Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Dan Bern and 89A

Flagstaff = mandatory.
I've learned that over the last few years. I’ve had enough great times in Flagstaff that I just can’t stay away for too long. There's a vibe so unlike the desert, it clears the head remarkably.
And what better reason to brave the getting-cold Northland than a Dan Bern show (seriously check out the Web site, there's lots of sound clips and lyrics for the curious). It’s a shame this guy is so damn far under the radar, but political-humor neo-folk for some reason just isn’t in high demand. But c’mon, anyone who calls his band the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy has a lot up his sleeve.

Saturday began by swinging through Mesa to pick up Z, then off north. A cup of coffee and some walking around Downtown, then off to Flag Brew for beers, dinner and Game 1. We met up with Stu LeBlanc and his pal and headed to the show.

Two openers were medium- to low-level open mic guitar duos. Then Dan Bern hit the stage, just a guitar and harmonica. I had no idea what to expect, the only albums I really know are full-band, folk-rock affairs. But what a hell of a show.

He opened with a Woody Guthrie tune and then got political. Much of the show drew from his new album, heavily influenced by the 2004 presidential race. The songs were topical, but avoided the usual trite traps and are actually poignant as hell, and hella funny.

One song ran through the glorious first days of a Dan Bern presidency - statehood for Cuba and Mexico on day one, a ban on gasoline engines for day two, collective farms for the third day, all the troops come home on the fifth day, the death penalty is gone on day six, legalized pot on day seven, free universal health care on the eighth day, giving more dough to public schools on day nine, and day 10 it became legal to marry anyone you want. Funny on so many levels, the song parallels the creation myths with their wide-sweeping daily pronouncements, and the grand presidential 100-day agenda.

Then there’s the soldier’s lament with it’s heart-tugging chorus: “ But who do you think will push my chair / After the parade is over.”

Just one song from my favorite, New American Language, leaving off too damn many gems, I thought, but that’s all I could muster in the way of a complaint.

But we did get the classic “Tiger Woods,” with half-shock opening line of “I got big balls, big ol’ balls.”

I’m not even sure where all those songs come from, but the show was phenomenal. Bern closed with the all-too-simple singalong: “Bush Must Be Defeated.”

From there Z and I met up with my cousin and headed off to the Mogollon Brewing Company and the Mad I, Flagstaff favs that finished the ruination.

Sunday’s return journey took the stunning 89A south of Flagstaff, down from the Mogollon Rim to Sedona, then through the magic redland to the erie Jerome, a curious near ghost town clinging to the side of Mingus Mountain. Switchbacks galore and a European-style village, it’s just another example of Arizona’s remarkable strangeness.

Hello champs

Too bad they had to sweep, I was hoping for a lot of Halloween night drama. One hell of a postseason and it just kinda flashed out in the Series. Oh well, the last three Series were great and this one didn't hurt the fans at all.
It was a wacky game one, but dominating is the only way to put the last three games.
"We know we're idiots, we know we're cowboys, but we know we're world champtions." - Johnny Damon.
Way to go, Curt. Congratulations, Manny.
Next year, time for the Cubs...

On matters concerning a blood-red moon, Titan and honest-to-goodness hobbits

On Wednesday, science reared up and declared in no uncertain terms that it absolutely kicks ass. More ass than me, more ass than Peter Jackson, and damnit, science kicks more ass than all sorts of gods.
Just when baseball and politics were dominating the news, taking up everybody’s precious day-to-day brain space, here comes science out of nowhere, swooping in to smack everbody in the back of the collective head and say, “We found proof of hobbits!
The most significant evolutionary find in decades, at least, is amazing. Read the whole article, and search out more. A primitive halfling that may have even lived in trees? Man, doesn't science kick ass?
And while it was two decades of research and a seven-year space flight in the making, overnight we learned more about Saturn’s largest moon Titan than ever before. Perhaps an evolutionary cousin of Earth, Titan is larger than Mercury and the only known moon with an atmosphere. And we sent a spaceship to fly within 750 miles of it, snapping pictures of unprecedented detail all the while. Freaking amazing (Science kicks ass!).
Oh, and the lunar eclipse was captivating, an eerily beautiful site that seemed either otherwordly or ancient.

Science kicks ass.

Hootie at Tiger's wedding was bad enough.

What the hell idiot let Scott Stapp sing at the World Series? Seriously. This is a big fucking problem. That guy sucks, royally.
Donna Summer was bad enough, but at least she might faintly be considered a legend, of some sort. Creed is one of the most undeserving bands to ever record a song. They're hideous.
And some schmuck at Major League Baseball (or Fox, or the Cardinals) hired that guy to sing?
No, no, no... They shouldn't even sing "God Bless America" at ballgames anyway, let alone hire some no talent ass-clown to do it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Herky-jerky, methed-out neo-vaudeville

I caught this curious indie combo down at Congress last night - the Fiery Furnaces. In one of the rare shows I’ve caught without ever having heard the band, I was neither disappointed or impressed.
All I can say is that somebody needs to reign in this trend of massively hyped NYC indie bands.
This year’s Blueberry Boat got an obscenely high 9.6 rating from the inexplicably pretentious indie reviewers at Pitchforkmedia. That follows an 8.4 for their 2003 album Gallowsbird's Bark.
What I saw was a herky-jerky, methed-out neo vaudeville quartet.
There was the cute-enough lead singer (apparently Eleanor Friedberger) in a hipster feminist retro black dress, the floppy hipster haired bassist and guitarist and a drummer so spastic the Animal comparisons sprung to mind immediately.
All in all though, an unimpressive live band. The barely played for an hour, and didn’t seem to think music needed to be segmented into songs.
It was just this non-stop speed-up/slow-down routine; a few measures of crunchy guitar chords followed by electronic keyboard screeches, repeat.
What words I did catch were intriguing, seeming like a halfway stream of consciousness chant that could only be filled with deep about the hip urban existence.
The melodies were fun, when they existed. reviewers range from being “spellbound and giddy with pleasure” to saying the band is “even more pretentious than Radiohead; even less musical than Gwar.”
I guess the Fiery Furnaces are a specific, if not acquired, taste.
Then again, I was listening to clean-cut folkie John Stewart, he of the ballad “California Bloodlines,” in my car yesterday, which means I can’t possibly be cool enough to “get” the Fiery Furnaces.
An album would be worth a listen, I’m sure, but even at $6 I don’t reckon I’ll check them out live again.
There’s simply too much else going on, even just this next week in this desert outpost.
Calexico tomorrow, Dan Bern in Flagstaff Saturday, Rilo Kiley Tuesday...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tiger Woods is nothing more than a rich dork

Purely speculation here, but if I were to marry a gorgeous Swedish model, I would not have Hootie and the Blowfish play. Never. The lowest I’d possibly go would be Rod Stewart.
C’mon, how lame is golf? The most popular figure in the game’s history, the pinnacle of coolness on the links, and his wedding features the world-renowned talents of ... Hootie?