Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yeah, maybe. Maybe he went to heaven. He was a little fucker. He could've gone to hell.

It's been a while. I wanted to wait for Miles to update, but he's got a bit of a shakey connection, but he's working on something pretty cool. A show review he recently went to, so it's gonna be awesome!

Lately I've been writing a short-story compilation book, and I've got exactly one song to go, and one to re-tool a bit. So I've been staying pretty busy, actually. In fact, I got published online over at Bitter Press for one of the stories thats going to be in the book that I'm going to call File Under Powerviolence. The published story is called Shootin' At a Mound of Dirt, and I'm pretty proud of it. None of the stories are the same, and I tried really hard to differentiate any type of trappings in them, as far as running themes or sounding exactly the same in each story. Check it out. Hope you hate it!

A lot of whats influenced me in life, to be quite honest, is music. I'm sure thats the same for everyone, too. For whatever reason you listen to music, you listen to what speaks to you. When I was younger I felt completely alienated. I liked some rap music, but couldn't completely appreciate why exactly it was that NWA was saying "Fuck the police". I never liked modern country music (and I still don't, either) and when I was in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade the biggest bands on the planet were the Spice Girls, Hanson, Matchbox 20, Aqua and Ace of Base. I completely couldn't relate to that. That type of pop music is just so shallow and vapid, even as a dumb ass little kid, I just couldn't do that.

The closest I ever got to relating to anything for so long was Bone Thugs N' Harmony. Now don't get me wrong, I think that Bone Thugs are great. I really, really do. But it's something that at the time I couldn't feel anything outside of, "Hey this is cool".

One day I discovered Green Day, and within a week I discovered a band called Operation Ivy.

From the moment I heard the first song off of Energy, "Knowledge" I finally found something I was looking for. I'm not sure from Kindergarten to 4th grade I said one word outside of my family and two friends. Bookworms who play chess and spend their recesses playing basketball alone, or reading in a corner of the library aren't exactly the first to be invited to parties.

But I was so enamored with Operation Ivy. Through them I dug deeper, eventually getting into bands like 88 Fingers Louie, AFI, Suicide Machines, Minor Threat, Bad Religion, the Ramones and the Clash just so many of these bands.

It might sound tacky and toolish to say, but without punk rock music...I'm not exactly sure where I'd be. Something actually existed out there that didn't care about skin color, fitting in or being cool. Just being yourself was enough.

People don't give punk rock proper credit. Easily assumed is "fuck the system, up the punx, fuck society" and things of that nature, but to me it never seemed like that. It wasn't rebellious for the sake of being rebellious. It was something of a breeding ground for airing your grievances in a constructive and often times, positive manner.

I've always been into to reading and science. Again, these things weren't exactly popular subjects in social circles. So it was something I loved, but wound up being overlooked. I guess people labeled as nerds really get painted into a corner, and that stigma really never goes away. If I ever have a son, he's gonna tease me about being nerdy, or something. Too bad I'll always kick his ass in basketball.

But there was never really a band that catered to my interests like that. I mean, to be honest when I was that young, and getting into this type of music and all it's sub genres...it was totally fun and exciting, but the flip side of that coin was that at this point in time the advent of the internet wasn't as prevalent as it is today. So discovering these bands was extremely hard, and all I could rely on were liner notes in CD's.

So it was hard finding these bands I could relate to. But one day I came across a band called the Descendents. Melodic and complex, more then just pop punk or hardcore punk...it simply was what it was; the Descendents. I discovered the album, "Everything Sucks" and from that moment on, I was just completely mesmerized.

Just being a regular person is so passe. Every one wants to live some abnormal facade, because the alternative just seems too depressing. But the Descendents did it with so much grace...instead of letting the exterior take over, they let the music do the talking.

One of the most annoying things that come with punk music is the uniform. The stereotypical, "non-conformist, rebellious" look. You know what I'm talking about. Neon colored hair in a 14 inch high mohawk (or liberty spikes for those lazy punks) patches covering the studded leather jacket, or studded sleeveless denim jacket. It's always struck me so asinine, this need to be non-conformist, but looking exactly like your counterparts down to the bullet belt and torn Chucks.

