the year was Psychic Warfare by Clutch. Honorable mentions go to Dying Surfer Meets His Maker by All Them Witches and Berlin by Kadavar. Which is weird, because I feel like I am losing my interest in rock, but these are all rock records.
  • In the nonfiction category (arguably my favorite overall), I really loved Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah by Anna Badkhen, and Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer, the latter not so much because it is an entertaining read as it is one that I think everyone should read.

And that’s probably enough. I hope 2015 was good to everyone; at least we all got through it. Here’s to a fantastic 2016.

Winter Solstice, Missoula
Winter Solstice, Missoula, 2015