The Day The Music Died… yet again

Local radio station WNKU signed off for good a couple of nights ago. It was the only local station worth a damn, and now it’s gone. They started as a bluegrass and folk station in 1985, but over the years had morphed into a “Triple A” (Adult Album Alternative) format, and recently had shifted more toward modern rock/indie rock, a format very similar to 97X, a now-defunct station where I worked as a DJ back in the mid-90s. In fact, WNKU had even added Matt Sledge — one of my co-workers at 97X — to their on-air staff a couple of years ago.

That’s the real gut punch – I feel like WNKU was just hitting their stride and picking up momentum when the rug was pulled out from under them by their owner, Northern Kentucky University. I get it, there’s a budget crunch in higher education, and especially in Kentucky, where Governor Matt Bevin cut funding for all state schools by 4.5% in 2016. So the university had to get out of the radio business… especially when the format favored outlier artists over the pop pablum, bro country and other lame formats favored by the (m)asses. WNKU broadcast on a few frequencies around the area – two were sold to a Christian broadcasting company, and another signal went to a local country station.

It’s a big loss for music in the area. WNKU supported local artists by playing at least one track from a local band every hour. And they helped draw national acts to the area. This past winter I hosted a house concert by Craig Finn, lead singer of The Hold Steady. That never would’ve happened without WNKU, because Craig scheduled his house concert tour around in-studio appearances at radio stations, promoting his new solo album. He was on the air with Liz Felix in the afternoon, doing an interview and playing an acoustic set. Liz even came to the house concert that night. No WNKU = no more Craig Finn visits = no more amazing house concerts at my place.

For indie music fans of a certain age in the Cincinnati area, it’s reliving a nightmare. 97X signed off in 2004 and left a similar void in their lives. There aren’t many folks who are into the artists who are weirdos, rebels, up-and-comers, but those fans are as passionate as you’ll find, and losing a beloved radio station is like the death of a family member – for listeners and staff alike, as you’ll see in this video from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Enquirer story is here.

Sure, it’s a bluetooth, wi-fi, satellite radio world. We can stream Spotify or Pandora or Google Music or Sirius/XM or whatever is out there in the ether. But it’s not the same. It’s not as personal, and it never will be, because those folks (or more fittingly these days, those algorithms) don’t live here, they don’t know us and get us like a local radio station does.

Aaron Sharpe wrapped up with a great Talking Heads song. I’d like to add a couple more to the swan song playlist. One is a local band, This Pine Box. Guitarist Joe Tellmann is the son of my friend Dave, who worked at 97X for more than a decade. This band should be on every station in America, not just a tiny station that no longer exists.

And here’s the song I heard on WNKU more than any other tune, it was played nearly every Friday morning during the request show, and it’s a beautiful song about death from a brilliant artist ignored by the mainstream. Seems rather fitting.

 

 

 

 

Hair of the dog(s)

Meet Bibo:

“I know the ‘sit’ command… now give me my treat!”

He’s a 4-month-old Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix and the latest addition to the dubbatrubba menagerie, which now numbers two dogs, two cats, three teenagers and one tween.

Bibo (pronounced “BEE-bow”), a.k.a. Justin Bibo, Bilbo, Bippo, Bibonator, Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo, et al. is a loaner. He came from a non-profit in Xenia, Ohio called 4 Paws For Ability, which provides service dogs for children with disabilities and military veterans. He’ll be with us for about five to seven months, then will go back for his official service training. So we just have to get him socialized and used to going to new places, along with the typical puppy training.

Yes, an excitable, chew-on-the-shoes, pee-on-the-floor, chase-the-cats ball of fur is the last thing we needed. But dogs like Bibo are exactly what a lot of kids and their families need.

Half a year of extra work* to help provide years of peace of mind for kids and their families? Yeah, we’re in. Welcome aboard, Bibo!

*Our daughter Leah is doing most of the work, she’s a future Dog Whisperer.

 

Good day, Sunshine

Yesterday felt a bit like Ferris Bueller’s Day off, except without the Ferrari.

