Area Music Nerd Dies, Goes to Heaven

Sometime in December I was approached by Marty from Spiraling to see about the availability of gigs in Little Rock in late January. I sent some emails out and it looked like we were going to set something up at Juanita’s, but Sticky Fingerz snatched them up for an opening slot. The guys played there last June and we took them out to a party afterward and got to be fast chums. So this time around we had a party for them at my house after their show Saturday.

Despite a massive promotional effort on the part of Jessica and I, very few of the people who attended were there because we told them to be. We must have told dozens of people about the show. Losers. So much for my career in music promotion. Still the crowd was a good size and the band was well received. We ordered pizzas for the guys, so Jennifer and I went to the house to wait for the deliveryman. Jessica and Heather stayed behind so the guys could follow them to my house. Pizza Hut is getting fast, by the way. They do not play.

Eventually we had several people milling about the house, talking with the band, playing records and jamming in the playground. Pictures coming soon. I remember the tunes we hacked away at included ELP’s “Hoedown,” Yes’s “Roundabout” and some random Zeppelin. Mostly it was freeform grooves, with everyone trading instruments. Did I mention Tom played a tour with Yes? I can now say I am one degree of separation from Yes.

The remainder of the night consisted mainly of conversation, me standing in front of the stereo saying “ooh you have to hear this!” and burning CDs on the laptop. It was so nice to have fellow music nerds in the house – people who really appreciate my music collection and the random assortment of useless crap I have lying around the house. Each of those guys is a stellar musician who plays every instrument well and has a broad listening palette. And they’re completely ego-free about everything. They’re everything great musicians should be, but so rarely are.

We also left a message for Jamie, since she was the one who turned me on to the band. The guys crashed on the floor (we had a couple of air mattresses and I brought in my old mattress from the garage) and we had ourselves a nice little sleepover. I didn’t get to sleep until 4AM because Tom and I kept talking about vintage keyboards and prog rock.

I got two hours of sleep before I had to get up at 7AM for my bass playing gig at Christ the King Catholic Church. Surprisingly I made it through three services without falling asleep while playing. Afterward I went to Vino’s for lunch and then came home and sacked out, which is a shame because the weather was so beautiful.

Nice weekend, though.

“You’re watching history in the making.”

Those were the words of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Shaddox, as she graded papers, head down, intent on her work and unaware of the confused faces of her students as we alternately looked back and forth between the TV screen and her desk. For what seemed like an eternity, we sat there in silence, wondering if this was standard procedure – a fireball and two separate booster trails. Well the boosters are supposed to fall off, right? They showed us that earlier. Most of us had never seen a shuttle launch before, so what did we know? I think we tried to get Mrs. Shaddox’s attention, but I seem to recall her telling us to keep watching, and saying “this is history in the making” more than once. Or maybe my brain just latched onto that sentence, given that it was perhaps the single greatest understatement of my elementary education.

One of us got her to look up at the TV screen, I guess, or maybe the phrase “obviously a major malfunction” caught her ear, or maybe Mrs. Binam from across the hall came into the room. The teachers weren’t sure what to do with a school full of kids who had just watched seven people die on live television. I don’t remember anything else after that.

Tomorrow marks 20 years since the Challenger disaster.

Somebody on Fark had a unique vantage point I found interesting:

I was 5 years old on a plane to Disney World when this happened. The captain announced what had happened and suggested we all look out the left window. In the distance you could see the booster trail. I remember seeing tons of shiny objects drifting to the ground.

The Howard Hughes of Fashion

Salon has a fascinating piece on Abercrombie & Fitch head honcho Mike Jeffries today. The article pointed to a string of adjectives that reminded me of Howard Hughes: “driven, demanding, smart, intense, obsessive-compulsive, eccentric, flamboyant and, depending on whom you talk to, either slightly or very odd.” Sure, he “always goes through revolving doors twice, never passes employees on stairwells, parks his Porsche every day at the same angle in the parking lot (keys between the seats, doors unlocked)” but greatness is often accompanied by a measure of insanity. What was most amazing was his Machiavellian candor:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

I’m sure that quotation will enrage most people, but again I say, “why is this surprising to anyone?” If you have any awareness of the insipid, fascist behemoth that is Abercrombie & Fitch, you know that it has to be led by someone like Jeffries. He has sold America an almost Aryan Ideal of fashion. It’s a wonder they haven’t started performing eugenics experiments on their employees. Actually, scratch that, they practice a commercial form of it:

For example, when I ask him how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the “emotional experience” he creates for his customers, he says, “It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Still I admire the guy’s honesty. He’s a complete ass and he’s proud of it. His success has justified his worldview.

