Monday, December 28, 2009

Rock in the Year of the Ox

So it's time to do the year in music blog entry. I think they take away my Internet access if I don't rank this year's releases in an arbitrary manner. Who am I to fight it? Here's all the music you should have been listening to this year.

Favorite 2009 Releases:

1. Banner Pilot -- Collapser
I've made two "Best of" blog posts here and Banner Pilot is talented enough to be on both lists. This year they made their Fat Wreck debut and simply made my favorite album of the year. They play a style of punk that can, if left in the hands of the uncreative, become repetitive and boring. Fortunately, the boys in Banner Pilot took their Fat debut seriously and made an full length album with no filler. I'm not exaggerating on that last point. Most bands would be happy to have one of the first nine tracks in their repertoire. The hooks do their job and the lyrics are still as fresh as last year's Resignation Day. For making the most complete album this year, Banner Pilot earns top spot.

2. Fake Problems -- It's Great to Be Alive
After a handful of EPs and a couple full lengths, Fake Problems's It's Great to Be Alive proved coming of age for the band. They somehow made their lyrics more mature but still kept all the fun. In addition, they infused horns beautifully and made some damn catchy singalongs.

3. Red Collar -- Pilgrim
I bought Pilgrim in early August in anticipation of a live show they were scheduled to perform in Springfield. I liked it at first, and my interest in the album slowly grew, but after their live performance, I was converted. The group brings an unparalleled energy to their show. Maybe it's unfair to give an album such a high ranking based largely on the band's live act, but every single time I listen to "Radio On" or "Rust Belt Heart" or "Used Guitars" or any other song off their debut album, I am reminded of that stormy August night at Lindberg's in Springfield when Red Collar gave it their all for, at most, 10 people. I bought the vinyl later and it's a beautiful, translucent red (what else?).

4. The Bootheel -- Gold Tops
I've had the privilege to follow a couple talented local bands this year. Among those, The Bootheel has proven to be one of the most promising. Their country/punk/rock sound rewards both casual and critical music fans. Gold Tops is a fun EP with some great beats. Unfortunately, I don't think the EP is available for order online yet. You'll have to contact the band for all the CD, but while you are at it you can ask for some homemade barbecue sauce, which they also produce.

5. The Gateway District -- Some Days You Get the Thunder
Minneapolis power punk makes another appearance on this year-end list and so does guitarist Nate Gangelhoff. He (of Banner Pilot) along with Marren and Carrie (both formerly of The Soviettes) made an album that ranges from crunchy hangover songs to twangy country numbers. I had been waiting for another Soviettes album because the vocal interplay between these two women is so good it's risque. The entire album is streaming at Punknews.

6. Chuck Ragan -- Gold Country
Despite Hot Water Music's sort-of reformation, Chuck Ragan is still pursuing his solo career. Gold Country builds on and improves upon his previous efforts. This has a cohesive quality that his previous efforts lacked. Also, let's be honest here, if you need someone to sing some country music for you, that someone should be Chuck Ragan.

6. Cropdusters -- Howdy
Another local band of some of the most talented musicians in town. They're some of the nicest dudes to boot. Howdy is a far too short EP that only covers a sliver of what makes this band great. I'm proud to be in the same area code as this band.

7. Cursive -- Mama, I'm Swollen
Never really considered myself a Cursive guy. However, every time I listen to them, I'm drawn in. I'm not sure why exactly. I got to see them live last month and it was quite the entertaining time.

9. Bomb the Music Industry -- Scrambles
Every time I listened to this album, I thought about how amazing it was. However, for some reason, the album (which is available for free at Quote Unquote Records) does not play on my MP3 player. Therefore, I didn't have the opportunity to listen to this album in my car, which is where I listen to most of my music. If fate set those digital songs free, who knows how high the album would be . . .

10. How Do We Jump This High? -- Deep Stationary
Great demo. Former members of Frames and Get Bent. Sounds like a marriage of Cursive and Latterman (but I'm never good at that game). Looking forward to more from this band in the future.

Releases That Might Have Made the Top Ten If I Hadn't Just Bought Them With Christmas Funds

The Lawrence Arms -- Buttsweat and Tears
Lucero -- 1372 Overton Park
Cobra Skulls -- American Rubicon
The Riot Before -- Fists Buried in Pockets
Red City Radio -- To the Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie

Other Albums That Didn't Make the Top Ten for One Reason or Another
Shook Ones -- The Unquotable AMH
Frank Turner -- Poetry of the Deed
Nothington -- Roads, Bridges & Ruins
Mike Hale -- Lives Like Mine
Yesterday's Ring -- Diamonds in the Ditch
Dear Landlord -- Dream Homes

Top Live Shows
1. The Lawrence Arms 10th Anniversary Show -- Chicago, Ill.
I still can't believe I got to go see my favorite band play a huge show in their hometown. It was an amazing birthday present that I will never forget.

2. Red Collar -- Springfield, Mo.
See above

3. Gaslight Anthem -- Kansas City, Mo.
After missing all but 2 songs the first time my buddies and I went to KC to see them, we made sure to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to get there. If you count the two song show where they opened for Alkaline Trio and Rise Against, I saw Gaslight Anthem 3 times this year. The KC headlining show with Heartless Bastards was the best of the trio. Also, my host got a text that morning that Gaslight was dining at a IHOP for breakfast. I'll never forgive him for not taking me to that IHOP. I could have had a danish with Brian Fallon!