In the morning, I biked nearly 30 miles in the local Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event… and raised more than $800 for CF research (#humblebrag). Our route took us along the river on the Ohio side, and then across a bridge to Kentucky and along the river on that side. It was quite scenic, and other than the killer hill at mile 15, rather enjoyable.

Meanwhile my wife Tina took our youngest child Andrew to his soccer game, and his team avenged their only loss of the season with a 3-1 win.

In the afternoon, Tina and I hit an outdoor beer festival at a local brewery/restaurant. We hadn’t made advance plans to go, but since the weather was nice, we figured we’d check it out for a couple of hours. Dozens of local brewers were serving up some of their standard brews, as well as a few specialty beers, and there were bands playing on three stages. We ran into my friend Todd – a loyal and faithful listener to 97X back in the day when I was a radio dude — who had volunteered to serve beers at one of the booths. (He’s a giver, that Todd. Probably should mention that volunteers got to drink free.)

Todd took this artsy angled shot… must’ve learned that trick from his teenagers.

Then the missus and I needed some grub, so we decided to check out a neat little restaurant that recently opened up nearby.

We’re glad we tried it – the food was delicious and the atmosphere was really cool. (I brought down the hip factor several notches, of course.) While we were there, Tina saw a Facebook notice that her cousin Mike was playing acoustic tunes in the courtyard of another local restaurant/bar called POP. We had no other choice… we HAD to go. (Sidebar: what’s “Facebook”?)

Sometimes the best days happen when you just go with the flow.

 

There’s no replacement for The Replacements

The Replacements are one of my all-time favorite bands. They definitely had a Mae West attitude toward performing:

They’re almost as famous for their crazy, drink-and-drug-fueled, self-destructive antics as they are for their music. But in February of 1986, they played a legendary show at the now-defunct Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. 29 songs… for the 30 people in attendance… in what would wind up being one of the final performances for lead guitarist Bob Stinson, who was summarily sacked by a band that included his kid brother.

L to R: 19-year-old bassist Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars on drums, lead singer Paul Westerberg and lead guitarist Bob Stinson.

Luckily a 24-track mobile studio was recording the whole shebang. The master tapes sat collecting dust for 30 years, but are finally going to see the light of day on October 6th.

You can check out five of the tracks via the links here. (Side note: I think it’s pretty cool that Rhino sprinkled the tracks across different music blog and music sites… smart marketing too.) If you only have time for one link, the Consequence of Sound article features 10 fun facts about the release from Replacements biographer Bob Mehr.

Once you listen, you’ll understand why the ‘mats were such a great rock and roll band. Can’t hardly wait ’til October 6th.

 

Running on empty

I take the bus to work every day. When we run out of bread or milk, I usually ride my bike up to the Kroger that’s three blocks away. I also bike or walk to the library and church when the weather is nice. So I’m in a car a lot less than most folks. Yet somehow, someway, every time I get into one of our cars, here’s what I see:

I’m convinced that my wife and my 17-year-old son have no idea what that yellow light icon means, and couldn’t find the gas cap if you gave them a map. How they manage to stick me with the refueling chore (and bill) every time is a modern wonder, a sleight of hand called “now you see the wallet, now you don’t.”

I think they’re conspiring against me – when they know I have to take another kid to soccer or swim practice, they make sure they leave the “empty” car in the pole position in our driveway. My wife even jokes about it:

Then again, Tina could turn the tables and say that I have no idea what this means:

But that’s not true – I know exactly what a sink full of dirty dishes means… time to switch to paper plates!

 

The Dü, finally getting their due… but losing Hart

In the late 70s and early 80s, the frozen tundra of Minneapolis was a hotbed of musical innovation. The Replacements brought the raucous rock, Prince brought the funk, and Hüsker Dü brought the punk.

Now, hot on the heels of the release of a remastered box set of Hüsker Dü’s early recordings comes word that drummer Grant Hart has passed away at the age of 56.

Jon Wurster, the drummer for Superchunk who also mans the drum kit for The Mountain Goats and former Dü member Bob Mould, wrote a great tribute to Grant on Rolling Stone’s website.

