May all your favorite bands stay together

The first time I saw the band Dawes was in 2006. They were called Simon Dawes back then, touring behind their debut album, and they played a tiny club in a rundown part of the city, opening up for Band of Horses, with about 50 people in the audience.

The next time I saw Dawes (they dropped the Simon due to personnel changes*) was in the summer of 2012. They were supposed to play the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati, but ticket sales were so poor that they moved the gig to the downstairs “ballroom” – which is basically like an oversized version of your high school friend’s basement rec room. The audience tally was roughly 200.

A year later, in June of 2013, I saw Dawes at the Southgate House Revival, which holds 600, and they probably drew 500.

Last night, Dawes played the 2,500-seat Taft Theater… for real this time, they didn’t move the show to the basement ballroom. The gig was part of their “An Evening with Dawes” tour, so there was no opening act, and they played two long (and killer) sets with a brief intermission. It wasn’t sold out, but it was pretty darn close, with nearly 2,000 fans singing along to their songs (which typically sound better in concert than on the albums).

There are artists who truly are an “overnight success,” but more often than not, there are long years of hard work involved, playing tiny clubs, cramming into a Ford Econoline to get to the next sparsely attended gig, sleeping on friend’s couches or at motels that have a number in their name (Motel 6 or Super 8… the choice is yours). Giving it your all, night after night, even when you’re sick or tired. Building up a fan base one show at a time.

I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be
I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever
I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me
And may all your favorite bands stay together

If you put in the work, when your time comes, success will be that much sweeter.

Now it seems like the unravelling
Has started too soon
Now I’m sleeping in hallways
And I’m drinking perfume
And I’m speaking to mirrors
And I’m howling at moons
While the worse and the
Worse that it gets

Oh you can judge the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks
Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it’s staring right back

When my time comes
Oh oh oh oh
When my time comes
Oh oh oh oh

 

*Guitarist/songwriter Blake Mills, who left the band in 2006, is now an acclaimed producer… and he produced Dawes’ 2016 album.

Let’s all band together

A week and a half ago, I’d never heard of the bands Wilderado and Sure, Sure. Now I love ’em. All it took was one concert. That’s what I love about seeing up and coming bands in tiny clubs – the joy of discovery and the intimacy of the room can be musical alchemy.

Hat tip to my friend Jeff – he’s the one who put Wilderado on my radar. He knows my musical tastes and figured I would like them, and mentioned their upcoming show. I’d never heard of them at that point, much less heard their music. But thanks to the Interwebs, I was able to listen to quite a few of their songs, and Jeff was correct – they are right in my musical wheelhouse, a bit like Band of Horses mixed with Houndmouth. They absolutely killed it on stage, in front of about 50 people, and seemed genuinely appreciative of the folks who came to the show.

Sure, Sure was the headliner, and they were a bit more like Vampire Weekend spending the weekend at the Talking Heads house. (They even did a Talking Heads cover.) Much like Wilderado, they were fantastic in a live setting.

There’s an apochryphal quote attributed to Hunter S. Thompson:

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

He never said or wrote that (he wrote something similar about the TV industry) but the quote is often repeated because the shoe fits. A year from now, both Wilderado and Sure, Sure could be no more, chewed up and spit out by the industry machinery. But we’ll always have that Tuesday night in Covington, Kentucky.

 

(Hat tip to the club’s sound man too. I’ve been to many, many concerts in tiny rooms over the past three decades, and a muddy or overly loud mix is a real buzzkill. This concert’s sound was pristine.)

 

 

 

More on Blogger Bob… and another local music luminary

After yesterday’s post about Bob Burns, my fellow DJ at 97X, Matt Sledge, posted a comment:

Big in Iowa. Big everywhere.

Bob Burns was the lead singer and main songwriter in a roots rock band back in the 90s. They were called Big in Iowa, even though Bob hailed from Hamilton, Ohio. They were big in Cincinnati, and even did a bit of international touring. But Big in Iowa never became big in Iowa (or the rest of the country for that matter), probably because they were a bunch of hefty, average Joe lads from the paper and steel mill towns near Cincy. They didn’t have, as Roxette would call it, “The Look.” (Yes, that’s the first, and we hope only, reference to Roxette in this blog.)

Bob got married in October of 2001. He needed a gig that was more stable than “rock and roller,” so he became a screener at the Cincinnati airport for the newly created T.S.A. Eventually he became the social media expert for the T.S.A., starting their official blog in 2008 and their Instagram in 2013. The Instagram account offered travel tips, often by showcasing the weird and wacky things people try to bring on board planes, using a great sense of “dad joke” humor that came straight from Bob.

