Friday, May 30, 2008

Guilty Pleasure

I have a new guilty pleasure on my iPod. Let me start by saying that I only have a 6 gig iPod Mini and after two years it's still not full. I don't wallow in music, I have a hard time with most of what the industry serves up and tend to pick through the backwaters of the C-List metal offerings. And as a sound guy it's part of the mystique to have all kinds of weird stuff to play when I'm firing up the system.

But, I digress...

I often listen to the local college radio station, WGCC, or "G-Dub" as the kids call it these days. School's out, so live talent on the air is pretty sparse. Actually it's pretty sparse all the time, but even less so now. At any rate, the automation seems to be running toward the usual emo wailings, some punk, one playlist of obscure arena rock that would seem to indicate that the new station manager is somewhere in his mid-forties... and metal. There's sludge metal, death metal, some screamo, and every once in a while some actual four-on-the-floor, fist-pumping, black eye in the mosh pit metal like I grew up on.

Lo, and behold, things have come full circle and guys are wearing their hair long again, with tight black pants and guitars that look like they would cut you if you stood too close. I kept hearing this one song with "Over the top! Over the top!" in the chorus and finally went looking for it on the interweb.

Now, I don't know if Bullet for my Valentine is actually any good, or if they just hired an expensive producer for one song, which happens. I don't know if they kids think they're gay and me too for listening. I watched the video on You Tube, I bought the track on iTunes, I listened to it three times on the way to work. I'm thinking that the title, Scream, Aim, Fire might be a little much to tattoo on my chest... but might be just right stenciled across my sub-woofer array. I don't know how many people speak muscle car, but it was like finding a Hemi 'Cuda with a 427 Torqueflite in a parking lot full of tricked out onda Civics.

Suddenly my disgust with the music industry has melted away. I'm taking a (brief) hiatus from being the jaded industry type to be excited about hearing some music. I'm going to wallow in this song and scrub my armpits with it like Scrooge MacDuck in his money bin until I'm sick of it. I'm going to savor every note of it and wear a snarky smirk over the fact that it has no value musically other than to cause testosterone to flow in the bloodstream. I'm going to crow to people who are not even my industry buddies about full stacks, sub-sonics, and the lack of a good hook in music today.

This, my friends, is why I'm in this business. This is why I have lugged my gear into and out of a thousand horrid venues over the last fifteen years. Because being a part of this screwed up system we use to make music in the world today is occasionally worth it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: even a bad day at a rock show beats a good day hanging drywall. Every once in a while there's one brief moment, on the radio or at a show that makes me remember this.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Summer Holidays

I had forgotten how much I love the summer holidays. When I was self-employed, I more or less had control of my time and to a certain extent took it for granted. Running two businesses required flexibility and it often worked out that I would be home at odd hours of the day to spend some time with the family. Now that I work for someone else, my time is no longer my own. The crew I'm on works long hours in the summer and I often don't arrive at home until between seven or eight. By the time I schedule in some Saturday gigs, and church, and gardening on Sunday, it can literally be weeks before I finally get a day off.

Monday was the first holiday off from work and it was much needed. We're into the thick of the long hour season and under the gun on three job sites to boot. I had an obnoxiously long gig on Saturday, and the family was such a wreck on Sunday that we never made it to church. Monday however was a pleasant day, weather and otherwise. The children arose early enough to get in a nice family breakfast, and we even had time for a little gardening at a casual pace before the parade.

Then everything shifted. As I went "off duty" to walk to the parade route on the other street, my perspective shifted. For those of you not familiar with Alexander we actually have four streets. Main Street is always referred to as such, Railroad Ave has next to nothing on it, and the bulk of people who live on Church and Buffalo streets can casually refer to the street they don't live on as "the other street" and everyone get's along fine because we all know where everybody else lives. But back to my perspective.

As I looked around, I noticed how the town had turned out for the occasion. All the lawns had already been mowed (except mine which was still in progress, more on that another time) the houses spruced up, the greenery fully developed and the gardens well under way. And just as the town was all dressed up, so were the townsfolk. Everyone was in their usual "spot", the places where they have watched parades since time immemorial in folding chairs, from porches, or just sprawling on the grass. I could draw a map in my head and tell you just where each family sits, and quite likely what they're wearing too, but red, white and blue is an easy guess. Most families from Church Street just cut cross-lots and perch with neighbors on the other street.

Old ladies who have been old my entire life sit regally on folding chairs, bundled up in cardigans with their one piece slip-ons perched on their glasses to fight the glare. The oldest gentlemen hold down lawn chairs next to their brides, observing the festivities with far off looks that hint at memories of parades gone by. Younger families throng the sidewalks, strollers in front or Radio Flyers behind, kids running and screaming everywhere until only the practiced eye can tell one brood from another. The men and the women stand in knots, discussing work or more likely how the garden's coming along.

Then the parade finally begins, promptly ten minutes late. Memorial Day doesn't warrant the grand extravaganza that the Fireman's Carnival does, but it is a parade none the less and we drink it in gladly as if savoring the first bottle of last fall's homemade wine. Veterans of four wars march by with the colors, usually just a few of them and fathers tell their boys, "clap for those men!" Aged veterans in lawn chairs get a steely look and somehow manage to seem as though they are standing at attention.

