I De-Tune, ‘Jus For You!

I think the internet must be heaven for gearheads. I know Jimmy, the guitar player for LAZERWOLFS, spends a lot of his free time trolling for amps, pedals, and things like that. I like good gear, but I don’t spend a lot of time researching it. If I want to know something, I’ll usually just ask Jimmy. Anyway, what is great for this is how all of this stuff often have videos where you can hear an amp, hear a pedal, get instruction videos, see endorsees playing their signature guitars, etc. Some of these videos are helpful, and some are just comedy gold. Like this one, forwarded to me yesterday by my friend Ednor. Even if you don’t give a rip about guitar tuners, you should watch it.

The Bright Side of Bad Times

This from Publishers Weekly: “Good Worlds and Bad”

While some readers look for dark fiction to reflect dark times, others just want to get away from it all. This has led to strong sales on all sides of science fiction and fantasy, from pulpy escapist romps to grim dystopian parables. “In down times, escapism is more important and necessary than ever,” says Diana Gill, executive editor of the Eos imprint at HarperCollins, “and genre sales reflect that. We saw this after 9/11, and it continues to be true now. Urban and supernatural fantasy are unquestionably the strongest sellers in the genre.”

Here is a quote a little deeper into the article:

Jim Minz, senior editor at Baen Books, says the economy/escapism extrapolation is overly simplistic. “While it’s easy to make the connection between the harsh, depressing headlines and a desire to escape to another world, a place where it’s obvious who’re the good guys and who’re the bad, the reality is never that simple,” he explains. “Whether you’re talking about fantastic tales told around the campfire before recorded history or the latest embossed and foiled space opera adventure, these tales have always found their roots in our world. No matter how inventive the tale, how strange the creatures, how bizarre the alien society, their roots, reflections and inspirations are all around us, a part of the fabric of our world.”

What it boils down to for me is good stories told well, and there are great stories to be found in genre fiction. Don’t be a snob about it.

As For Something I Hate

I hated, I mean hated, that book Eat, Pray, Love for a lot of reasons, even though I finished it. Obviously I wasn’t the target demographic, but that is only part of why l found it loathesome (I picked it up because I was on a travel book kick and it was all over the travel section of the bookstore I was in somewhere at the time). Now they are making a friggin’ movie about it. I don’t think this synopsis really explains the book very well, if I recall:

Based on the international bestseller by Elizabeth Gilbert, story centers on a married woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after trying to get pregnant and realizing that she’s not living the life she wants. Murphy adapted the screenplay.

Seems to me the book was more about a woman hopping from one “soul mate” to another, whining about everything, and being generally annoying. I’m sure the movie will be huge too since Julia Roberts has seemed to master all of those traits as well. Blah.

A Real Author and a Real Movie, Hopefully?

This could be awesome: A Princess of Mars

Andrew Stanton’s adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp legend John Carter of Mars just got a new screenwriter… and it’s one of the writers who best understands pulp science fiction.Michael Chabon, author of such books as The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, has signed on to rewrite the script for Disney’s big-screen adaption of A Princess of Mars, the first of eleven books in the John Carter saga. Chabon’s previous screenwriting experience is writing a draft of Spider-Man 2, although only about a third of his material made it to the finished film.

Chabon is fantastic (they should make a movie out of Gentlemen of the Road; not his best book, but it would be fun on screen), but I worry that this is a Disney flick. I read somewhere else that it would be animated. I have high hopes, but I expect them to be dashed. I’m trusting you, Mr. Chabon!

Weather permitting, I’m going to walk out into the fountains in downtown Spokane this weekend looking just like this:

Then again, I don’t know that there is enough wax in the universe to make me look like that.

Fair Days Revisited

Julia and I visited the fair last Friday night and had, for the most part, a good time. I just posted an essay about it over at New West; you can check that out here.

We only live maybe half-a-mile, a mile at most, from the fairgrounds. So anytime anything goes on there, we hear it. Especially events in the grandstands, whether it is of the racing motor variety or cheers and gasps. I really don’t mind because it is only once per year, but the dogs go nuts. They freak out at the slightest provocation anyway, so if not that it would be something else. Like garbage trucks. Or people having the gall to walk in the street in front of our house. Or my work phone to have the audacity to ring (that one actually pisses me off too).

Anyway, Julia scored us free passes, and off we went (I’ve heard it was $6 to get in, but I also heard $12; can anyone enlighten me on what the actual cost was?). Of course we headed out to get Tater Pigs almost immediately.

Here are a couple different varieties of Tater Pigs, now that you mention it, courtesy of my friend Charles Martin.