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed that “there are no second acts in American lives” but Bob’s second act as a social media dude made him more famous than his band ever did. In 2016, “Blogger Bob” was ranked #4 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of top Instagram accounts (#5 was Beyoncé, just for perspective).

The account won multiple awards like Webbys (given out by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences) and Burns was featured in all forms of media with its increased popularity. He’d been profiled in the past year alone by NBC News, the Chicago Tribune, the Austin Statesmen and Mental FlossRolling Stone declared the account No. 4 on its list of best Instagram accounts and it got a nod from late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmell. Last month, Burns was featured on the syndicated TV program The Doctors. (Source: this CityBeat article)

A few weeks ago, Bob was bitten by a spider. The wound became infected… and Bob died of sepsis eight days ago, at the age of 48. He’s survived by his wife and two young daughters.

(The link to the GoFundMe page is here.)

“You can still find humor in the daily duties.” Here’s hoping we all can channel our inner Blogger Bob more often. We need it.

You’ve got the power

It’s easy to feel powerless these days. At work, at home, in the political arena, in social circles… or just when your cell phone dies…

But Brené Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”, claims there are two types of power, which she calls “power-over” and “real power.” Here are a couple excerpts from the book:

Unfortunately, when most of us hear the word “power” we automatically jump to the concept of power-over — the idea that power is the ability to control people, take advantage of others or exert force over somebody or something. We think of power as finite — there’s only so much, so if I’m going to get some, I’m forced to take it away from you.  

But real power is far more… you guessed it… powerful.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines power as “the ability to act or produce an effect.” Real power is basically the ability to change something if you want to change it. It’s the ability to make change happen. Real power is unlimited — we don’t need to fight over it because there is plenty to go around. And the great thing about real power is our ability to create it. Real power doesn’t force us to take it away from others — it’s something we create and build with others. 

Have a powerful day!

Monday morning breakfast Patti

The punk rock poet high priestess Patti Smith is 71 years young, and she has a lot of wisdom to share about the power of positivity, even in times of despair. Please read this Yahoo! article and this one from the LA Times. Ostensibly they’re about fighting climate change (a cause Patti’s daughter Jesse is championing), but no matter where you stand on that issue, you can find some pearls from Patti in the articles. A few excerpts are below.

From the Yahoo! article:

And in terms of everything else, I would just say that each of us, we each have one life, and we cherish the lives around us. We cherish our family. We cherish our children. We cherish life itself, and I think in these times that are so dark and seem so overwhelming, partially because also the social media and the media in general, we’re being bombarded, and also by our own government, bombarded, bombarded with so much conflict, so much negativity, so many fear-inducing statements or news, that we just have to find some way every day to be grateful to be alive, to be grateful for what we have, and try to just take a beat every day.

I know that sounds so simple, and it’s not a religious or philosophic thing. It’s just a human thing. It’s really hard starting the day quick looking to see what bad thing has happened [on the news]. So start the day, drink a glass of water, think about what you want to do today, think about what makes you happy. Any small thing to start the day feeling some energy for and enthusiasm for life, because it’s so easy to get beaten down as soon as you wake up. And that’s what I do, because I felt myself getting caught in that loop, starting with the election process. I admit that, and I’m not usually a person that can be brought down or made anxious. And we have to fight that, because it becomes its own addiction. We have to fight that inclination and try to enter the day just glad to be alive, because no matter what is the stuff is going on around us, it’s beautiful to be alive.

We only have [one life]. This is what we have. Despite our belief system, if one believes in afterlife, resurrection, or all these things, right now on Earth, this is the life that we have. And there’s so much beauty and so much wondrous things. We have to find a way to save a little for ourselves every day. And remind ourselves why it’s beautiful to be alive. Go to the botanical gardens and look and think, “This is what we want to preserve.” Go to the river and say, “This is what we want to be clean.”

And from the LA Times piece:

Well, I think, like anyone else, it can be debilitating. It can be depleting, humiliating, every single day. It’s amazing that there’s not a single day that goes by that something is said — our so-called president carries things out in such a way that he can’t make one gesture without trying to magnify himself.

Truthfully, I have found it so difficult. But my philosophy has been in the last several months just to do my work. I keep attentive to what is going on — I know exactly what’s going on on the news. But I have to put it in a certain place, because I’m 71 years old. I have a lot of work to do — a lot of positive work to do. And I think that if I can’t change the things that are happening right now, what I can do is just resonate positivity, strength, unity, individuality.

You know, when others articulate things in a strong and dignified manner, we have to magnify that type of response. In the end, no matter how bad things get I always believe that good will prevail. So I just try and do as much good work as I possibly can from the smallest gesture on, and that’s why I am supporting my daughter’s work.

