Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer

Republishing this post from 2020, because today is Joe Strummer Day, and because the number of dubbatrubba blog readers has doubled in the past 2 years (going from two to four!).

From an old article by Brian Doyle, republished this week in The American Scholar:

Can I ask you a strange favor? On Monday night, December 22, go outside with your kids, or your friends, or your neighbors, and start a bonfire… And when it is going well, when it’s leaping and steady and warmer than you remember bonfires being, stand around it with your friends or your loved ones, and tell stories, and laugh, maybe have a beer, maybe even sing a little.

Mr. Doyle asked us for that favor because Joe Strummer (musician, singer, songwriter, co-founder of The Clash) died on December 22, 2002.

his favorite thing to do was gather friends and family and make bonfires and stand around the fire telling stories and laughing and singing. 

Brian Doyle, in the article linked above.

My friend Kevin read the article recently, and was happy to oblige the request. He organized a firepit gathering at my neighbor Mark’s house on Tuesday night. We were a day late for Joe Strummer Day, but better late than never. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the spirit of a man who touched a lot of lives with his music and his stories.

I’ve read a lot of autobiographies from rock and rollers. Many of them include “the first time I met Joe Strummer” tales. And I’ve yet to read an unkind word about him. From all accounts, he was generous with his time, and liberal with his praise and encouragement.

Joe was only 50 when he passed away. The folks gathered around the fire on Tuesday have passed that milestone. I hope we’re able to keep Joe’s spirit burning brightly.

Think of it as a way to say hey to Joe Strummer, who was a good man, much missed; but think of it too as a way to honor what he cherished and savored in his own life: the way standing or sitting together matters, and telling stories matters, and laughing matters, and singing matters. That’s Joe Strummer’s true legacy, I think, more than the records he sold

Brian Doyle’s piece is quite short, and well worth the read. Mr. Doyle passed away in 2017. Like Joe, he left us with food for thought, with something to savor, with fond memories.

See you next December 22nd. Until then, keep the fire burning.

Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer
I think he might have been our only decent teacher

Lyrics from “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady

Mob Rules!

If I had to pick one word to sum up this past Saturday’s Royal Crescent Mob concert, that word would be “joyous.”

Carlton’s smile can light up an entire venue. (Photo credit: Jon Calderas. Full gallery here.)

If I got to use two word to describe it, I’d use “joyous” and “sweaty.”

Joyous and sweaty were the hallmarks of any Royal Crescent Mob live show, back when they were a touring band, in the late 80s through the mid-90s. One of the best live bands in the entire world. Yes, a club band, with a mostly Midwestern fan base. But ask anyone who ever attended one of the RCMob shows and they will easily attest to the Mob’s punk ethos, their funk bona fides and their stellar showmanship. You had a 100% chance of leaving their shows feeling joyous and sweaty.

But it had been 28 years since the Royal Crescent Mob played together live. A lifetime ago. And now “lifetime” has a brand new meaning for the audience members, and especially the band members.

Time takes its toll on all of us. If we’re lucky, we manage to avoid cancer. In that department, the RC Mob has been decidedly unlucky. Lead singer David Ellison is being treated for prostate cancer. Lead guitarist Brian “B” Emch lost his wife to pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Drummer Carlton Smith has a rare form of brain cancer.

Rather than wallow in pity, the band decided to take their heaping helping of lemons and make lemonade… and sell it to raise funds for cancer research.

They played a fundraiser show in Columbus (their home base back in the day) on Friday, and Cincinnati (their second home, and strongest market, thanks in no small part to 97X radio station) on Saturday. Two shows in two nights. A limited engagement. Then again, life is a limited engagement.

It was a different kind of joyous this time around. For a couple of nights, for a couple of hours, they could focus on the music instead of mortality. So could their fans.

we’re four guys up there…and, you know, our audiences, our fan base is our age probably now. And it’s important for them to know there’s like, there’s this shitty thing about getting older, it’s like, things pop up. And, you know, I mean, hopefully we can raise some awareness about that as well. That’d be just extra special to be able to do that and it’s going to mean a lot for everybody to up on stage just to be playing together, that whole camaraderie.

Lead singer David Ellison in this CincyMusic interview with Jon Calderas

The Royal Crescent Mob brought a ton of joy to thousands of people 30 years ago. It was so good to experience that joy once again. It makes life worth living.

And if I had to use three words to describe their show, those words would be: Joyous. Sweaty. Grateful.

Thank you B, David, Carlton and Happy. Take a bow. Because we’re all happy now.

Musk-rat Non-Love

This is funny… because it’s true:

This line is pure gold:

 “nonstop but fruitless efforts to fill the yawning chasm of his soul by seeking the attention of indifferent strangers.”

