Nostalgia, the underground, and rock and roll



The Mighty Ceasars, originally uploaded by EPS_Twain.

Today my dad sent me a link from Little Stevie’s Underground Garage entitled “A Crisis of Craft” from last year. In the post Steven Van Zandt rails against the music industry and the apparent death of DIY. It’s quite long and doesn’t really have a succinct point. Here’s one paragraph:

Well when the major record companies abandon development yes, DIY is born. Do it yourself. And the auteur theory works well with DIY anyway so why not? Ok there’s one reason why not. Everybody isn’t a star. Isn’t a songwriter. Isn’t a singer. Isn’t a performer. Isn’t a record producer. But who’s there to tell them? To help? To suggest a different direction? To teach?

My response to my dad was snarky: “Interesting… I will blog more coherent thoughts but I think he comes off a bit as an old dude romanticizing a noble past, which he sort of opted out of by being part of the Springsteen machine. He has valid points, but it really seems like sour grapes and ignoring the real underground.”

Dad, here’s the more.

First of all, I have a real hard time taking anybody who played with Bruce Springsteen, makes money spinning for Sirius/XM seriously when he talks about DIY. It’s clear his definition of DIY and my own do not match. I don’t know if it’s generational or what. Van Zandt’s assessment of “the industry” and DIY really reminds me of the classic Jim Derogatis interview with Stephan Jenkins, where Jenkins proclaims “[Third Eye Blind] has been , if not the most D.I.Y next to Fugazi, then NO.2 or 3.” (That makes me roll with laughter. Actually the whole interview does.)

DIY happens independent of the major labels. In fact, I would posit that when you hook up with a major label machine you can’t really cal yourself DIY. You’re art is even more of a product than before, and it’s really all about money. Reading Van Zandt’s blog, it’s apparent that he has a very romanticized view the the good old days. You know, when he was young and the music he liked was cool. We all suffer from it. Hell, why do you think I keep talking about the Hi-Fives? You know what though? They were way more DIY than anything he on Little Stevie’s show and probably more garage. Ever since the White Stripes, people think anything simple is garage but totally missing the point, and ignoring the long history, of DIY garage music.

Which brings me to the picture – Thee Mighty Ceasars (see them live!). They are one of the more popular Billy Childish bands, coming after The Milkshakes, but before Thee Headcoats. Right now he’s in The Spartan Dreggs, and I think they’re really good. Basically, he’s prolific and he’s become well known doing his thing without the aid of a major label. He is definitely one of my favourite musicians and if he puts a record out there’s a 90% chance I’ll buy it and an 80% chance I’ll like it.

Recently John, from the Hi-Fives, pointed to this interview Childish did with VICE a few years back when he was in The Buff Medways. It’s 26 minutes long, but definitely worth checking out. Childish covers everything from the Beatles to the Nazis, but talks about DIY and amateurism. Childish says at one point, “Professional footballers ruin football. Professional musicians ruin music.” I sort of agree with him. Looking back, some of my favourite songs come from people just making music because they want to, they like to, and it’s not really about the money. True, we need money to survive and to make more records, but it’s nothing like the fat you see at major labels.

Van Zandt’s post my dad sent sort of touches upon this, about the craft of rock and roll, but he fails because he tries to intellectualize it and ignores on of the cornerstones of rock – does it have a good beat and can you dance to it? His frame of reference is coloured by his past of sleeping with majors and growing up in a time when you busted your ass to get noticed by an A&R man from one of the major labels. I know people still have that mindset, but it’s not the same. I grew up obsessing over small indie labels, really indie labels, like Lookout (RIP), and local bands, that I couldn’t really see making it beyond out small world. That’s fine. The world doesn’t need another Green Day and it sure as hell doesn’t need another 200 bands trying to be the next Green Day. Actually, more fitting with this post, the world doesn’t need another White Stripes, or a bunch of imitators trying to be the next indie darlings and butchering Sonics’ songs.

Today, you bands need to give it a go. Write songs. Perform. Record your demos. Let people download them, and be prepared to self release. That’s DIY and that’s how you get label support. People are doing it all the time.

There are lots of people “dedicated to the craft” right now, they are just off Van Zandt’s radar. He needs to get more underground.

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, taste is irrelevant.

It’s a well known fact that I own a lot of records, and that when I say records I mean vinyl. Not CDs, not mp3s, but good old records. Some of my records are really good, like Tiger Trap, The Milkshakes, and of course my whole Hi-Fives collection, but I also have some crap. I love the crap, but I don’t expect others to. I’m talking about Heino (who’s birthday is this week!), Heintje, and Heinz.

This week I bought the 7″ of Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy” for a $1. It was a deal (and featured in one of my favourite Monty Python skits, seen above). Listening to it at volumes loud enough to annoy the neighbours is a joy. Well, I was hanging out with some soccer mates after our game on Saturday and one of them was talking about what he was listening to expecting me to scoff at his selection. I’m sorry, but the Pogues are respectable. Ohio Express is only respectable in certain, smaller circles.

Then today some people on the internet were talking about what albums mean Christmas to them. Of course, most of this group had parents that were square and white, so it was a lot of Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and the like. I’ve never really been a fan of Christmas music, so I couldn’t be in the fight. Other than to be a brat and point out how dull it all was. So bland, like the Beach Boys. (For the record, I was raised on The Kinks’ “Father Christmas“, Live Aid, David Bowie and Bing Crosby doing “Drummer Boy“, and Spike Jones’ “Barnyard Christmas“. That probably explains a lot.) (For the record, my new favourite Christmas song is “I Wanna Kiss You This Christmas” by Dave ‘n’ Megan on It’s A Team Mint Xmas vol. 1.)

The only thing that kills me in these conversations is the value judgement. It’s human and we all do it, but some keep it under wraps. Why is it OK to proclaim others’ taste to be crap when we can’t proclaim your taste to me crap? Well, we can but then there’s probably going to be an argument as pointless as a trip to the argument clinic.

I think it boils down to people want validation. It’s another human trait. It’s why we like to be a part of something. You like a record that other people like, that reaffirms that you like something good. Even if it’s just a few people, there’s some validation. Some need this, some don’t. Negotiating that can be tricky. I’ve never really had many people who really liked the same things I did. Nobody else liked David Bowie in Kindergarten. It wasn’t until high school when I found people in the scene (Alex and Fran, I’m looking at you!), that I understood what it was like to have common interests musically.

I don’t expect people to like what I listen to or even want to listen to it. (It makes being a DJ weird.) I do welcome argument and discussion, but most people take it as an attack on their taste. It isn’t but I can see their point. People like what they like. Some people are always hunting for deeper and weirder, and some are just happy. The problem is when the content give vibes that they are more adventurous and then there’s the assumptions and we have a problem.

Also remember, I am a sarcastic ass.

Winner: Dealing with victory when the shoe’s on the other foot



Winner, originally uploaded by kendrak.

I play indoor soccer on Mondays. It’s a women’s team. It’s fun. Sometimes it’s frustrating as hell because we always seem to be short players, which means we’re often playing down a person. It’s annoying to be slaughtered on the field when you know there’s really nothing you can do. I will do my best to defend, block shots, make them pass or take long shots, but when we’re missing people and gassed it’s a losing battle.

Tonight we showed up and I knew we would just barely have 7 players (a full side). I saw the other team we were playing: they had at least 12 people ready to go, all in matching uniforms. Teams in matching uniforms tend to freak me out. It’s a whole level of organization that tends to reflect a seriousness that I’m not sure I’m ready for. All the teams I play on are just a color, we just have to make sure our shirts meet the criteria. People in matching uniforms, especially ones that are replica kit (down to the shorts!), they intimidate me. It works. I assume they are way better than me, which is a fair assumption since I’m not that good.

So we start off the game playing tactically sound, passing football. The other team was younger and faster, and they were just going to run us out. If we had subs no doubt we would have been a bit more aggressive, but knowing that we’d all be on the pitch for the full 50 minutes, we had to play smart. When we scored the first goal (off of an amazing header), I was chuffed. This wasn’t going to be a bloodbath!

I realized 5 minutes into the first half that we were actually controlling the game. We were passing pretty well, and making full use of the field. I was playing a stopper which allowed our other defender space to move up. It worked pretty well. Their forwards only scared us a few times, but because we were able to pick the ball off in the midfield. They compensated by lobbing long balls up, which I was able to pass back up. Reading Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox is good for something after all!

