First there’s happy, then there’s sad.

This was supposed to be a post about my youngest kid, Andrew, who turns 13 today. I drove him to school, as a birthday treat (how thoughtful of me!), and he brought along a couple dozen donuts to share with his friends. I love the fact that he’s able to think of others on a day that’s normally “all about me.” That’s probably fairly rare in the teen years. But he’s a sweet kid all around, so I’m not surprised by his gesture.

I made him take a selfie on my phone this morning.

 

If you’re keeping score at home, we now have four – count ’em – four teenagers in our household. 13, nearly 15, 17 and 18. Heaven help us… especially if our wi-fi ever goes out.

So it’s a happy day, and a happy birthday… and then when I got to work, a fellow music fan mentioned that the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, had been found dead, of an apparent suicide. Devastating. Soul-crushing. Looking back at the messages from both Scott and his family makes me so sad I can’t even describe it.

 

 

Then came the pleas from his family:

And finally, late last night, the news we feared the most:

I saw Frightened Rabbit in concert several times, most recently a year and a half ago when my buddy Dale and I squeezed up to the front of the stage for their set at an outdoor festival.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to see them in an acoustic setting as part of a radio interview/performance at WNKU.

I even got to say a quick hello to Scott a couple of times.

He was always friendly, and seemed rather happy. But we never know the personal demons that live inside other people’s heads and torment them so.

“Thinking about songs like Floating in the Forth – I didn’t kill myself. I took that forward into other records. There’s got to be a sense that, as f****d as life can get, we’re still alive and we’re still doing this and we’re going to attempt to carry on.” 

Scott wasn’t able to climb out of the abyss. We all know someone like him. Please, give them a call today.

Some of the footage in this video is from the Southgate House in Newport, KY. I was at that show too.

 

Thanks (is worth) a million!

Marketing doesn’t have to be all algorithms, browser cookies and geo-tracking. The human touch will always be more memorable.

A few weeks ago, we needed a new faucet installed in our kitchen, and the shutoff valves below needed to be replaced as well. (I can do the former, but the latter is well beyond my DIY skills.) I found a local plumbing company that came highly recommended on NextDoor (like a Facebook for neighborhoods). Everyone I talked to, from the office manager who fielded my initial call to the plumber who came to our house, was friendly. About a week after the service call, I received a thank you card from them via “snail mail.”

I’ve used plenty of different plumbing companies over the years, and this is the first one to send me an honest-to-goodness thank you. On paper! In the mail! Who does that anymore? You’d better believe they’re on speed dial for all future repairs. And while robots may take over many jobs in the coming years, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a Roomba lookalike to replace two water shutoff valves under my kitchen sink. So the plumber’s investment in a single, solitary thank you card will earn them hundreds of dollars. (But not anytime soon, I hope!)

Yesterday I got the new Wussy album What Heaven is Like in the mail from the band’s record label, Shake It. Included with the CD that I ordered were a hand-written thank-you note and a postcard.

It probably took about 30 seconds to scribble out the thank you note, and another 10 to grab the promo postcard (clearly an homage to Springsteen’s debut album) and package it up with the album. Extra time in the era of efficiency – would Jeff Bezos approve? Doubtful.

But those 40 seconds will pay off for years to come, in the goodwill they generate, in the warm fuzzy feeling you get from “hey, they took the time to thank me by name… that’s cool!” Shake It started as a local label, releasing albums by artists that they were passionate about, before branching out to set up a bricks and mortar record store too.  A record label and a record store… talk about tilting at millennial windmills! They know they can’t go toe-to-toe with Amazon on pricing, or compete with Spotify on music delivery. But by providing a personal touch, by caring about the music, engaging true fans, helping them dig deeper into their passions and exposing them to new artists, they can carve out a nice niche for themselves:

We carry some mainstream releases, but we specialize in independent labels from the obvious to the obscure – Chicago post-punk art-rock to Ethiopian boog-a-loo and all stops in between – rockabilly, vintage soul, r&b & blues, punk/hardcore, classic country & the best of the new breed, 60’s garage & psych, reggae/dub/rocksteady & vintage ska, krautrock, creative hip-hop & electronica, tons of straight ahead rock n’ roll & “alternative”, plus vintage bop, cool & avant garde jazz, cult soundtracks, Afrobeat/funk, “difficult listening” and much more. We’re introducing new releases and back catalog items every day, so there’s always something new in the bins.

You can keep your algorithms. I’ll stick with the handshakes.

Reviews of the new album are here and here(this one from my friend Gil Kaufman, who writes for Billboard). You can order it from Shake It here.

 

Odds and Sods

In construction, it’s “measure twice, cut once”… the email equivalent is “proofread twice, send once.” My kids’ school had a capital fundraising campaign, the Legacy of Excellence, but they misspelled “Excellence” as “Excellance” in the email subject line:

At least they got it right in the body of the email.

C. Montgomery Burns would NOT approve.

 

Meanwhile on Craigslist, a… well, let’s just call her a “contractor”… found a creative way around the rules against adult services, by placing this ad in the “Cars for Sale” section:

For the record, I am looking for a car for my son, NOT, I repeat NOT, looking for different “trunk.”

And while we’re in the gutter, we may as well as stay there. This was the opening of an article that appeared on WCPO.com a couple of weeks ago:

I’m sure the author of the article must be so proud… perhaps s/he always dreamed of being able to describe twerking in a clinical-yet-picturesque style. All those years of journalism classes have finally paid off! (And in just eight short years, the loans for those classes will be paid off too!)