Andy Borowitz, in The New Yorker
Artist’s rendering of Elon

I probably shouldn’t be posting the entire piece from Andy Borowitz here. To make amends, I’ll mention that a subscription to The New Yorker is well worth the price (especially in Year 1, when they cut you a discount). There’s so much good content in every issue: news, features, fiction, cartoons, humor like the piece above, poetry…

In the “digital economy” I know people are used to getting their content for free. But keep in mind that most websites are siphoning your personal data and selling it to the highest bidder. So it only seems “free”… and you are the product. If you want to support quality writing, fork over a few bucks – the transaction is much more above-board. And go ahead and pay a bit more for the printed magazine… it’s a better experience, and easier on your eyes.

The only challenge I’ve found with my New Yorker subscription is that there’s so much great content in every issue that I’m constantly running a few weeks behind on my reading. A nice problem to have. Unless I break my glasses like ol’ Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone episode above.

Dan the Music Man

Dan loved music.

We loved Dan because he loved music.

We loved Dan because he was a nice guy.

We loved Dan because he was kind and caring.

We hate that we’re talking about Dan in the past tense.

53 years was all Dan got. He made the most of them, playing in a Grateful Dead-inspired jam band for 35 of them, alongside my wife’s cousin Mike, and carving out a great career at P&G.

Dan (in hat) with my mother-in-law, my wife’s aunt and my wife’s cousin Mike.

But you can be a musician and be a jerk. Or you can be a musician and be like Dan – kind, positive, sharing the love of music with the next generation.

Dan’s passing was sudden, and totally unexpected. He was supposed to fly back into town this weekend and play a gig with his band, Spookfloaters. Instead, his family and friends will gather in Colorado for a celebration of life.

“Celebration of life” – it’s something we should all do, every day. Dan sure did. Rest in peace, friend. We love you.

The Art of Art

One day ago, I’d never heard of Bud Smith. Now he’s my new hero.

OK, maybe I should pump the brakes a bit. After all “Bud Smith” sounds like some sort of Vegas alias. Or the owner of the used car lot where they sell hoopties for “$495 down – we finance!”

Actually Bud Smith is a writer.

Bud Smith is the author of the novel, Teenager, and the short story collection Double Bird, among others. He lives in Jersey City, NJ.

I’ve yet to read Bud’s novel or his short story collection. But I was born in Jersey City, so we’re kindred spirits of a sort. But the real reason we’re kindred spirits is Bud’s take on the creative process. I read this interview with my new bud Bud in The Creative Independent. (Hat tip to Cullen Lewis, who writes a weekly post on Substack, for putting this on my radar. Check out Cullen’s Bourn Yesterday today.)

You really should read the entire interview – Bud has countless pearls of wisdom to share. A few examples:

Avoid things that drain and do things that feel fulfilling.

Get comfortable doing sloppy work, malformed, phoned in, wonky work—believe you can fix it later. Because you can.

If you feel like you don’t have a place in an established scene, then you’re right, you don’t have a place, but you can always make your own spot—apart—you should. And eventually you’ll have put in your hours and you’ll have become a road tested creator. What I mean at its most basic level, if you are studying and working at something because it adds value to your life just by doing, then you’re doing it the best way. The most valuable way. Study what you love.

I love-love-love Bud’s take on the creative process. If you don’t fit in with the scene, make your own.

And if you’re doing something you enjoy, then the “ends” don’t matter. The journey is fulfilling enough.

Lyrics from a Rush song… Neil Peart was quite the writer too!

Bud also offers up a bit of life advice, including this:

Get out of your house/apartment. Be human, see people, be part of town.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get out of my house and see if my local library has copies of Teenager and Double Bird.

A December to Remember

The last month of the year can be a bit “extra” as the kids say (or used to…). Holiday lunches, holiday happy hours, holiday parties, holiday shopping, holiday baking,… it’s a whole lotta holiday stuff crammed into a short amount of days. And too much of a good thing isn’t always good.

It’s all well and good to connect with friends and family. But it’s also fine to take a pass on some of the festivities. Especially if festive is turning into frenetic.

“Thanks, but I can’t make it” is a perfectly acceptable answer to any holiday offer. There’s enough stress already during December – it’s OK to take a break for yourself, and keep the “happy” in “happy holidays.”

And if you’ve been meaning to get together with an old friend, why not consider the month of January? There’s plenty of room on the calendar for gatherings during that typically gloomy month. Less stressful. More enjoyable.

How about Cyber-none-day?

Cyber Monday is just a contrivance.

Yet another ruse to separate you from your hard-earned money.

There’s a tradeoff for the convenience too… most of the stuff is made in China. And it’s just “stuff”… if you really want to give a gift that will be memorable, why not give of your time and talents instead? Most of us don’t need more stuff… but we do crave more human interaction. Ignore the hype – focus on the heart.

Your price-gouged “service fee” dollars at work

As a live music fan, I am duty-bound to hate Ticketmaster (a.k.a. Ticketbastard). I’ve been railing against their ridiculous fees for years, and doing everything I can to avoid them – which usually involves a trip to the venue box office during the limited hours that it’s open.