And I mean, I've dyed my hair plenty of times in my day. But I've never had a mohawk, I've never felt the need to don a leather jacket or modify a denim jacket. It's too much work, honestly. Furthermore, I just have nothing to prove. I spend a total of 2 minutes looking at my self in the mirror, and thats mostly because I'm brushing my teeth.

These kids want to give the illusion that they don't care, but in the end they wind up spending as much time in front of the mirror as Paris Hilton, and to be honest thats something I couldn't get on board with.

Discovering the Descendents was a highlight of my youth. Songs about girls, poop jokes, intricate melodies, a mean guitar, a legendary voice and lyrics that could be diverse and subtle, to straight forward no-nonsense. A no schtick approach to making music, and living your life.

The Descendents were always a place to go. They existed for not only the "crust punx" hardcore punk crowd, to casual listeners who just enjoyed good pop-punk with a bit of bratty attitude, and a whole chest full of heart-felt sincerity.

Milo Goes to College and I Don't Want to Grow Up were such seminal foundations for my life. So much so that I can listen to those albums today and still feel it hit me the same exact way it did so many years ago when I felt alone.

I never got to witness the Descendents live, and that does suck. But the legend they've left behind, the imagination they've captured and inspiration they've struck within me are indelible.

It started with Energy, and it became solidified with not wanting to grow up. The rest of the conclusions I've come to are my own, but because of those stepping stones along the way I now have the confidence to be okay with who I am, and know that when words fail me I'll always have three chords and a hook waiting to pull me back to my feet.

I've learned more to 2 minute anthems than I have from history books. If anything, those short bursts of revelation have made me want to look for deeper meanings in life, to not want to settle for anything less than glory.

It can start in a basement or a hole in the wall. Fists raised high, and souls bared and voices waining thin.

For those bands that opened the door...

"You don't get played on the radio
That's not the game you play
Well I don't care anyway
I glued your tape in the stereo
So I know every word, every note
And every chord is right - right on
When I feel weak you make me feel strong
Make me feel strong feel like nothing's wrong

I won't say your name
You know who you are
I'll never be the same again now - no way
I just want to say thank you for playing the
Way you play"

Thats why I go and waste my time at the rock and roll shows.

You know who you are. Thank you.

Talk into my bullet hole, tell me I'm fine.

Saturday night at 8pm the only thought in my head while standing around the corner from the entrance to Gilman was "Shit. I don't think we're getting in". The line for the show that night (which included Thorns of Life, the only band on the bill out of five that I wanted to see) wrapped a quarter of the way around the block. I've been to a handful of shows there and I've never encountered a line, let alone one that disappeared around the corner. An hour and a half later, we finally got in, sat through the 3 band of the night. After they left the stage, the place got significantly more full. I found myself shoulder to shoulder and not being able to falter half a step forward or backward. All I could muster was my freeing my right hand to be able to hold it above my head to take pictures, but even then I had to be careful not to elbow my friendly neighbor in the head.

Thorns of Life is fronted by former Jawbreaker/Jets to Brazil frontman Black Sch... and backed by ex-Crimpshrine drumer Aaron Cometbus and Daniela Sea from Showtime's "The L Word" and Cypher in the Snow. Hailing from Brooklyn, this three piece knocked me on my ass. Forgive me for not having a setlist or even song names. Blake did mention some names of songs, but I can't remember them. They opened with a song about losing your virginity, my second favorite song of the night next to a song about the story of a man who is friends with a robot who slowly starts to fall apart and malfunction, but he has no spare parts to fix him. Said story was written by an author whose name escapes me. I love robots. Robots love me.

There also was a "singalong" where the chorus where the second half went something like "sink me teeth into babies knees / baby baby baby please". They played for a solid hour and their sound was sort of like a cross between Jawbreaker (Dear You/24 Hour Revenge Therapy era) and Jets to Brazil. They had the heart of Jets to Brazil and the carefree-ness of Jawbreaker.

Overall, it was a lot of fun and an excellent show, especially at 8 dollars. It also doesn't hurt to be waiting in line for a little while with Davey Havok right in front of you...literally.