The score at the end of the first half was 1-8. We were winning pretty comfortably. It was sort of shocking, but the team for all their off-pitch organization (matching kits and coaches!), were a mess on the field. It was like bunch ball for adults. They weren’t really marking our forwards, and they played very narrow. They had some good players, but they weren’t working together at all. That’s a problem with a lot of new teams, and for all we know this was the team’s first season in the league. My team, we’ve been around for a while (I joined 2 years ago). It takes time to achieve a balance and rhythm. You need to see how your style fits with the other people on your team. Where do they like to pass? Will they make a run? The finer points. That’s what we had going on. This other team? Not at all.

That’s when I realized the shoe was on the other foot. I’m so used to being much worse than my opponents, that it took me a while (and a score line of 3-12) to recognize that we were slaughtering them. It was a weird feeling. Despite their youth, energy, and waves of subs, we were killing them and controlling the pace of the game. Most of it was in their half. I wanted to pull my foot off the gas, but it was hard. “I’ll ease up a bit… but I still don’t want them to score.” As a defender, it’s all I can do really. But we started easing up. Hell, I went up and played forward! They didn’t score again, but neither did we. It was just a back and forth for the last 10 minutes. We were tired as hell, but they just couldn’t string it together to get a good attack.

The final was 3-14. When the final buzzer went, I was happy to get a drink of water but a little bummed that the other team didn’t shake our hands. I understand the feeling, it sucks losing that much and you just want to get the hell out of there and lick your wounds, but I also think it’s important to go through the motion. Maybe it’s a romantic view of the beautiful game, but I really believe that you should be able to respect your opponent at the end of it all and walk away with no lingering ill will. There are some teams that I have played against that make it really hard. They have bad attitudes and bring out the worst in me, but I know it’s not the whole team and that I’m really not like that. We tried to talk to them, to wish them a good game, but I guess we were jerks for running the score up like that.

While I savored my burrito tonight with the enthusiasm of a wiped out winner, I still feel a little bummed. I have complained about teams that just run up the score and demoralize my side, and I just did it. I know it’s not all my fault, not wanting them to score since it’s all I can do, but we did it as a team. While my team hasn’t had such a cohesive display in a long time (that part was pretty awesome), I wish we knew how to pull back. Or maybe it’s good that we’re not so accustomed to this sort of thing, and that we have no idea of what to do?

I’m pretty sure tonight was a fluke

A view from the other side…


Last night we played a show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. 15 years ago, I used to fantasize about going to some of the awesome pop-punk shows there. Life is pretty crazy like that. I still feel awkward as hell on stage, but people enjoyed themselves which is what really matters.

I just need to make time for music. I really enjoy it. (Thanks for the pic, LBZ!)

Violence inherent in the system? History repeating itself? #occupycal



IMAG0489, originally uploaded by urbangarden.

Right now I’m sitting in Brooklyn, at Larry’s kitchen table, trying to follow what’s been happening today at my Alma Mater and employer, UC Berkeley. Earlier, students tried to set up an encampment outside Sproul Hall, the main administration building. Riot police moved in to break up the tents:

Then there was this sickening scene of UCPD beating students who were just standing there with no provocation:

Both the Daily Cal and Cal TV have been doing a pretty good job covering the protests. #occupycal is also a trending topic on Twitter right now, and major media outlets are paying attention. On a night when Penn State students are demonstrating in support of Joe Paterno, who was fired for failing to do anything about his former defensive coordinator sexually abusing young boys. That’s some perspective.

Here’s some more. Students are being asked to pay more in tuition and fees again. I thought the fee hikes when I was in school (2000-2005) were excessive, but now it’s just ridiculous. Especially when you look at the compensation of the UC top brass. We have more and more executive administrators making very healthy paychecks, when students are being squeeze dry and services are disappearing because staff is being laid off or leaving for greener pastures. (Disclosure: I was laid off and then brought back on part time because of budget constraints. The library I work in went from being open M-F 9-5, to T-F 11-5 due to our decimated budget.) The campus is not a happy place right now. Everybody is uneasy, but that doesn’t excuse or explain the use of force by the police today.