As a sidenote, the piece also mentions a dedication to “the brand,” and I just want to say that, as someone who works in a marketing-related field, I pity anyone who depends entirely on brand awareness for their survival. To say that your brand is more important than your product means that your product isn’t good enough at setting itself apart from the competition, so you have to convince people that your brand is somehow special in some unquantifiable way.

Which leads me to this: judge clothing by clothing, not by what store you buy it in. People who insist on only shopping at certain “lifestyle brand” stores are fools who have been hypnotized by the Convincing John[1] of advertising. If you assign any portion of your identity to a store in a mall, you have lost a part of your soul. Except of course, for Chick-fil-A, which is the nectar of the Gods, as everyone knows.

1.) God bless you, Jim Henson, for creating this character and helping to make kids aware of his presence in our culture.

Tip Your Pizza Deliveryperson

Fark had a link to dozens of true pizza delivery stories recently and I’ve now read through several of them. I’m continually fascinated by these stories because I always wonder about people and how they live their home lives. There are some seriously freaky people in this world, and they order pizza just like the rest of us. These stories offer interesting peeks into the national fabric, case studies of eccentrics, deviants, criminals and weirdos. Tip your pizza deliveryperson well.

This Old House

Whether by age or changes in humidity or both, my bedroom door now no longer stays closed. Either the door has warped or the frame has shifted, or both. I’ve tried bending the door, because it seems as though the lower part of the door fits the jamb while the upper part does not, but to no avail. I’ve also cracked the jamb from repeated slamming in an attempt to keep the door shut. This is especially frustrating for me because I moved my bedroom to the back of the house because the other bedroom has this same problem. I need a bedroom door that stays shut because I have pets who keep different hours than I do. My only alternative is to put something heavy in front of the door to prevent the cats from pushing it open. That’s just irritating. Anybody have any ideas?

Also, Spiraling show this Saturday at Sticky Fingerz. Be there.

Where Are They Now: D-Nice

So I’m watching my Comcast On Demand service, and under one of the various and labrynthine music directories I see a tab called “classics.” It contains four videos: “Take On Me” by a-ha, “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “Need You Tonight” by INXS…all certifiable classics by any reasonable assessment. The fourth? “Call Me D-Nice” by former Boogie Down Productions DJ D-Nice.

You probably have no idea who D-Nice is. And why should you? He only made two records, and those back in the early 90’s before rap turned into commercials for the gangsta lifestyle. He’s one of the most underrated MC’s, and he stands as one of the few DJs in rap history to have a chart hit as an MC.

Take a listen: “Call Me D-Nice” (right click to save as)

Post script to this. I thought I’d Google D-Nice and see what he’s been up to, and I found one of the most interesting photoblogs I’ve yet seen. His. The D-Nice Journal. Among the more interesting recent entries – his vacation in St Barths, a party Will Smith gave for his longtime bodyguard[1], and a friend’s pictures of post-Katrina New Orleans.

15 years on, and D-Nice continues to impress. And he don’t stop.

1.) Charlie Mack, first out of the limo.

Wilson Pickett (1941-2006)

People have no idea how influential this guy was. His music is everywhere and for whatever reason people don’t connect with his name the way they do with, say, Otis Redding. Everytime I talk about Wilson Pickett to someone, they say they’re not sure who he is until I start listing the hits: “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally” (much dreaded by cover bands for its status as the most requested song of all time), “Land of 1,000 Dances” (which I have to hum before people remember it[1]), “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (you heard that one in the Blues Brothers, remember?), “634-5789” (20 years before Jenny’s “867-5309” came around).

The man was a soul giant. We have lost an important part of pop music history.

This one’s for you, Mr. Pickett:
Land of 1,000 Dances (right click and save as)

1.) The hook to which was shamelessly stolen by Ini Kamoze for his 1995 hit “Here Comes the Hotstepper” from the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Pret-a-Porter. He called himself “the lyrical gangsta,” which of course Heath turned into “the lyrical hamster.”

I am Lou Reed

Lou Reed likes the digital photography. His pictures are, as described in a Salon article today, “devoid of people, replete with brilliant sunsets and neon.” That sounds familiar. Looking at samples from his upcoming exhibition in New York, I see a lot of sky shots and funky long exposures. It’s a really odd feeling to know that my weird little photography interests are shared by someone as far away from me geographically and socially as Lou Reed. The sensation is simultaneously comforting and disquieting, if that’s possible.