So that was my year in music. Where did I go wrong? Based on my lists, what bands/albums would you recommend for me? Leave it in the comments. I'll get to it sooner rather than later.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Pulley Performer Picked to Prepare 'Pen at Progressive Park

Get stoked baseball and punk music fans! It was announced earlier today that Scott Radinsky will be the bullpen coach for the Cleveland Indians for the 2010 season. New manager Manny Acta must be a skate punk fan because he called up Radinsky from the Triple A Buffalo Bisons, where he was serving as pitching coach. Radinsky, as I've mentioned before, is the lead singer for the band Pulley and used to lead Ten Foot Pole.
As you probably know, most Major Leaguers have terrible taste in music. Now the Indians have an expert that can guide the bullpen and guide musical taste. Here's how it will probably go down:

The Cleveland Indian bullpen gathers for a meeting during spring training in Arizona. They sit at their lockers while Radinsky saunters around with a Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand, occasionally glaring at the pitchers before him.
Scott Fuckin' Radinsky: All right, hillbillies, let's go over some of your warm up song choices. Perez! What song are you using?
Chris Perez: I like "Firestarter" by Prodigy.
SFR: BORING! I bet you like apple pie and hot dogs, too, don't you, Chrissy?
Perez: Yeah, I . . .
SFR: That's enough. You are now warming up to "Skulls" by The Misfits. Masterson, what are you listening to?
Justin Masterson: "Rebirthing" by Skillet. It's pretty cool
SFR: Christen Nu-Metal? You're breaking new barriers in suck, Masterson. You're now rocking "Linoleum" by NOFX. I opened for NOFX when you were 9 YEARS OLD! Can you believe these kids, Kerry? What do you warm up with?
Kerry Wood: I don't use a warm up song, coach.
SFR: *spits out PBR* WHAT? Get the hell out of my bullpen? How are you still on this team anyway?
Radinsky storms into a storage closet and rolls out cart with a TV and VCR.
SFR: Okay, this is obviously going to be a year long struggle. It's a good thing I got some sweet videos to inspire you. Check this shit. *pulls video cassettes out of duffel bag* *blows into VCR slot* *pops in first video* This one is my first band called Ten Foot Pole. Can you say Ten Foot Pole? Ugh, just forget it.

SFR: You didn't know I had such cool moves did you? That was me shaking out the cancer. Here's me leading my current band. Notice the increased command that only a wily veteran can provide.

SFR: Okay, that's enough loafing for one day. Let's go practice by throwing rocks at Jhonny Peralta.

*everyone cheers*

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In the Batting Circle: NoMeansNo

One side effect of easy (and illegal) downloading is that it is too easy get immersed in the latest music and put blinders on to the predecessors. People used to take suggestions from bands they loved as clues to what made them the artist they are. Brendan Kelly of one of my favorite bands, The Lawrence Arms, has made his affection for NoMeansNo apparent on a couple of occasions. He and Neil (TLA and The Falcon drummer) raved about the band in an interview and suggested the album Wrong as a starting point.
As is the practice of today, I generally ignored the suggestion. But fortunately for me, I found the album recently and I've been rewarded with one of the most unusual and fulfilling albums I've ever heard. NoMeansNo consists of brothers Rob and John Wright, and Tom Holliston (Holliston replaced Alex Kerr in 1993). The one word that comes to mind when I listen to the band is "primal." It's a type of music that is noticeably complex, but somehow seems simple and, as I said, primal.
To say that NoMeansNo influenced the fellas from The Lawrence Arms is evident, but not superficial. The bass lines punch similarly to many TLA songs. The "Hoos" you hear on "The Routes We Wander" on The Falcon album and EP are taken from NoMeanNo's "Tired of Waiting."
Since I have very little experience with some older bands, I can't compare NoMeansNo with other bands. They share some qualities with Dead Kennedys. The experimental aspects seem like predecessors to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. Simply put, they're a fascinating band and Wrong is their masterpiece. Please to enjoy:

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Press Box Blues

Maybe I have a mix of cynicism and jealousy that keeps my ranting index up, but a few too many things popped up recently that were all too annoying and similar in scope, that it just has to be done.
During the this year's World Series, as with every World Series before it, hundreds of newspapers sent a reporter on an all expenses paid trip to one of the most sought after events on the planet. Such accommodations were not enough for some writers, including Philadelphia Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick. According to Fitzpatrick, he was too late to get to the usual press box (the Yankee Stadium spread was delectable!), so he had to go to an axillary box in the cold outreaches of new Yankee Stadium, where peons pay mere hundreds of dollars to have the same privilege.
We all would have huddled near the TV monitors for warmth had there been any TV monitors. Apparently it was OK for the cream of the nation's sportswriters to get wet but not for TVs.
Watching the TV and not the live action? Seems you could have done that from home.
Dan Levy then pointed out an irony recently. Murray Chass, who was a longtime sportswriter for the New York Times and currently blogs writes for his personal blog web site, got a press pass even though no one really reads his work anymore. What am I going to do though? The guy was forced out of a job that has no place for him anymore. Also, he fears stats more complicated than batting average, so his writeups could have been done by a robot.
Now that the season is over, general managers meetings and other MLB meetings take up baseball writers' valuable travel budget. Last year, GM meetings were held in Las Vegas and the St. Regis Monarch Resort in Dana Point, Calif. This year? The Airport Hilton in Chicago and the Winter Meetings are in Indianapolis, Ind. It's not so much that MLB is cutting down on expenses than those cities won the bid to host the meetings. But certainly beat writers won't complain about free travel, right? Oops.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In the Batting Circle: Vietnam Werewolf

We go from a band having a potentially detrimental name to a band that earns automatic nerd cred (redeemable at any comic book store or video arcade) with Vietnam Werewolf.
Vietnam Werewolf hail (hailed) from Cleveland, which I believe is the Da Lat of the Cuyahoga Valley. Their sole full length, titled Ohio's City was released in 2008. I only got a chance to listen to this album because of the site If You Make It. They have quite a few albums that are on the pay what you want system. I actually downloaded this a couple months ago, but forgot about it so you can probably guess how much I paid for it (In my defense, there are a couple albums on my computer now that I did buy and forgot about for a few months. It's the danger of not having physical copies of music.).
Ohio's City contains a wide range of pop punk, from singalongs of Dillinger 4 to the gritty dual vocals of Latterman to the complete and complex song structures of Thrice to the liberal and socially conscious lyrics of Rise Against. They were a talented band that did a great job of showing of their chops on their lone release. According to their Myspace page, the band more or less broke up within the past year. Matt (a staff reviewer at Punknews) is in college, Jon and Andy play in a band called Little Sister, which is a thrash band. Tim moved on to play in Echoes of Harper's Ferry, which is a similarly amazing band from Cleveland. (Their album was reviewed at Punknews by Matt. A little bit of a conflict of interest for everyone!)
Go to If You Make It to download this album and many more releases from bands wanting you to hear their work.
In maintenance news, can everyone see/work the audio player? Is it workable or should I use another player? Anyone know of a better mp3 player for blogs?
Enough with that. On with the show . . .

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Friday, November 6, 2009

In the Batting Circle: Murder By Death

It's tough to overcome prejudices. When I first heard of a band called "Murder By Death," I didn't know what to expect, but it couldn't have been good. They're doubling up on kill references in their name. Fortunately, I had a chance to hear their latest real album last year (they have since recorded a instrumental accompaniment to a graphic novel) and I was quickly converted.
No matter how many times I have to do it, I can never find proper words to describe their style. It's sort of spaghetti western meets metal. They take the dark, gritty imagery from both genres and make songs that sculpt figures better than Remington. Lead singer Adam Turla provides a distinct, deep baritone that depicts the lonely hired hand. He also has bad ass mutton chops. Sarah Balliet provides one of the most unique aspects to the band with her ominous cello play.
Despite these western Americana images, the truly epic stories give the songs a metal swagger. I had the opportunity to see the band open for Gaslight Anthem and there was definitely a guy holding an invisible skull. You know that move. The Hamlet.
Another reason this band is on my mind is because they are performing in my town of Springfield, Mo. on Dec. 5 at the Outland Ballroom. It is a benefit for Toys for Tots. (Previously mentioned The Bootheel will be opening.) If you live anywhere near the area, you must go. The last time the band played here in that venue, the intimate atmosphere made for one of the best shows I've attended. So check them out.
Image courtesy of Live Buzz of Bloomington, which has a more eloquent show review than I could pull off.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Defending the Bully

Congrats to the World Champion New York Yankees. I mean that. I really do. They were obviously the best team in baseball and proved that since August. A common reaction to the Yankee success is that they "bought" the championship. That, of course, is ignorant and juvenile.
The Yankees compete with the same rules as every other team. They spend more than any other team, but also contribute the most to the collective bargaining agreement. The more that the Yankees spend, the more money the Royals owners can pocket. Let's move onto teams like the Royals.
People complain that these small market teams can't compete with the monoliths in the Northeast. Here's my rebuttal: baseball owners are so rich that the OWN BASEBALL TEAMS. It's not like they are living CBA paycheck to CBA paycheck. Sure, MLB teams are investments like anything else, but it's easier to miss water falling out of a boat than to not make money in Major League Baseball. Look at the empty seats at the Metrodome for Twins games. That team will be in a brand new, open air (enjoy April) stadium next season.
Rhetorical friend: "Well, wouldn't a salary cap be more fair?" I respond: You're not even real. But to address your suggestion, a salary cap would be more "fair" but also far more boring. A hard salary cap is one of the worst aspects of the NFL. It makes teams nameless, faceless robot squads (actually, that kind of sounds cool). Regardless, it makes every team the same and then you have no "enemies," and only the manufactured pablum of faux outrage. Watch wrestling for that crap. You can hate the Yankees and the Red Sox for spending more on a number 5 hitter than your hometown spent on a water purification system, but you can only hate the Cowboys and the Raiders because of the colors of their uniform. Another theory I have is that if baseball really wants to clean up steroids, then a salary cap would not work. The NFL depends on steroids to keep its players at a relatively even playing field (have you seen people NFL linemen size in the real world? Didn't think so).
I'm not saying that baseball's system is perfect. A salary floor is a more palatable idea to me, but even that has its flaws. Also, as much as I and many other people would like the economic situation in baseball to change on some level, there is very little chance of that happening as long as that goose keeps pooping gold.
So hope for change, but don't go too far. Let's let the Evil Empire have this one. They may have to wait another nine years before they can buy another championship.
In other news, The Freak got caught with some sticky icky. It's probably the weakest drug a Cy Young winner has used in 14 years.
Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

King of Crap Mountain

Pabst Blue Ribbon is for sale. Tens of thousands of punks and hipsters just dropped their ironic monocle's in astonishment. Why would any intellegent business person want to sell one of the top commodities in America today (wedged somewhere between the Snuggie and the Blackberry Curve 2)? Sales have been up because of the poor economy and the rise of Girl Talk. Having grown up in the St. Louis area, this is almost as devastating as the Anheuser Busch sale (not quite, though, because A-B has HORSES!).
Whomever or whatever buys the brewing company, is going to need a marketer and that marketer should be me. What are my qualifications? I think I've been to enough hipster dive bars and choked down enough PBRs to deserve the position (or at least a button to put on my derby hat). What are my plans? I'm amazed you haven't asked yet. Here they are anyway.
1. No more sponsoring NPR Music's Online Concert Series. NPR is a bit too conservative for Pabst's demographic. PBR will be the exclusive beer sponsor of The Daily Show and This American Life. It's a working class beer for people of diverse political persuasions, you say? I have never seen anyone my parents age or older drink it. That said, won't drop the illusion of a working class beer altogether.
2. Commercials will have two themes.
  • Specialized Working Class: These commercials will feature grainy stock images of late 1930's union workers. Preferably working on docks (we'll photoshop PBR bottles in if we need be). For these ads modern day images of people actually working will never be used because it will just remind the target demographic that they do not contribute to society in a meaningful way.
  • Actual Use: These ads will feature 30 seconds at any hipster-heavy concert in the United States. These will include, but are far from limited to, Fleet Foxes, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, and Dillinger 4 shows (D4 show will be pixelated for the inevitable band nudity.). Any 30 second footage from these show will provide more than enough product exposure.
3. Pabst will be made artificially rare. Well, not the beer exactly. That needs to be readily available because most Pabst drinkers are lazy (they just say "PBR" because saying an actual word is for posers) and will move on to Miller High Life if Pabst isn't within grabbing distance. What will be made rare are the bottlecaps. They'll be made with various colors. We'll send out a press release saying, for example, that only 502 of the red caps have been and will ever be made. Those kids will pay a premium price for the beer if they think they can sell it on Ebay for a fortune. This will all be a lie of course. In six months, well make 500 more red caps and send out the same press release.
4. All Pabst Blue Ribbon merchandise will be sold exclusively through the Salvation Army.
5. New product idea: a Pabst stencil to be sold to tattoo artists. If we are going to have people advertise our product on their body for their entire life, let's make sure it doesn't end up on Actually, on second thought, we can sell two stencils . . .
So there is the gameplan to make Pabst Blue Ribbon the number one beer in the nation. The hard part will making sure the customers don't know when it happens.

The first image is taken from the blog No Brand Like Home which has an amazing breakdown of the viability of PBR.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the Batting Circle: Nothington

When an album you anticipate from a band that is relatively small time, you have to be patient. They don't have the means to produce a release every other month and even touring can be financially taxing. I took the patient approach with Nothington's new album Roads, Bridges, & Ruins because I was a big fan of their previous effort All In.
Nothington is Jay Northington, Gabe Lindeman (both formerly of Tsunami Bomb), Chris Matulich, and Tony Teixeira (No word on whether he chokes in important situations). They play a form of melodic punk reminiscent of Gunmoll with Hot Water Music Ragan-eque vocals. It's as good a combination as it sounds.
Roads is a progression for the band. as it should be. Most of the songs, especially "Stop Screaming," are far more complex than anything found on All In. That said, the album drops most of the country or Southern charm that the previous effort had. Roads is straight gravelly pop punk. A song like "The Ocean" has "whoa-oa-oa" gang vocals that just don't feel as sincere as on a song like "Where Is This Going?" on All In.
Another thing this album misses are the backing vocals of Emily Whitehurst, former lead singer of Tsunami Bomb. I get it. She isn't a full time band member and you don't want to be known as former _____ forever. That said, the strongest songs on All In featured the beautiful interplay between Jay and Whitehurst. If you have the opportunity to make your strongest songs with someone (a friend?), then swallow your pride and do it.
Despite my comparisons, Roads, Bridges, & Ruins is a strong release on it's own. Matulich's songs on this album are more cohesive to the whole than his previous efforts. Jay still writes fist pumping ballads that won't leave your head without a fight (see: "Best For Me"). I think the best way to experience this band would be to listen to this latest album first, then get the debut. I like saving the best for last, which explains why I am posting music after all this writing.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Outrage for Profit!

Recently, former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was named the new hitting coach of his former team. Even more recently, Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman took it upon himself to be the voice of tired anger.
A little background: McGwire was briefly the holder of the single season home run record. He was probably on massive amounts of beef 'roids while he did it. He has summoned to Congress for a dog and pony show. He didn't say anything about his steroid usage. He moved to a deserted island somewhere for years and hasn't even made a public appearance following the announcement of his recent hiring.
Jeff Pearlman is a guy who writes books about the moral depravity of athletes. He wrote The Bad Guys Who Won about the 1986 Mets, Boys Will Be Boys about the Barry Switzer Dallas Cowboys (sensing a theme?), and two books on steroid users: Love Me, Hate Me about Barry Bonds, and The Rocket That Fell to Earth about Roger Clemens. Each of these books is basically the written equivalent of a school marm lecturing you about skipping class.
So it comes as no surprise that Pearlman is tsk-tsking the hiring of McGwire as a hitting coach. He implies that McGwire had no talent beyond the strength the steroids provided.
His courage and strength were mirages. His greatness, well, very artificial.
That, of course, ignores the fact that McGwire likely didn't use performance enhancing drugs before entering the Major Leagues and that he led rookies in home runs when he was had the body frame of a mortal. I wonder if Pearlman thinks even he could be a big league hitter giving the right prescription.
McGwire is back in the baseball fold; back to teach today's ballplayers how to (egad) succeed the same way he did; back to offer wisdom.
Holy cats, I think he does believe that.
McGwire is joining the Cardinals to be the hitting coach, not open up a pharmacy. McGwire has already provided personal hitting instruction to various Major League hitters including Skip Schumaker, who passes the "eye test." (If Pearlman doesn't have to say "allegedly," then I can determine if a player uses PEDs by looking at them.)
McGwire isn't going to play in the field. What was done in the past is done. It can't change as much as Pearlman and the old fogey writers he apes want it to change. All the whining about the "Holy Bible" of baseball being the record book is ridiculous. The Taliban think Pearlman is too hung up on one book.
The real reason he has to kick and scream like a sweet sixteenager without The Fray performing at her party is because he needs that outrage. He needs as many people wary against shadowy enemies because that moral outrage is what moves his books. Because it isn't about steriods to him. It's about an arbitrary standard of good and evil. To him, you have to win the "right" way or not win at all. Just ask the 1986 Mets.
McGwire's rookie card provided by

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You've Been to "The Show:" Cropdusters &The Bootheel

Sometimes when you are a music fan (or art fan in general) in a smallish city, you tend to overlook some of the outstanding things going on while you pine for the elusive "other." I'm as guilty of that as anyone else. But I'm slowly coming around and am getting very fortunate to catch some talented bands based in Southwest, Missouri.
On Halloween, amid the debauchery of the "largest costume party in Missouri" (hang your hat on that Spring Vegas), the Highlife hosted one of the best local showcases in months. The Cropdusters headlined and Boogeymen and The Bootheel supported, but those roles fail to acknowledge how equally talented each group is.
I've briefly mentioned The Cropdusters before (or at least their lead singer). They play a fun style of southern/country rock that doesn't quite hit the "punk" mark, but is fun music nonetheless. Lead singer Jeb is a big Lucero fan and you can tell through his lyrics and slightly strained, yet steady vocals. Other lead singer Brian provides a change of pace vocally. His lyrics are often about life in the Ozarks and historically based. My current favorite song is Brian's "Quantrill," which is a fist pumping ballad for any self respecting Missourian that irrationally distrusts Kansans at best and openly despises any Jayhawker at worst. The Halloween show marked the final show for lead guitarist "Toad" Wyrick. I may have news on this front in the near future (I'm gonna scoop you, The Four Four!).
I missed the The BoogeyMen last night, so as to use my wristband at another bar (that wouldn't normally have a cover. Pub crawls are scams). I've seen them before and they are made up of an amalgam of local musicians and play western/rock-a-billy tunes, generally without vocals. They're fun and always play with masks, so I'm sure the effect was a little lost on Halloween.
The opening band, The Bootheel, played a loud set, which is their wont. They play a mix of punk, country, rock, and roots music to make a delicious glaze of goodness. (Not coincidentally, they make their own barbecue sauce. I kid you not. I bought some. It's delicious.). The band describes their sound as "aggressively Midwestern." It's an apt description and it makes you proud to be from the same area and culture that produces such amazing music.
Both these bands had their debut releases this year: The Cropdusters with Howdy and The Bootheel with Gold Tops.
If you live or will visit Springfield, Jeb and Brian from The Cropdusters and Todd from The Bootheel play acoustically at Lindberg's every Tuesday night for free. It's a unique event that not enough Ozarkians patronize.
For your sonic pleasure:

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Image courtesy of The Four Four, a local music blog that updates far more than I and is a valuable resource for the music scene in southwest Missouri.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doing the AL for some reason

The consistent blogging thing is for squares. That said, I always want to complete what I start (except the season preview, that was a bit too ambitious). The only reason I did it though was to post some cool videos of bands so that's pretty much what I am going to do.

Minnesota Twins: They had no chance. To be honest, the team pretty much sucked. But they beat the Tigers in a 73 inning tie breaker game, so good on them. They'll always have The Replacements.

Boston Red Sox: This team had a chance. Jon Lester was the key. Unfortunately, all the chowds are crying like Tom Brady's baby's mama. Here's a band that looks like a bunch of Casey Blakes (tip of my cap to Drew at Ghostrunner on First)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: It doesn't matter how often I see it, that name is ridiculous. However, people adding a bunch of locales for humorous effect are more annoying. Stop it. It's not clever. Speaking of ridiculous: 50 year old man singing about being Mommy's Little Monster. I'm still a sucker for it.

New York Yankees: Probably the favorite to win it all (at this point). They haven't won in a decade or so. Certainly, their fans will be humble and reserved when they win number 27, amirite? Does Long Island count as New York? Do you think they have Yankee fans there? This band was from that area. (Not representative of album audio quality, obviously)

Got that done. Hey, look here. Bonus video:

This was brought to my attention by Rob at Some bar in Wrigleyville moonlighted as a punk club back in 1984, before it became to popped collar brofest that it is today. From Chicago? What do you know about this bar? Leave a comment. It's been a while.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Starting at an Ending: NLDS

Playoffs have finally arrived and the teams are set (at least for the National League). So let's run down the "best" of the senior circuit and see how these boyos match up. In addition, we'll get some tunes from each city's respective scene.

Philadelphia Phillies: One of the top teams in this league, the Phillies did it with good ole mashing. Put Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard in a lineup and you really have no choice but to score some runs. The defending champs have a nearly identical lineup to last year, save a substitution of Raul Ibanez (who had an unusually good excellent first half) for Pat Burrell. Starting pitching is strong on paper with lefties Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and J.A. (sounds like "Jay." Seriously) Happ and and old Pete Martinez with the valuable "veteran leadership." They're a tough club. There has to be some weakness. Oh, well there is this guy.Yeah, that might be a slight problem they'll have to look into. The Phils have homefield advantage and take on the Rockies.
Philly has some damn good music. Not many better than this band:

Colorado Rockies: This year's wildcard (which lately has meant World Series favorite) got to where they are by disciplined hitting and great pitching by Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa and out of his element pitching by Jason Freakin' Marquis. Not to mention, they fired their manager mid year. Hey, it worked for the Penguins, amirite? But let's not kid ourselves. If this team makes the World Series, we're all going to be bored out of our skulls. Remember the Red Sox-Rockies World Series? Of course, you don't.
This song's called "Joe California" but it's by a band from Colorado. Crazy worldly, I know.

St. Louis Cardinals: "My" team was a rag tag band of merry players that used grit and determination to lead the league in goodwill and hearty wins. Not really. Two Cy Young candidates and groundball wizard Joel Pineiro provided some stability in the rotation. The front office pushed their chips (read: top prospects) all in for masher Matt Holliday to protect Lord Pujols in the lineup. With any luck the peripheral players will play the slightly above replacement level that that are paid to do.
Unfortunately, not much to choose from but this is a pretty damn good song:

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Cards face the NL West Champion Dodgers. The Dodgers had a hot start this season after getting some decent pitching from Chad Billingsly and Clayton Kershaw and some hot hitting from Manny Ramirez, who has been coming off his 'roid cycle. But like the Cards, they lost a bunch of games as they entered the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see which team decides it's worth it to play games 163-168 of this long season.
LA has some legendary punk bands and I could choose any number of great music. However, I want everyone to root for the Cardinals, so here's a reason not to root for Los Angeles: the town brought you this travesty:

It's like Snoop Dog is endorsing a Juggalo band.

Go Cards.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kings

Hey, it's nearly damn playoff time. The summer went fast, per usual. My team of choice clinched their spot in the playoffs and you can read a few of my thoughts on that here and here. The interesting thing is that even though there are less than ten games left in the season, not all the spots are decided yet. Will the Tigers hold on or will they Fernando Rodney their playoff chances? That's right Fernando Rodney is now a verb and Tigers fans know what it means. In St. Louis, it's pronounced Isringhausen, but diverse speech accents are what make America grand.
The proximity of the World Series had me thinking about the Yankees and the Cardinals: the two teams with the most championships. Now the Yankees have the most by far with 26. The Cards are a distant second with 10. But how did those teams do it? Existing for over 100 years helps. But what did the Yankees do to be so successful? You have to remember that these teams won in a time when there was no such thing as free agency. Players stuck with their team until they were traded away. So the Yankees began their success with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Having control over such great players made the team the premier franchise in league. The players knew they had to stay with the team as long as the team said. Wouldn't the best players want to be with the franchise that can pay the most and/or give the best opportunity to win? Success breeds success, indeed.
Also, there was no such thing as a farm system. The farm system was pioneered by the Cardinals. It gave the team a deep pool of players from which to choose their major league roster. That pioneering can probably explain some of the Cards' success.
Now that free agents keep players on the move and each team has a farm system to support the big club with cheap, young talent, the MLB is close to being the best possible system for league "parity" without the boring, facelessness of the NFL. Every team has a chance as long as their management doesn't spend 17 years thinking Jack Wilson type players are the key to your future championships.
In the music world, some of my favorite artists are or have put out new albums. Already out there are new releases by Frank Turner, Banner Pilot, Chuck Ragan, The Gateway District, and Pissed Jeans. Look out for upcoming music by Nothington and Lucero. It's a damn good time for new music. That's what makes it even weirder that I am ending with this song:

Poster of our heroes hawking cancer sticks courtesy of Deco Dog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Big Show: Red Collar

Wednesday night shows are hard to pull off. It's hump day. The week barely started and it's barely over. I gotta work in the morning. But here I am, writing a show review of one of those Wednesday night "messes." Lindberg's in Springfield, Mo., is the best venue in town as far as sound and atmosphere. The sound system was put together by a real musician and the decor was designed by true music fan. Each show is looked over by beautiful portraits of patron saints Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits.
On this nondescript Wednesday evening, Red Collar was to perform at Lindberg's. It was a fill in show. They weren't even supposed to be there, but fate brought them to the edge of the middle of nowhere.
Mark Bilyeu of popular local band Big Smith opened the night with a talented and entertaining set. My friend Brett and I came in during the beginning of Bilyeu's set. He entertained the sparse crowd with bluegrass, old rhythm & blues, and alt country songs. I listened casually as I watched the Cardinals game, which was just getting started in L.A. The Cards got out to a 2 run lead and Adam Wainwright looked unhittable until the 7th inning. By that time, Bilyeu finished his set. A DJ was spinning his rockabilly and old r&b records by that time. The bartender very briefly changed the TV to the Weather Channel. It said we were in a thunderstorm warning and tornado watch. My buddy and I looked at each other and kind of gave each other the same quizzical look. Then we looked to the monsoon outside. Sideways rain and not infrequent lightning danced outside. We hadn't noticed before, but now we thought about trekking to our cars in this piss poor weather. As we looked away from the meteorological commotion outside, Wainwright gave up a solo homer. The game ended up tied by the end of the 7th.
Red Collar humbly took the stage. They sound checked and knocked into their first song. Now, you'll have to forgive me because I just very recently started listening to this band so I can't really give you proper song titles, but rest assured: this band brought it. As sheets of rain relentlessly beat against the windows at Lindberg's, Red Collar brought equal intensity. Jason Kutchma led the way as if he was conducting a hurricane. Guitarist Mike Jackson never stopped his kinetic rhythm. Beth Kutchma kept some tight beats on bass and drummer Jon Truesdale is as talented a drummer as you'll find. The band's songs pierced each listener at the venue. Driving rain, relentless beats, and flashes of lightning and greatness illuminated. During the song "Pilgrim" I saw through a window a streak of lightning strike across the empty sky. It was a goosebumps moment.
The room was moving. Here's the kicker: there were six (myself included) standing close to the stage and about eight people sitting at the bar or working the sound.
With such an anemic turnout, the band could have given a quick, minimal performance. But they played the house as if it was packed to the gills. After the initial set, local talented musician Jeb started the "One more song" chant. Jason asked, "One more song? How about we do two?" All six to eight of us erupted. Jason explained that he was trying out some solo work. He performed Tom Waits' "Better Off Without A Wife," with altered lyrics that were meant as a tribute to his wife Beth. The band closed with "Used Guitars" (I think) (Confirmed!).
During the set, the rain slowly died down. I looked back to the Cards game. Ryan Franklin just saved his 31st game of the season in a 3-2 game.
Jon and Jason both promised that the band would come back in September. Here's what you need to do. Contact the band and demand that they tour within 200 miles of your town. I know how it is when you live near podunk. You only travel far when it is a band you know and you trust will be worth the gas. As someone in your shoes, you'll have to trust me: if this band tours near you, go see them.
Here's a couple reasons why:

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Friday, August 7, 2009

What's your card?

It was recently announced that Topps would be the "exclusive" trading card producer for Major League Baseball. This pretty effectively eliminates all competition from the baseball card industry. Good bye, Fleer. Good bye, Bowman. Good bye, Score. Probably good bye, Upper Deck. It was reported recently that Upper Deck has a deal with the MLB Players Association. They say they'll continue to produce cards in 2010. It'll be odd, but I can see some lame cards with players in front of a black background wearing non-descript t-shirts that vaguely happen to be the same color of their team. Topps head honcho Michael Eisner (yes, that Michael Eisner) says he is doing it to not confuse kids or some such crap. Let's call a spade a spade here. It's an exclusivity deal that eliminates competition and creates a monopoly on the market.
Before this mess was announced, I had been looking around a local flea market. I found big box that looked to be a complete set of cards from the late 80s/early 90s. I know it's a cliche, but remember when that would have been worth a sheik's ransom? I began collecting when I was 9 or 10. I received a large number of cards from someone who was a big collector. They were all the same year and brand. Because that is the majority of my collection and was my first card, it became my brand. The 1988 Score card. It wasn't flashy like Upper Decks or Topps cards, but they all had good in-game pictures and nice write-ups on the players on the back. Each pack also had a Magic Motion Trivia Card with some sort of fact that I would hurry up and forget. As with everything on planet Earth, there is a blog dedicated to completing a set of 1988 Score. A least a couple people are dedicated to the brand.
I spent a few summers looking for new cards and organizing them by team in my baseball card binder. Unlike the cliche, I still have the binder, so when the baseball card market finally rebounds, I'll be ready. Suckers.
Anyway, anytime there is news about baseball cards, it gets me a little nostalgic like most guys my age. But, like most things in life, we move on, we forget. The cards just seve as a bookmark in a long line of important "forgettable" life moments.

Baseball card images courtesy of

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nerd Alert: Curveball Edition

I'll take a quick break from doing nothing and take a look at one of the consistent marvels of the game: the curveball.
In the baseball blogosphere, there is a whole genre of stat centric sites that try to determine the value of players. Beyond simple boxscore, stat analyzers are another set of writers who examine the physics and effectiveness of specific pitches. Check out Fangraphs for a world of stats you have never even considered.
Check out this article by Dave Allen at Fangraphs from earlier this year. In it, he analyzes the vertical and horizontal motion of curveballs thrown by Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, and Brad Penny. Notice this chart. The 0 in the "Vertical Movement" axis represents how much the ball moves vertically from the release point to the plate. Incidentally, the horizontal axis represents how much a ball moves toward or away from a hitter. As you can see, Wainwright and Halladay have much more overall movement on their pitches than Penny, which is why an indicator of why their curveballs are more effective than Penny's.
But also look at this visualization that I have just recently seen. It won an award for optical illusions. (Sorry, I can't seem to embed the visualization.) Follow the directions and notice how much the ball appears to curve away even though it is always moving in a straight line.
Despite the cool optical surprise, I'm not sure what it tells us about curveballs in real life baseball. If this is supposed to somehow represent the deception of a curveball, then it is an aerial view of a curve with no horizontal movement. It doesn't give us an idea of what that motion looks like from a batter's point-of-view. The batter, catcher, and umpire (presumably) have their eye on the ball the whole time. Keeping your eye on the ball in the visualization keeps the sphere in its true path. But certainly, the spin on the ball plays some slight trick on the battery. If a pitch is moving up around eight inches from its release point and the spin creates an illusion of movement, it is a wonder that anyone can hit the pitch, let alone on a consistent basis.
If you are interested in a much more informed analysis of pitches, check out Drew Fairservice's "Kicking and Screaming" recurring feature at Walkoff Walk.
In completely unrelated news, if you ever have to explain the infield fly rule to anyone, just play this song by The Isotopes.

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The Isotopes four-song EP titled Heatseaker is being digitally distributed by Red Scare Industries. Each song has to do with baseball. Sounds so familiar.

Curveball pitching data image courtesy of Dave Allen at Fangraphs.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


A few months back I picked up new record player from Target. Shortly thereafter, I sought out records at some local flea markets and thrift stores. One flea market booth had huge racks of albums with a wide variety of music. I found some Dylan and some Ray Charles, but I also found a couple punk albums like Government Issue's Boycott Stabb, and an album by a band called Volcania called L'agression. As you can see from the picture it had a goofy looking bat and a sticker on the front that said "The Leading French Punk Group." I had never heard of them, but that didn't mean anything because there are a lot of older, important punk bands that I don't know about.
I put on the record and did some research online for more information about Volcania. Or at least I tried to find information about them. There weren't a lot of Google hits and most of the information was in French, a language I most assuredly do not speak. The best information on the band I could find was on a French site called the "France Metal Museum." According to the Google translation of this site, the band was formed in 1976. Apparently, the band was originally named HLM. Before they recorded in 1977, the record label, Dream Music Records, forced the band to change their name (don't ask me why). Volcania was born. The group consisted of Pierre Brusco on guitar, his brother Yves "Vivi" Brusco on bass and lead vocals, Omar El Mabrouk Ben on drums, and Thierry Van Hooland on lead guitar and backing vocals. The band, under the Volcania moniker, toured to promote the album, but it didn't sell well. Pierre left the band later that year. The remaining guys renamed the band HLM (I want to know what it means just as badly as you do) and the toured a while longer. Eventually everyone went their separate ways. Volcania didn't even last a year. Matt Canino is in awe. Members of the band went on to perform with Trust and a band called Trash.
But in that year, they made an album. I did a review of the album on Punknews already but I'll go over some of my thoughts on it again. It's definitely a product of its time. Vivi has some nice aggressive vocals, a little like Iggy Pop's. The musicianship is tight. I especially appreciate the bass work and the lead guitarist, who has some ripping solos. It's a bit of a Stones and/or Who sound. My favorite tracks are the lead track "Mais C'est Seulement Du Rock And Roll" (But It's Only Rock and Roll) and Fille De Joie (Daughter of Joy). I don't understand a word of the lyrics, because, again, the French.
My guess is that because they album did so poorly in France, the label decided to ship a bunch of records to the U.S. to see if their sound would fly here (not without the sticker though. It means they are exotic). I have no idea how rare this album is. When I first researched it, there were a couple up for sale on Ebay, but neither entry is there now. Also, I have not been able to find the tracks digitally anywhere.
Until now. I am going to bring Volcania to the English-speaking, 21st century. Fortunately, my record player has a USB port which allows me to rip albums digitally. Unfortunately, I have no experience doing this. That means the tracks I have may not necessarily be of top quality. I tried my best. The vinyl itself is very clean for being over 30 years old. There are only a couple times that cracks are too noticeable. Otherwise, I hope the audio is sufficient. Let me know if you have problems downloading the album.
Also, if the person or organization that owns the rights to this music wants me to take down the album, please let me know through my email on the left side of the page.
Now, ladies and gentlemen: Volcania.