From there it was to the rodeo. We got into that for free too, as it was down to the last two events and the lady guarding the entrance just stamped us and let us in. We got to see some barrel racing and the bull riding, which is always cool. The theme of the day, or the whole week, I don’t know, was “Tough Enough to Wear Pink.” So lots of people were decked out in pink outfits.

After the rodeo, we wandered around, looking at all the buildings full of projects and things; cooking, photography, sewing, agriculture, etc. There were some great vintage posters in the commercial building.

From there we visited the animals. Some of the sheep sported some great costumes, that’s for sure. I want to see our awful dogs in full-on Lycra supersuits too!

I didn’t like that all of the animals are essentially squeezed together in one big barn, which is the outdoor hockey rink. Back in the day, there were separate barns. That was much cooler. Of course rivalries were between barns. “Oh, that girl? She’s from the sheep barn, don’t talk to her!” I was a pig barn guy, myself, though I did have a steer one year and a sheep another. Best part of the pigs was when they would turn them loose in the arena in big packs for judging, and the mayhem that would ensue. Inevitably someone’s pig would get out of the barn completely and lead a merry chase throughout the barn area!

The worst part was during the last night, when men would come through the barn marking the hogs for where they were going to go, based on who bought them. Slaughterhouses, of course. I was a wimp about that, I often bawled my eyes out. I usually overcame that when the check came, though. I bought my first stereo with my first 4-H check; it was a Realistic from Radio Shack, with a turntable and cassette. I also bought Supertramp’s Breakfast in America album with it, as well as the soundtrack to The Warriors. Vinyl, of course.

This is the closest we got to the midway. It was close enough for me.

Art, Fire, and Rock

Before I go on, I wanted to mention last First Friday and Julia’s big painting debut. Turnout was kinda lame, given it was a holiday, which we kind of expected. But it was still a lot of fun. My mom came out and hung out with us, as did my friend Charles Martin, with some other friends dropping in and out. We played a little music and had a good time. Here are a couple of her painting hanging up @ Bernice’s (Sid was the model for the first one, if that isn’t obvious, and that really cracks me up):

I was pretty much going to leave the tour stuff in the past on this blog, but I have one more post then I am going to subject both of you to before letting it go. I know if I was a good Missoulian I’d be talking about Mt. Sentinel going up in smoke, but that has been covered much better elsewhere. Still, I have my obligatory picture, taken from my front yard around 8 PM or so last night:

And here is another shot from the yard 2 hours later:

Tour Shenanigans
Now for the tour. I filmed a little bit here and there, but not much, then thought I lost the discs . . . which I found the other day, so I uploaded a couple clips to YouTube. Nothing world-beating, but I’m happy to have a little documentation of our trip with Sid. Anyway, here is some stuff to amuse you, if only to make you get a kick out of how a group of doofuses like us managed to find our way out and back!

Bust a Move Out

This clip is actually before the show at The Corral Room in Madison. We walked in and wondered if we were in the right place. Kinda jazzy stuff playing, and it was in this weird little basement joint that seemed like a wine bar or something. Everyone was all dressed up, drinking wine from fancy glasses with their pinkies sticking out, you know? Sid is trying to act all badass . . . and failing.

La Media

Here’s a clip of us playing La Media at Big V’s in Minnesota:

The Saga of Quiet Storm

This next one has a backstory. On our drive to Fargo, we stopped somewhere and Jimmy bought some Powerade or something, the flavor of which was called “Quiet Storm.” He got in the van and pointed it out, and said it was like Sid, who pretty much just sat in the back and didn’t say much. The joke – which of course was hilarious to us – was that he was quietly raging inside, and would then explode. So for the tour, his name – which I introduced him as from the stage – became Quiet Storm.

He retaliated. He drew this picture in Fargo of his bandmates:

Then, each night he would customize our set lists with drawings. Jimmy became “The Drunken Shredder” (he always accuses Jimmy of being drunk, and fast guitar players are often called “shredders”), and I became “Hairy Thunderfingers.” Our friends in the Vibrolas saw our custom set lists with drawings and thought it was hilarious. This next clip references all that.

Tuning = Stand-up Comedy . . . or Not

Here’s what happens when we have to stop playing to change tuning. Stupid shit. Less talk, more rock are words to live by:

The Deed Will Be Done

Live from Big V’s in Minnesota. Sid delivering the goods pretty well for being just a little fella.

At our last show with the Vibrolas, Sid drew this caricature of the band, which they loved, and now have on their MySpace page:


Here we are, just before parting ways with them:

Good times, indeed.

Rally, Shmally, We Came Here to Rock!