And at the center of the sonic hurricane was Grant Hart, arms flailing, feet flying, laying waste to every drum and cymbal in his path. 

His drumming alone is enough to secure Grant Hart a place in the alt-rock history books, but that’s only part of his story. Grant was a top-shelf songwriter, penning and handling lead vocals on Hüsker Dü classics like “Terms of Psychic Warfare,” “Diane,” “Green Eyes” and “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill.” 

And what a voice. His was arguably the best to come out of the post-punk/hardcore/alternative scene: sweet and angelic one minute, menacing the next. Grant also handled much of the band’s visual side, designing Hüsker Dü’s album covers and helping other bands with theirs, most notably the Replacements’ 1983 LP, Hootenanny.

My favorite Grant Hart tune is the lead track off his first post-Dü release, “2541”… and I’m not alone. This Minneapolis writer feels the same way.

R.I.P. Grant, and thanks for the great music.

You know your area has a bad problem when…

… the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, has a reporter like this:

Yes, sad but true, her only beat is reporting about the scourge of heroin. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have been hit hard. According to the CDC: In 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).

Cincinnati is in Hamilton County, and the ‘burbs are Butler and Warren counties. All of those counties make this chart from a June NY Times article.

Where’s the miracle solution? There isn’t one. But this article has some good suggestions about stopping the cycle. And this one has some for reducing overdose deaths. Gotta start somewhere.

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more

My daughter Leah wants to be a farmer – she thinks it’ll be fun. I could probably find dozens of local farmers who could disabuse her of that notion faster than you can say “sunk costs and unpredictable weather.” Actually, I could only find a handful of local farmers these days – there aren’t nearly as many of them as they used to be. To rework the old joke about the music business:

Q. How do you make a million dollars in farming? 

A. It’s easy – just start with two million dollars. 

But no, in this case, Dear Old Dad (emphasis on the “Old”) isn’t going to be the dreamcrusher.

After all, she already has her plans drawn up:

Looks a whole lot better than an office cubicle, doesn’t it? Perhaps I can join Leah on her farm… be the Eb to her Mr. Douglas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover…

… but you can judge a LinkedIn request by looking at the profile summary. Here’s an easy “accept” one:

Executive recruiter from Columbus? Sure, why not? I’ve never met him, don’t know him from Adam, but my LinkedIn bar is very low (it’s like Facebook “friends” but without the cute baby pictures). Maybe he can help me land my dream job (replacing Alex Trebek as host of Jeopardy. Buy American!)

Whereas this one is a no-go:

I appreciate the e.e. cummings lowercase style of the name. Thanks to my company’s Diversity & Inclusion training, I have a much better understanding of — and appreciation for — the fact that different cultures and backgrounds have different societal norms. Perhaps in Brazil it is customary for professors to wear clothes that in the U.S. would be considered “sleazy nightclub” outfits. But my gut is telling me no, unless I want to wind up becoming the plot of a Lifetime movie (working title: Extra Credit: The Abduction and Kidney Harvesting of Dubbatrubba) or a Van Halen video.

 

 

 

 

Here comes the sun… and the savings will follow

We had 23 solar panels installed on our roof this past week.

I’ve always been a tree-hugger, but I’m also a cheapskate. Thanks to a federal tax credit, I can deduct 30% of the cost from this year’s tax bill. Thanks to the state of Ohio’s ECO-Link program, I was able to knock 3% off the loan rate, so my loan percentage is lower than most 12-month CD rates. And the way our house is positioned, the panels are on the back part of our roof and can barely been seen from our backyard, so the missus is OK with the lack of aesthetic appeal. Besides, Elon Musk’s solar shingles are several years away from getting to the Midwest.

My electric bills will go down immediately. Conservative estimates show the system paying for itself within eight years. After that, it’s all gravy.

23 panels aren’t going to clean up all the dirty air that coal-loving Duke Energy is spewing into the Cincinnati area… but you gotta start somewhere.

If Germany can get 7% of their energy from solar and 35% of their energy from renewables, why can’t we?