 

OK, enough of this silliness. Since the title of this post was nicked from a Who album, I need to include a song from that release:

When pigs fly

On Friday, I posted about Mean Girls. Today, it’s about a single mean girl, whose comment spurred a runner to victory more than a decade later. 25-year-old Caitlin Keen won the female division of the 2018 Flying Pig Marathon yesterday.

When she was 12 and living in Cincinnati, she watched that year’s Flying Pig and said “I’m going to win that one day”…. another girl said “no you won’t.”

Caitlin got pretty emotional talking about breaking the tape for the first time, and her overall running journey.

“I was an OK high school runner. I never won a state championship. I walked on to a Division I school. I went to Southern Methodist University,” Keen said. “I ended up getting a full ride by my senior year but I never was a winner ever. Never was an all-American … I’m so happy. It means everything.” 

Watch this interview video – it’s hard not to be moved by it:

A record number of people (43,000 plus) took part in this year’s Flying Pig events.

Participants included Mrs. Dubbatrubba and her friends, who finished the half-marathon.

The races (plural now – marathon, half marathon, 10K, kids run, etc.) raise more than a million dollars for local charities each year. Not bad for a race that started with a small group of local runners scribbling notes on a cocktail napkin.

Sometimes all it takes is a dream, and then following through, step by step.

Radio Daze Part 3

I’ve previously posted a couple of audio clips from my 97X radio days. Here’s another gem (and by “gem” we mean “not completely painful to listen to”). It’s a commercial for a Cincinnati record store called Everybody’s Records. They advertised on 97X for the entire duration of the station’s existence, and are still around today, 40 years after they first opened their doors.

This commercial features three 97X legends… and me. Julie Maxwell, Rictile and Dave each spent several years at the station and are still remembered fondly by the small but mighty listener base. They’re all great broadcasters, and even better people. Rictile is still gracing the airwaves, albeit under his real name, at Vermont Public Radio. Julie and Dave work in advertising – as do quite a few other 97X expats.

This particular commercial was about 48 seconds long – at a free-form station like 97X, we didn’t have to adhere to strict timing guidelines. And the few advertisers that we did have gave us a lot of creative leeway in creating the commercials (as witnessed by my lame Grandpa Simpson impersonation in this particular ad).

The art vs. commerce scale tilted heavily toward the art side. We were a bunch of wacky kids, and the production studio was our playpen. We had tons of fun coming up with ideas and creating the spots… despite the fact that the recording equipment was a million miles away from state-of-the-art.

Our equipment was only slightly better than this.

Like Julie and Dave, I too segued from radio to advertising, and our time at 97X was our “10,000 hours” in Malcolm Gladwell parlance.

One of the things I miss most about my radio days is doing wacky character voices. You don’t get many opportunities in the real world to bust into a Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg or Fabio impersonation. Well, I suppose you can, but your family, friends and co-workers might think you’re crazy. And they may be right.

 

 

 

 

 

Not-so-humble brag

Child #2, Peter, turned 17 yesterday. All he wanted for his birthday was protein powder, t-shirts and some sneakers. He’s a man of simple means. Always has been. He’s been working at the local pizza parlor for nearly a year, and he never spends any of his paychecks – they just go right into the bank.

I wish he’d give lessons to my daughter… she’s more like this:

Peter also had been taking all of his tip money and throwing it in a box in his room. A few weeks ago, we counted the cash, and it was more than $800. Of course, once he gets his license and starts driving and dating, that surplus will dwindle quickly.

This past Saturday, his “Caring for our Watersheds” project finished 9th in a countywide high school competition.

Peter is at the far right. He won’t spend any of his oversized check.

He and his project partner, Fiona, worked with school officials and their science teacher to get two water bottle refilling stations installed in high traffic areas at school, and put announcements about it on the school P.A. system. (He’s a chip off the old tree-hugger stump!) Fiona couldn’t make the final presentation to the judges, so Peter had give a five-minute presentation on stage, solo, then field questions from the judges. Waayyy out of his comfort zone, but that’s part of the process, right? Now it’s in his muscle memory.

Speaking of taking the stage, my first cousin once removed performed on the Today Show yesterday. She plays Cady in Mean Girls, which just received 12 Tony nominations. NBD.

I’d feel inferior if I weren’t a world-renowned blogger. (Hey, I have readers in France and Slovenia! Actually, make that “reader” – singular. )

(Old) people have the power

Check out this fantastic tune, “People Have The Power,” from Patti Smith’s mini-concert at the Beacon Theater after the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of the documentary film Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band. Patti and company are joined on stage by a gentleman from Jersey named Bruce, and young man from Decatur, Georgia named Michael Stipe.

I posted this for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a great song, with fantastic lyrics from the punk rock poet priestess Patti (say that 3 times fast), and it offers an inspiring message in troubled times.

2. As I watched the 71-year-old Smith, the 68-year-old Springsteen and the 58-year-old Stipe on stage, I found myself hoping to be as spry as they are in my next two decades… yet I also realized that there’s a generation gap when it comes to combining social commentary and music. What stars of the past decade or two are as popular and profound? Who is going to pick up the mantle of activism? Who speaks for (and to) the downtrodden, the working stiffs, the misfits and the outsiders? Where’s the next “Lost in the Flood” or “Johnny 99”? Who will do songs like “Orange Crush” or “World Leader Pretend”? Nickelback? Didn’t think so.

I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the world from fools
It’s decreed: the people rule

We have the power
We have the power
The people have the power
We have the power