I don’t want to act like there were halcyon days to return to, but I also hope that the campus community can repair these wounds. The administration will have to go a long ways to establish trust with students, faculty (one of whom was arrested today), and staff. We are a public university whose mission is to educate and generate new knowledge for society. Yes, we need to be able to afford it, but we also need to have compassion. Right now, I’m not feeling that.

Be safe tonight Berkeley. I’ll be glued to Twitter.

It’s a man’s world apparently…



Best Store Window Ever, originally uploaded by jnoriko.

So today I happen to be in Sacramento for work. Immediately I was stoked to go record shopping at one of my favourite record stores – Phono Select. After I got out of my meeting, I cruised over there to really dig in the crates. Normally when I go, I have Dr J or family members in tow. They get bored when I go through each section looking for stuff. Dr J is one of the nicest men ever, not only did he give me health insurance, but he’ll hold my records for me so it’s easier to browse. That’s love folks.

Anyhow, today I was in there and this couple walks in. They were a bit older than me, and the man was pretty dismissive of his female companion. Clearly she was bored within moments of walking in there and he was trying to get her out of his hair so he could browse in peace. Totally understandable. But then he had to take this totally dismissive, chauvinist tone about the whole thing. “Let me do boy stuff.”

If there was ever a time for the sound of a needle scratching off a piece of vinyl that was it. I couldn’t stop myself from looking up and giving them guy a death glare. Seriously. I might not be the cute yuppie girl he was with, but I’m totally a woman and I’m the vinyl collector geek in my relationship. I don’t even know how record buying is supposed to be gender based, other than perhaps selective affirmation bias and boys being encouraged to buy and spin vinyl. To each their own… but seriously… record collectors aren’t just dudes. Don’t act like I’m army candy.

My skewed reality.

This is a story in three parts.

Part 1: The Kinks vs. The Beatles

I may have told this one before. I was 10, almost 11, and hanging out on the playground in 5th grade. A bunch of us were talking about this “sock hop” we were going to have at the end of the week to celebrate the end of the school year. All of us started talking about the oldies bands we liked, and somebody mentioned the Beatles being “the biggest band ever”. I spoke up insisting the Kinks were the biggest band ever. It stood to reason because my parents had 20 Kinks records and 4 Beatles records, so of course the Kinks were bigger. The argument escalated, there was some harsh words, the teacher came in, and I got a citation. My mom later explained to me that the Kinks may be better than the Beatles, but in the court of popular opinion the Beatles were bigger.

This was the first time it was clear to me how much personal taste and skewed perspective can influence you. I am also sort of proud of fighting for the Kinks on the schoolyard. It’s a weird sign of devotion from such a young age.

Part 2: Cometbus vs. Green Day Fans

Abbey commented on my post about Green Day fans:

I totally agree with you that most Green Day superfans dont really give a shit what Aaron Cometbus thinks. They generally just dont like to be shit on, who does? Especially by someone that, face it, has piggybacked on Green Day’s fame for a long fucking time.

Umm… with you until that last bit. Cometbus is an institution in his own right without Green Day’s coattails. Of course though, I’m decent fan of his zine and a bigger fan of his music. I mean, he was in Sweet Baby! Nevermind Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpowder, Shotwell, and a whole host of other bands. Yes, this isn’t on the same level as Green Day (who are now rivals with the likes of U2 and Coldplay) but it’s like apples and oranges. I don’t expect all the Green Day fans to be Cometbus fans, but to act like he hasn’t done anything of renown is ludicrous.

But of course… I am not them. We’re into different things. There’s room for mutual respect and understanding. It’s a hard life as a super fan.

Part 3: Operation Ivy vs. Rancid

I know there’s a whole cult surrounding these bands, perhaps even more rabid and devoted than Green Day fans. Of course for the Lookout fans, these two bands were anchors of the past (whilst Screeching Weasel, the Queers and MTX were sort of anchors of the mid-late 90s, before the fall…)
Anyhow, recently I was giving my buddy Jim a hard time for liking Rancid. I was being a total jerk. He laid it all out. He wasn’t exposed to all the other East Bay stuff. Rancid found him at the right time and they’ve stuck. See, on those terms I get it. (Of course I may still be a little shit and opt for the more obscure Downfall.)

Growing up in Sacramento, the East Bay seemed almost local. It was close, it was accessible. Maybe it all goes back to my fighting for the Kinks, but I’ve always been interested in finding the small gems. This has nothing to do with the Hi-Fives. There’s nothing small about them. NOTHING. But I mean, how many people will brag about owning a Bumblescrump 7″? Not that many.

