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

Dead Rock Stars

I know what it’s like to lose people whose art, music in particular, I loved. Lemmy’s death sucked, but he was old and sick and few people stiff-arm death like he did for as long as he did. His run was epic. It sucks that the Ramones are all dead. Ronnie James Dio died of illness, but he was old too. That’s probably how I’ll go out, given my family history, and sometimes I feel like I’ll be lucky to make it out of my 50s, frankly, given how shitty I am to myself. I just find this outpouring for people we don’t know to be really weird. We all die. None of these deaths of artists who have lived long lives with decades of work to remember them by are tragedies.

But, man. I literally had no idea David Bowie was such a big deal to so many people. I feel like the only person on the planet who is completely ambivalent to the whole thing. Of course I’m sorry for his family. He had cancer, which sucks. I’m sorry he had to face that. He was 69, which isn’t THAT old but isn’t young either. I suspect he had a lifestyle that means to get to 69, though, he had to fake death out a time or two. Good for him. He had a good run. I don’t know if he was a nice guy or not. People are saying nice things about him. But people said nice things when Nixon died too, and he was an asshole.

I respect Bowie’s place in the pantheon of rock idols, or even using the broader term “artist,” but he was never part of anything I listened to or even cared about. I’m not trying to be that guy who likes to rain all over everyone else’s parade, it’s just weird to experience. A few points:

  1. In all my years of hanging around music and music people, at no point has anyone ever said, “Hey, you wanna listen to some Bowie?” Not one time. Nor have I ever been asked, “So what’s your favorite Bowie record?” Not once. And don’t give me any of that, “Well, you’re just a metalhead!” bullshit. I listen to lots of different kinds of music, and have friends all over the musical map.
  2. I’ve never been inspired to seek out David Bowie on my own.
  3. I totally get though that if you were a “weird” kid in any way, male or female, who didn’t fit in with those around you, Bowie could have been someone pointing you the way. He just wasn’t that for me. And yet his death has me feeling the “odd one out” again, a sense that probably drove a lot of folks to Bowie in the first place. It’s a wonder the world doesn’t explode. Still, “weird kid” cliques were every bit as conformist and brutal as any “mainstream kid” cliques were, they just dressed differently.
  4. Julia​ is a Bowie fan, which I guess I kinda knew, yet in the 13 years or so we’ve known each other, we’ve never listened to Bowie together. We’ve listened to Ralph Stanley. The Carter Family. Skip James. SUNN O))). Ufomammut. The Cramps. But David Bowie? Not once (not counting when he’s come on the radio or something, or in a movie soundtrack, of course).
  5. I probably can’t name 10 of his songs. “Fame” was always cool enough. “Suffragette City” comes to mind. Both have been ruined by classic rock radio overplay, though.
  6. In my formative years as a music listener, Let’s Dance was his big record. I thought then, and still do, that it is essentially unlistenable. “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”? That’s as bad a lyric as anything KISS has ever written. He never did anything since that piqued my interest to investigate deep into his back catalog, unlike someone like, say, Alice Cooper, who was also basically retired before I ever really got interested in music, then made a comeback, of sorts.
  7. His duet on “Dancing in the Streets” with Mick Jagger should go in a time capsule as one of the worst things that happened in that era. I mean, that song is terrible no matter who does it (yes, even Van Halen), but that version in particular, and the video, might be the shittiest.
  8. “Under Pressure” is the worst song on Queen’s Hot Space record, and that isn’t a good record anyway. We would have forgotten the abomination if Vanilla Ice hadn’t resurrected it and turned it into an object of cultural scorn.
  9. So, because of points 5-8, see again #2.
  10. I liked that vampire movie he was in. But Labyrinth? Unwatchable unless you’re a child, or like to revisit your childhood favorites, which is fine. The only good thing about that movie was when my friend Bubba (RIP) used Bowie’s character’s image for a Traveller character he played in 1987/88 or so (Traveller being a sci-fi roleplaying game popular back then; for further reference please purchase and be blown away by the 2004 concept record, Traveller, by the mighty San Francisco band, The Lord Weird Slough Feg​).