The Fireman's Band is next. They are always deeply enjoyed, not so much for their grandeur, for there is many a band with more flair and greater numbers, but their perseverance is second to none. Many members no longer carry music, they know all the tunes and roll them off by the numbers as easily as saying their names. The high school band is next. Amazingly they are not clad in Seventies-era polyester this year but still look tired and sweaty even in short sleeves. Then come the kids, first Boy Scout Troop 650, then several varieties of Girl Scouts, a second grade class singing patriotic tunes, some toddlers piloting a plastic monster truck with no apparent affiliation and so on.

Then the rear is brought up by the townsfolk themselves. Instead of hanging a right at the Deli (which in Alexander means gas station) to head for the carnival grounds, the bands lead such folk as care to pay their respects down to the cemetery on Railroad Ave. About half do. Speeches are given, tunes are played, sometimes a salute is fired. Then the lot of them walk right back up the middle of the street whether anyone's minding the traffic for them or not; just in time to get the dogs on the grill and fish the potato salad out of the fridge.

I wax so nostalgic about it because that's just what it is. This is the small town America that everyone talks about like a deceased relative. We're still here! Right down to the school boys with fresh buzz cuts and stubbly chinned gram-pahs in Agway hats! Four times a summer we get the old place all dolled up and drink in the spectacle like it's our own private Norman Rockwell painting. Even better than that though, we know their names... heck, we're related to half of em! The glorious, awkward, earnest magic of it all is such a part of our lives that we hardly notice it, though we need it like we need air to breathe.

I've never been to a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, nor a Tournament of Roses and I don't plan to. You can keep 'em, thanks. Four story floats made entirely of geraniums and coconut shavings don't hold a candle to the Sunday School float built on the same tired hay wagon. Bands of thousands just make it hard to spot the babysitter on the piccolo and our friend's son on the trumpet, flopping by in the heat in their tired sneakers. It's utterly delicious. I'd invite you to stop by for one, but you might not get high from it like I do. We'll save you a piece of curb anyway...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Strange Lineup

I mixed the weirdest gig yesterday. Not that fund raiser battles of the bands are all that unusual, but the lineup of performers was. Every single act had at least one member in their fifties! Even the youth choir and the single teen-age act (one kid's dad was the drummer) had members with more than five decades under their belts. I didn't realize they were setting a precedent when the opening act was an octagenarian bluegrass band.

I really miss the days of mixing set after set for high school bands. Sweaty youths with scraggly hair, cheap out-of-tune guitars and barely perceptible moustaches, grinding away with intense fervor for their "big break". Even if most of them were complete crap it was fun to watch kids living the dream. Occasionally some of them would even be kind of good. Now I feel like I wasted a day of my life mixing for bar buzzards and wedding acts.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Why is my house full of spiders and bugs? That is what I would like to know. It is with that question in mind that I post the following:

WANTED: Spiders to replace current residents in old village home. Voracious eaters only please, no venomous individuals need apply. Applicants should display motivation, willingness to work as a team and courtesy toward children with arachnophobia. Please bring two references to interview.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Quote of the Day - Hey Man

When I was in college, there was a student technical director in the theater department who, when bumped into from behind, without fail would utter the phrase:

"Hey MAN! Dats my culo!"

I'm not exactly sure that I'm spelling that right, but he was from Texas and had picked up the Spanish slang for butt down there and used it frequently. I had started using the phrase on and off when the short people, who come up to just about there on me, slam in to me. Number One Son picked up on it and I got a text message (while clinging to a roof top at work) that reported him as saying:

"Hay, kitty man... dats my poodle!"

As if that wasn't funny enough, it came up again at the dinner table and my daughter's friend listened attentively, mulled it over, and then in a lull in the conversation popped up with:

"Hey man... that's my NOOOODLE!"

My bark of laughter was so loud she actually jumped a little, and the baby who is a social laugher, joined in with a fit of guffawing. I wish I knew where Christian was now so I could tell him what a lot of mileage my family just got out of his little line.

Since I haven't anything else of real substance to write about, here's another little verbal tickle that's been making me smirk lately. One of the local lighting techs is a guy names Atlas. I think he's in his early fifties, but he looks like he's been through the war, possibly the Spanish-American war. He has none of his teeth and refuses to wear his dentures, giving rise to the oft-repeated, "Hey Atlas... put yer teeth in, yer scarin' the girls!" at shows. He's been smoking cheap cigarettes since the cradle and as a result has a voice as gravelly as the Maine coastline. Of the numerous zingers that cross his puckered lips, of the few that are actually intelligible, the only one that's fit for print has been making me chuckle without fail this week:

"Hey, howzit goin' monkey gibblets?"

That might possibly be in the category of you-had-to-be-there, but it makes the kids laugh too when I do it in his voice. Anyway, tuck that one in the back of your cranium and pull it out sometime when you want to throw some one off kilter when you meet them unexpectedly.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Quote of the Day - Oats

Grampa: What does a horse say to oats?


Everyone laughs.

Olivia: But the oats doesn't say anything back.

Bar Buzzards

The trickiest part about mixing bar bands is falling asleep so that it looks like you're still mixing during the third set.