So the moral of this story is that I need to remember my story isn’t necessary typical. We all have our journeys of discovery. I can’t expect everybody to act like my anorak friends when it comes to records and bands. Hell, maybe I need to stop being the collector nerd and just enjoy some stuff.

How did I end up in the Potatomen?

potatomen outside of gilman 2000
In high school, my friend Jill once asked me if I ever listened to music with feelings. I was confused. Apparently neither the Hi-Fives nor the Smugglers had the emotional range she was looking for. When I moved off to Berkeley to go to university, I sort of got what she meant. I was depressed and lonely, and my record collection had nothing that really connected me with those emotions. What did you expect from a garage/pop-punk kid? I didn’t turn to the Smiths or Elliot Smith, I rediscovered the Potatomen like never before.

I’d had their records because I liked Larry and I was a dutiful Lookout fan. I’d listened to them, but never really connected to them, other than All My Yesterdays, mostly for the Brent’s TV cover. One night in early September 2000, I came home from my crappy job at Papyrus on College Ave, feeling utterly alone and cut off from everybody and everything, and I put on Now and it just clicked. The song just made me feel all right and I just laid in my bed, sort of zoned out listening to it on my headphones feeling lost. So for the next semester, I would mope about town listening to Now and Iceland. To this day, when I hear some of those guitar riffs to songs like “Gabe” or “Sam’s Song”, I’m transported back to that fall, wandering up and down Telegraph in a melancholic daze.

This picture was taken at a Potatomen show outside of Gilman. I think it was November 18, 2000? It was the first really cold weekend of the season and I walked all the way from campus and back. I hung out at Picante before the show with them before the set, stood on the corner and sang along, hung out a bit more, and then walked back home. I was shivering by the time I reached Shattuck, but I didn’t really mind. It was the best night I’d had since I’d moved to Berkeley. (The cheesy stix from West Coast Pizza didn’t hurt.) It’s weird how little nights like that can really stick with you.

Ten and a half years later, I’m the fifth Potatomen bass player. I was surprised and flattered when Larry and Patrick asked me to join them for a show in August (and beyond). It was weird playing songs with them at first because even though I didn’t really know how to play them, I sort of did because I had listened to them so much. That’s actually still frustrating at parts because I feel like I can’t really escape the recordings in my head, but then I can’t fully articulate them either. It’s a problem I’ve never really dealt with before. The other reason it’s a little weird for me is that they keep taking me back to those feelings I had as a lost 18 year old. Glimpses to the past that it seems I can’t fully escape. No doubt these feelings will probably fade or change as I play more, but this past weekend when we were practicing as a full band, they were definitely there. I know a lot has happened since that fall, which makes this all quite logical and perhaps expected, but if you had told me then where’d I’d be today, I wouldn’t have really believed it.

Not that my 18 year old self was all that wise or knew what she wanted, but these sorts of little reality checks are interesting. Is making a younger version of yourself happy a good thing or is it a sign that you weren’t aiming high enough? I can’t really tell, but it’s worth considering from time to time.

a grey day…



me at the footbridge, originally uploaded by kendrak.

neil took this picture of me on a footbridge at the salford quays by the lowry and the imperial war museum north.

when we were walking across the bridge, i told him i was going to get cancer some day, it was inevitable. a month later i found my lump. it’s weird to think back to that time.

this all just makes me want to:
1. go visit neil.
2. have a chip buttie.
3. be happy about what i’ve got.

A sixth sense?



Brent’s TV – Lumberjack Days, originally uploaded by kendrak.

Yesterday I felt like it was a good idea to go to Amoeba. Not just because I like record shopping, but that something I really wanted would be there. As I walked in and checked my pack, I got this sense, a spidey sense, that they would have Lumberjack Days there and it was mine for the taking. Lo and behold, they did. This is my 10th copy of said record. 6 more to go before I have 1% of all that were pressed. Yeah, I know that’s sick.

It’s weird to me that I’ve been getting these little premonitions before I go into the store that the Brent’s TV or Ne’er Do Wells 7″s will be there for the taking. It’s creepy, sad, but that’s like me!