It’s entirely possible that tabloids, the internet, tell-all biographies and memoirs, all of that stuff has completely ruined hero worship for me. All of my idols of youth turned out to be raging assholes, and if I’m cynical about anything, it’s successful artists and entertainers. I just don’t get it. But to each their own.

I will admit to being bummed when Lux Interior, right, died
I will admit to being bummed when Lux Interior, right, died

A Quarter Century of Rock ‘N’ Roll Songs

Given my head is ringing from another extremely loud edition of American Falcon practice, I thought I’d take a stab at this music-related meme my friend Richard brought to my attention via a post on his blog. My friend Charles also posted one, which you can check out on his blog as well. I like this kind of thing, seeing what other people choose.

The meme is this: What 25 songs would you pick to describe your personal history with rock ‘n’ roll?

This is a tough one for me (as I’m sure it is for any hardcore music fan). What I decided to do is pick a meaningful song for every year going back the last 25 (including this year, which makes it 26). This decision omits most of my most formative songs, since I’m a child of the 70s and 80s, but I thought it would be more interesting this way. In compiling the list, I encountered songs that have hit me hard in the years since that I wasn’t aware of at the time, so in those cases I chose the songs that I remember had meaning to me in that particular year, as it was happening, if that makes sense. For example, Sleep’s Holy Mountain record came out in 1993, and I love that album . . . but Enigma, a band (and song) I can’t even remember when I heard last, gets the nod in my list because I listened to it then and it was a big deal. Suffice to say the exercise of putting this list together was quite a trip down memory lane. Anyway, enough of that. Dig this:

  1. Ramones — Don’t Bust My Chops (1989)
  2. Jane’s Addiction — Ain’t No Right (1990)
  3. R.E.M. — Losing My Religion (1991)
  4. Trevor Jones — The Kiss (Last of the Mohicans soundtrack)(1992)
  5. Enigma — Return to Innocence (1993)
  6. Sarah McLachlan — Possession (1994)
  7. Garbage — Only Happy When It Rains (1995)
  8. Tonic — If You Could Only See (1996)
  9. Ramones — We’re Outta Here (the entire album)(1997)
  10. Rob Zombie — Dragula (1998)
  11. Supersuckers — The Evil Powers of Rock n’ Roll (1999)
  12. Fu Manchu — Over the Edge (2000)
  13. Spirit Caravan — The Departure (Of Quetzalcoatl) (2001)
  14. Lazerwolfs — Elemental (2002)
  15. The White Stripes — Seven Nation Army (2003)
  16. Drive-By Truckers — Where the Devil Don’t Stay (2004)
  17. Witchcraft — Mr. Haze (2005)
  18. The Black Keys — Your Touch (2006)
  19. Ryan Bingham — Southside of Heaven (2007)
  20. The Mother Truckers — Dynamite (2008)
  21. Band of Skulls — Light of the Morning (2009)
  22. Katy Perry — California Gurls (2010)
  23. The Black Keys — Lonely Boy (2011)
  24. Heartless Bastards — The Arrow Killed the Beast (2012)
  25. Kadavar — Come Back Life (2013)
  26. Nikki Lane — Right Time (2014)

 

A Musical Event of Interest to Few Readers of This Blog

Buzzo-7Last week I was fortunate to publish an interview in the Independent with one of my favorites, Buzz Osbourne of the band (the) Melvins. He’s the guitar player/singer/primary songwriter for the band. I had interviewed him once before, back in 2008, when the band was touring behind their Nude With Boots record. The guy is a great interview, very smart, and endlessly quotable. The word counts on these articles don’t allow nearly enough.

This time around he is doing a solo acoustic tour. I have the CD, This Machine Kills Artists, dig it, and was very curious to see what it was like live. I was able to get on the guest list (one of the occasional, although rare, perks of the Indy freelance gig) with a +1, and Sid went with me.

The show was fantastic. Buzz totally changed my idea about what a lone guy playing an acoustic can do. No merely standing in front of the mic, or sitting in a chair . . . he was an energetic and constantly moving performer, just like in the fully amped up Melvins environment. It was a revelation. I liked it way more than I thought I would. The performance was HEAVY, and his stories between batches of songs were hilarious. There are plenty other people out there doing the singer/songwriter thing, and doing it well. But they ain’t doing it like Buzz is, which really shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who knows anything about his musical history. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Buzzo-3

Buzzo-5

 

Adam Faucett

Also of note was the dude who opened the show, a more traditional singer/songwriter from Arkansas named Adam Faucett. Man, he was fantastic too, delivering the kinds of goods Steve Earle thinks he does. A great and powerful voice and some gorgeous songwriting too. I was mightily impressed with his stuff. Bought his latest record on vinyl, a CD of his previous record, and tipped him an additional $10. I’ll be singing his praises to whomever will listen, believe me.

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I’m happy that I got a few decent images out of it. The light at the Palace sucks, and I’m a shitty music photographer because I’d rather be rocking out than taking pictures, but it all worked out in the end. All in all, a pretty swell way to spend a Monday night in the Big City.

 

 

 

Seize the Day with Burning Might

spirit-caravan-tour-datesThe middle of last week I was in Texas and received a text from my kid. “Spirit Caravan is playing in Spokane on Sunday.” I almost didn’t believe him, but I looked into it. I knew they had reformed, and that they would be in the Northwest, but not particularly close. Spokane had indeed been added, and given that’s only three hours away, and it was an all ages show, the road trip was on.

Spirit Caravan is one of my favorite bands, though they broke up several years ago. Scott “Wino” Weinrich is a living legend to those of us into this kind of music. The last time the band had been through this part of the country (13 years ago!), not long before they broke up, I promoted and opened the show for them with my band, Lazerwolfs. I’d become friends with Wino; on a trip to Maryland a few years ago I saw his band at the time, The Hidden Hand, then spent the night and next day at his house. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch off and on, but I hadn’t talked to him since I saw him with Saint Vitus in San Francisco three or so years ago.

sc-1

Long story short, it was a great night. The band killed. Sherman (SC’s bass player) was great to hang with and swap stories. This is a dude who loves the life of heavy music (and weed) that he’s devoted his life to. Hell, even Al, the merch guy, remembered our time together in Missoula so many years ago. It was good to reconnect with him as well. As for Henry, the drummer, this was his first tour with SC. He also drums for Saint Vitus. He’s a friendly guy, whose only complaint is that he’d only had a couple weeks to learn the tunes.

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Most importantly, my boy and I got to hang out with Wino, and Sid was clearly thrilled. It’s a blessing to hang out with your idols sometimes, and it’s even better when they treat you kindly. That was really the point to me, as Sid was very young when he met Wino before. Now, as a young rocker himself playing a style of music that Wino is a pioneer of, it was a big moment for him.

Sid's face says it all
Sid’s face says it all

 

Here’s the song they closed with. It destroys me. It’s a cover of an Animals tune, recorded when Wino was in his band The Obsessed. The man has a soulful voice and one of the best set of hands in the world of guitar playing. Sweet riffs, and an ability to cut loose — like at the 3:20 mark — like few others. Hearing it live was something else.

 

At one point Wino was talking about his own children, and domestic issues, and other things guys — long in tooth and gray of beard as we are — tend to do when we get together. His oldest son, whom I’d met in Maryland as a toddler, is 13 now. “He’s really cool,” Wino said, with a smile. “He’s….” and he struggled with words, then he drew a circle with his finger, encompassing himself, Sid, and me, “He’s one of us.”

 

If you want to see a gallery on flickr of all these shots, dig it HERE. I’m pretty proud of them.

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