>Friday night LAZERWOLFS played a show at this biker rally thing at Rock Creek, and it was Sid’s debut on the drum throne for us. In case you missed it, Bubba, our regular drummer, has encountered some legal difficulties that make him unable to tour with us, and may have made his services unavailable, period. As it turned out, we found out a couple days prior that he could have played this show, but we went ahead with Sid just to get a warm-up in for tour, which we hit the road for on Tuesday night. Bubba got to be the photographer. Anyway, in a lot of ways this was just an awesome show. It was fun playing with Sid, plus Bubba got onstage and sang Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” with us, which was hilarious and a blast. Then, after our set was over, Bubba came up and we debuted two new songs off the new album, which just came out this week. Anyway, here are a couple shots from the show:

I created a Flickr page to start storing all of our live shots for LAZERWOLFS; for a slideshow of all the shots from this particular show, you can check them out here.

The show was a great warm-up for tour, which is what we wanted it to be, but I think the rally — at least through Friday night — was a bit of a bust. It wasn’t that bad, but I know they weren’t even close to covering costs yet. Personally, I think they were a bit ambitious for the first year. I would have limited it to one stage for bands, with fewer bands. Not only that, but I suspect the organizer’s financial model included a certain draw based on bands getting people to buy tickets, and I know none of our friends are willing to drop $60 to see us and camp out all weekend. I think a few of the bands could have gotten a decent number of people to come in for one night @ $10 (though I realize single-night passes would be difficult in an environment like that, but logistically with some thought I think it could be pulled off). I really think they needed one or two recognizable headliners, supported by quality local indy bands, to draw people in. I would have had single-day tickets available. I also would have made beer stations available close to the main stage. To get any booze at all while watching the main stage you had to walk a good 100 yards easily, so the great setup (huge stage, great sound and lights) they had there was pretty much a waste. Most people lingered by the small stage that was right next to all the beer stations and the main bar, regardless that sound off that stage was terrible. One thing about the Testicle Festival folks, they make it so that you never walk more than about 20 feet and you can get a beer. But it was fun for us, it served its purpose, and aside from blowing the generators twice during our set it went pretty smooth. Playing with Sid is different from Bubba, obviously, but it is still fun and still a kickass rock show.

It’s a Great Time to Be a Geek

A few weeks ago I saw IRON MAN, and thought it was pretty awesome. In the great Marvel movie tradition, one of the highlights was a scene that is shown after all the credits are over; in the scene, Tony Stark returns home and his security has been breached, and NicK Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. is waiting for him. Nick is portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, which means we are talking the Ultimates version of Fury. In the scene, he berates Tony for outing himself as Iron Man, that he doesn’t know what he has gotten himself into. Then he tells Tony that they are thinking of putting a team together . . . I walked out of the theater vibrating with stoked-ness.

Another little clip I saw online didn’t help; in this image from the Iron Man movie, we see what looks like Captain America’s shield in the background. Dig it:

CAPTAIN AMERICA is quite possibly my all-time favorite superhero; it would be either him or BATMAN.

Finally, last night we went and saw the new INCREDIBLE HULK movie, and I loved it. The movie has moments where the principal characters discuss how Bruce Banner became The Hulk. They reference a “supersoldier program” that was undertaken during the 40s, and that it has never been successful since. At the end (spoiler alert!), General Ross is sitting in a bar, getting sloshed, lamenting how his efforts to rein in The Hulk have failed. A figure walks in and starts talking to him. It is none other than Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. In it, they talk about Ross’s “problem” and Tony concludes by saying, “We are putting a team together. . . . ”

So what’s the big deal about this? The team they are talking about is THE AVENGERS, my single favorite superhero group ever. This team has had many lineups, but a key member is Captain America. Captain America was the recipient of the supersoldier serum in the 40s, and fought the Nazis in WWII until he was thought killed in action; in reality he was dropped into the Arctic Ocean while defusing a German missile and frozen in ice, only to be found and thawed out in modern times by, you guessed it, The Avengers.

Now there is talk about casting Captain America, and THOR, who was also an Avenger. Believe me, my geek nerves are on edge. After Lord of the Rings, I didn’t think I could ever get really fired up over a pending movie again, but this one may top it. I was into these characters long before I ever stumbled on Tolkien, and it’s only been recently that Hollywood has been starting to get them right. ’08 election? Pffft. This is the story of the year to follow. . . .

In closing, here is a picture of what Sid gave me for Father’s Day (my dad bringing me Captain America and Batman comics as a kid is what inspired this whole rant, to be honest). The shirt has the same image of my framed poster, autographed by Jim Lee, the artist. And Sandra Hope, the colorist. What a great kid I have.

Jim Lee was in Missoula a couple years ago as part of an event at Muse Comics. When his flight out of San Diego was canceled, he chartered his own to make sure he and his crew made it on time. That, to me, is class. It was a great event. The guy is a legend in funny books; he’s done all the big guns: X-Men, Superman, Batman, etc. Here is Jim making a sketch for Sid (Sandra is seated down the table from Jim). That was a great day.