All I can say is, focus on the good that you can do. We want a pandemic of good. We want a pandemic of positive change. I think that we all just have to find each other, step through the mire, find each other, support each other and do good work.

 

 

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon…

This clip is about as Bahston as it gets…

“How do we have this?”

“We need to negotiate heah…”

“We got connections…”

The banner went missing for 48 hours but is now back with the Red Sox. And apparently there were no negotiations. But in tribute to the city where the banner was “found”, here are the Pernice Brothers with an underappreciated gem of a song called Somerville.

 

The ‘chunk is still punk

On Monday evening, I made the 100-mile drive north to Columbus to see Superchunk. They haven’t played anywhere near Cincinnati in eons, so a two-hour trip was a small price to pay. Besides, I’m on “staycation” thanks to Hurricane Florence… if I can’t go to North Carolina, at least I can see a great band from Chapel Hill.

It’s a very “Puppet Show & Spinal Tap” sign

The show sold out the day it was announced (can you say “pent up demand”?) but I managed to snag a last-minute ticket via Craigslist. I’m so glad I did, too. They absolutely rocked!

I’ve seen Superchunk before, but it’s been a couple of decades. Things (including hairlines) have changed.

Superchunk Reflect at Full Throttle on 'I Hate Music ...

They still have that same fire, that same punk rock energy (bassist Laura Ballance no longer tours due to a hearing issue, but Jason Narducy ably takes over her spot). Lead singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan is 51, but he acts like a teenager on stage, bouncing around like a pinball and singing and playing with reckless abandon.

Superchunk’s latest album What A Time To Be Alive is very punk in its subject matter too, turning their righteous indignation toward the powers that be (especially the powers that reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

To see the rot in no disguise
Oh what a time to be alive
The scum, the shame, the f***ing lies
Oh what a time to be alive
Oh what a time to be alive

 — from the title track

Hate so graceless and so cavalier
We don’t just disappear
Shifting shapes you’re just an auctioneer
But we’re still here

— from “Erasure”

It’s not all bile, though, and there’s always melody in Superchunk tunes.

30 years into their career, they’re still playing small clubs, but honestly, that’s where they need to be – Mac admitted as much from the stage. There are no barriers between the band and the audience, literally and figuratively. And that’s the way we like it.

 

The (Radio) Kids Are Alright

This past weekend, I got to catch up with three folks whom I first met in my 97X radio days, when I was the morning show co-host and they were student interns. (Actually, we called them “co-producers” of the morning show because we felt that the term “intern” had some negative baggage, even in the pre-Lewinsky era, and we also wanted them to know that they were integral to the show.)

It’s been a quarter-century since those salad days, and it had been that long since I’d seen one of them, and 15+ years since I’d seen another. They’re not kids anymore, but they’re a decade younger than I am, so they’ll always be kids to me.

Jessica, Steve and Joe

Jessica (far left… in the picture… I don’t know her political stance) is a suburban Chicago native (a lot of Miami University students are) and returned home after graduation. Ditto for Steve (a.k.a. “Roemie da Homie” – center square in the photo). Joe (at right) was an army brat, so he grew up all over, including a stint in the Chicago ‘burbs in junior high. He stuck around Cincinnati after graduation.

Joe and I drove up to Chicago to see Buffalo Tom in concert. (Meaning I’ve now seen 28.6% of the shows on their North American tour… 2 of 7). On a whim, I emailed Jessica prior to our trip and asked if we could meet up. As fate would have it, she too is a Buffalo Tom fanatic (the few, the proud…) and was already planning to attend to the concert. Next thing you know, she was graciously offering to host Joe and me in her home. Meaning she is still just as kind-hearted as she was in college (and perhaps just a bit naïve, given the proximity of the guest beds to the basement beer fridge… hic!). We managed to meet up with Steve both nights too, and shared many a laugh over the radio station foibles (it was like an indie rock WKRP) and the sweatshop-like conditions of their internships (they got “paid” with promo CDs, band t-shirts and free concert tickets).

They’re different now – they’ve morphed from college kids into adults with real jobs, and real kids… and all the chores that come with that – the daily commute, the carpool line, homework reminders and sports practices. Yet they’re still the same great people that they were back then – smart, witty, kind, enthusiastic about life.

It’s great when you can go a couple of decades without seeing someone and pick up right where you left off.  The only difference is, as you get older, you cherish those moments more.

Seems like I was just a kid not so long ago
So many arrivals
So many hellos
Now my time behind is greater than my time ahead. Save up the minutes like flowers before they’re all dead and gone….

 

 

 

 

No blog post on Labor Day

My ghostwriter is a union employee.

Happy Labor Day! And for my European friends, Happy Labour Day!