But now the cavalry is on the way to help – the Taylor Swift Army. Because hell hath no fury like a Swiftie scorned (they learned from TS herself… just listen to her lyrics).

The Taylor Ticketmaster debacle might finally break up the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly – a merger that never should’ve been allowed to happen in the first place. (Hmm, combining the largest artist management and venue company with the company that sells tickets to shows… what could possibly go wrong?)

I’m not against for-profit businesses making a profit. But I am against profiteering. And when the various and sundry “fees” for a ticket wind up adding an additional 50% to the price, that seems really excessive to me.

The Royal Crescent Mob reunion shows are a Exhibit A.

[Music-heavy sidebar – feel free to skip ahead if you’re not into that sort of thing – Hi Kelly! The Royal Crescent Mob was a punk/funk band from Columbus, Ohio – their heyday was the late 80s/early 90s. They disbanded in 1994, but are reuniting to play two shows in December — one in Columbus and one in the Cincy area — as cancer research fundraisers, because three members of the band have been impacted by cancer.

With drummer Carlton Smith recently diagnosed with brain cancer (Glioblastoma), singer David Ellison, recently treated for Prostate Cancer and the loss of guitarist B’s wife, Cincinnati Attorney, Sallee Fry in May, 2022, to Pancreatic Cancer, the four band members, decided there is no time like the present to celebrate life and revel in the joy of playing music together and the healing spirit music embodies in the human soul.]

Same band, similar venues in Columbus and Cincinnati on consecutive nights. The Columbus show tickets sales are through TicketWeb (a company that is dedicated to working with independent venues and promoters). Face value of the ticket is $30. TicketWeb service fees add another $7.95… and the fees are clearly shown on the site.

Meanwhile the Cincy show (it’s actually in Northern Kentucky) is a Ticketbastard show… Face value of the ticket is $30, but fees add $14.45 to the price tag… and the fees are hidden unless you know to click on the tiny carat symbol by the price.

“Service fee”… “facility charge” (keep in mind Live Nation/Ticketmaster owns a lot of these venues)… “order processing fee”… they just make up names for the various line items to make it seem like it’s not all going into their pockets. Don’t be fooled!

But the fees for a club show are chump change compared to the large venue shows like T-Swizzle and Bruce Springsteen. For a Bruce arena show in Columbus, the Ticketbastard “service fee” on a $518 ticket is a whopping $76.65. Oh, and don’t forget that order processing fee of $6. $82.65 for Ticketmaster to perform the same services that they were willing to do for a paltry $14.45 for a club show. Talk about paying the cost to be see the Boss!

(We’ll save the topic of “dynamic pricing” for another post…)

How does Ticketmaster get away with it? You don’t need a top hat and monocle to see the answer:

Apparently the Justice Department has been investigating Live Nation. I say it’s long overdue.

Story is here

They claim the investigation predates the Taylor fiasco, but Taylor’s travails will certainly add a bright, hot spotlight to the investigation. Ticketmaster has been ripping off customers for years… something music fans know “all too well.”

A green wave

The 2022 midterm elections are over (for the most part). So who won the races?

Well, the Democrats will probably still control the Senate… they might pick up one or two extra seats.

The House is still divided, but Republicans will probably have a very slim majority there.

It was the most expensive midterm election ever, according to the non-partisan group Open Secrets. So forget about a “red wave” or a “blue wave”… it was a green wave, and the real winners were political consultants and TV station ad salespeople.

$16.7 billion dollars... to bring us the same gridlock we’ve experienced the past few years.

In Ohio, U.S. Senate candidates J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan combined to spend more than $100 million (if you include outside spending, most of it “dark money” from anonymous sources… which is where the lion’s share of Vance’s money came from). $100 million… for a job that pays $174,000 a year.

Here’s the most telling stat of all:

Outside groups spent about $1.9 billion to influence federal elections through Oct. 31, blowing past the 2018 midterm outside spending record of $1.6 billion, adjusted for inflation. The biggest outside spenders are super PACs aligned with Republican and Democratic congressional leadership. 

Source: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2022/11/total-cost-of-2022-state-and-federal-elections-projected-to-exceed-16-7-billion/

When candidates get that much cash pouring into their coffers, you know they’re beholden to these special interest groups. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Is your lone-vote voice really being heard over the whir of the money machine?

We need election reform. Get rid of dark money. Truly “drain the swamp” of lobbyists. Put non-partisan citizen panels in charge of redistricting to eliminate the ridiculous gerrymandering that makes most districts “safe” and therefore encourages the most radical elements from both parties to come to the forefront. Institute ranked choice voting to encourage candidates to appeal to a broader swath of their constituents, instead of playing to their base.

Until we do that, it’ll be a green wave every time.

%d bloggers like this: