Friday, October 13, 2017

Fat Friday Feature: Louis Johnson On Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'"

The Fat Friday Feature is a semi-regular post that showcases a great bass part.  Today, I'm going to explore Louis Johnson's bass on Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'". 

Louis Johnson is one of the giants in the bass world, yet it is criminal how few people (including bass players) actually know him by name.  For better or for worse, he's one of the fathers of the very popular slap bass method.  You've definitely heard his work - "Strawberry Letter #23", "Get On The Floor", "Billy Jean" - because he was the go-to bass player for producer/composer Quincy Jones. Louis was earning a steady pay check.  Like a lot of players showcased in the Fat Friday Feature, there's probably a hunnert bass lines I could showcase by him.  But I like how this one snuck up on me - he definitely and anonymously got on my radar backing the guy with the second best beard* in rock n' roll:  Michael McDonald.

"I Keep Forgettin'" has a groove that creeps up on you.  I love how the bass line is so tightly locked in with the bass drum.  And because he was an early adopter of the now legendary Musicman Sting Ray bass, he cast a particular well worn tonal mold that is still quite popular today.  Indeed, it is one that I'm quite familiar with - I own a 1977 Sting Ray, which was only the second year they were made.

I also love that there are all sorts of little bass "Easter eggs" - nimble fills that sneak up here and there when you least expect it.  But Louis Johnson's playing, helped in part from the drumming from that guy from Toto, takes a song that otherwise is pretty sucky and makes it memorable.

 *-The best beard award going to fellow yacht rocker Kenny Loggins.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Songwriting 101: Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'"

Tom Petty's death has (rightly) spawned lots of coverage and tributes.  I've listened to some interviews, read some factoids, and even put a highly recommended Tom Petty documentary in our Netflix queue.  Honestly, I felt sort of bad when he died.  What struck me about Tom Petty is how utterly normal he seemed; from the simplicity of his tunes to his outlook on life.  In the interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air", he talked about how the tour he just completed was likely his last because he wanted to spend more time with his grandkids.  That is SO not rock n' roll, man.  Even is death was kind of normal - he died of a heart attack.  Also not rock n' roll at all.

As his songs flood the airwaves this week, it has made me think about my relationship with his music.  I've concluded that it's sort of a funny relationship because I don't think of myself as a Tom Petty fan at all, and yet he actually has a lot of songs I really like.  Even more interestingly, I seem to like each song for a different reason.  For example,  "The Waiting" (one of my faves) features that Rickenbacker twelve string sound I love so much.  Apparently Tom did too - he cites the Byrds and the Beatles as two bands he had hope to emulate, and both used Rickenbackers to great effect.  I'm also a huge Byrds fan, so that song was a natural fit for me.  "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" has a sort of ass kicking vibe to it, helped in large part by the loud chorus, which contrasts with the cool, Hammond B3 laden verses.  Doing the duet with Stevie Nicks was a brilliant choice as her voice is perfect for that song (never thought I'd type that), and that fact that it lends itself to amazing covers is also a tribute to that song.  [Edit:  I guess since it is on Stevie's record, she invited him to sing, not vice versa.  Still. . .]  We played "Don't Do Me Like That" at the 4th Street Art Festival last month and, though it's not a favorite for me to listen to, it's damned fun to play.  His brilliant use of the music video medium made "Don't Come Around Here No More" even more appealing to me.  That and the cool sitar-sounding guitar.  I could keep going, actually, which is sort of surprising to me, especially since I don't own a own a single Tom Petty tune.

"Free Fallin'" isn't a particularly interesting song to me - except for the lyrics.  It's one of those songs that makes me envious that I hadn't thought of it.  I am absolutely captivated by the vivid, evocative imagery of this song.  We all knew the "good girl" in the song; we've seen her with her heart broken by the "bad boys" and "vampires".  I also like the "fuck it" desperation that the last verse alludes to; this idea of going out in a (romantic) blaze of glory.  As the Stranger says, I've done innerduced this song enough.  Have a gander at the lyrics yourself and see what you think.

She's a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She's a good girl, crazy 'bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too
It's a long day livin' in Reseda
There's a freeway runnin' through the yard
And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her
I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart
And I'm free, free fallin
'Yeah I'm free, free fallin'
All the vampires walkin' through the valley
Move west down Ventura Blvd.
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
All the good girls are home with broken hearts
And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'Free fallin', now I'm free fallin'
Now I'm,Free fallin', now I'm free fallin
'I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I'm gonna free fall out into nothin'
Gonna leave this world for awhile
And I'm free, free fallin'Yeah I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah I'm free, free fallin'Oh! Free fallin'
Now I'm free
Oh!Free fallin'

The More You Know: That Soft Cell Song Is A Cover

I watched a movie trailer this morning that used Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" to great effect.  You know this song - it's a great song, and it is mandatory playing at any American wedding reception:

 But did you know that that song is actually a cover from a version that was released in 1964?  It also is very good, but totally not what you're used to.  Check out Gloria Jones' version (the original version) of "Tainted Love":

I didn't know Soft Cell's version was a cover until about five years ago.  But now you know and can enjoy them both!


Friday, September 22, 2017

MB On The "Earth Eats" Podcast

I've totally forgotten about this - the annual salsa planning party that my wife Mary Beth attends every year was showcased on the "Earth Eats" podcast.  I had hoped to embed it, but I don't think I can.  So go check it out!  It's great stuff.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

[UPDATED] Link Dump 20 September 2017

Here's some audio related stuff you should probably read:

[UPDATE] I just watched this - "How Flea Plays Bass".  I love stuff like this and could watch it all damn day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Day At Russian Recording

I had the good fortune of getting to spend the day yesterday at Russian Recording with my friend Caleb Weintraub.  We were working on a tune that Caleb wrote and recorded at home; and we had the whole day to work on just this one tune, with a focus on not only recording new guitar, bass and vocal tracks, but cleaning up/messing up (whatever the song called for) the tracks we brought in with us.  This was exciting for a number of reasons, but probably at the top of that list is the fact that Caleb and I have been talking about getting into a studio for years.  The track has yet to be mastered, but it already sounds fantastic thanks in large part to the skills of engineer Matt Tobey.  And for the record, if you can't get along with Matt, you can't get along with anybody.  He was game to try anything we wanted, and he did it with complete grace and cheerfulness.  His input was useful and most welcome. He was an utter professional.
The mixing board at Russian Recording.
Some of the instruments owned by Russian Recording.  I was
loving the Gibson RD Artist bass (second from left) in particular,
though I did not plug it in.

I arrived around 10 AM, and Matt was already setting up.  Caleb arrived moments later, and I proceeded to practically overdose on black coffee as we began the process of listening to and "re-amping" select tracks of Caleb's densely layered, multi-tracked composition.  Re-amping involves sending a pre-recorded track out of the control room through an amp that is in the live room.  The amp is mic'd and then re-recorded, allowing us to fine tune the pre-recorded tracks using the settings on the amplifier. It makes a huge difference.  That process took us about two hours, but it was a great, simple way to make each track more unique than it was when we came in to the building.

When it came time for me to lay in my bass track, I did so on my upright bass.  That went pretty smoothly, but we went ahead and recorded the same bass line on an electric bass that the studio had.  Ultimately, we decided to go with the electric bass track as it seemed much tighter, much more precise.  Interestingly, we didn't lose much in terms of the "largeness" of the sound; the vintage Kramer bass I used did a shockingly good job approximating the sound of an upright even though that was not necessarily our intention.  We had talked about doing a third bass line with fills and nifty little bass tricks, but decided to forgo that to keep the song from being too cluttered. I'm delighted with the tone we got as well as the run itself.
I did the first take on my upright (left), but we ended up using
the takes I recorded with the studio's beautiful old Kramer bass,
which features an aluminum neck and (I think) body.

A closer look at the Kramer, which is a dead simple and lovely
sounding instrument.  The neck was super fast as well - just
a nifty bass.  Learn more about them here.
It was fun watching Caleb work.  He got the guitar parts done quickly, and really worked hard on the vocal parts.  Among the challenges he faced with the vocal parts was the fact that he was singing this tune in a falsetto, which, if you have to do multiple times, can really wear out your voice quickly.  This was also exacerbated by the fact that Caleb is allergic to cats, and the studio has at least three cats.  (Though Lil Bub's dad owns the studio, Lil Bub was not present.)  But Caleb did multiple takes of every vocal part (and there are many), all of which were pretty damn good.  It was nice to have a lot to choose from.
Caleb Weintraub
Caleb practicing his guitar parts in the control room.
This tune doesn't sound like anything I've ever done, which is one of the big reasons I'm so excited about it.  I'm not sure what we'll do with it after it has been mastered, but there has been some interest in the song already - that's about all I can say about that.  I'll post it here if I can.  One thing's for sure:  we've both got the bug to go back.  Caleb already has a number of songs that are ready to be recorded.  The biggest limiting factors at the moment are time and money.  But if that changes, I hope to have a lot more to share with you.
Gratuitous photo of my upright bass.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't send out a hearty thank you to Mary Beth for holding down the fort while I was out playing rock star.  I would never take that for granted.  I am so glad, so thankful for all you do that allows me to do this, Mary Beth.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Dance: Pete And Keri

Welp, my fifteenth wedding anniversary fast approaches.  It's a great time to reflect upon the life my wife and I have built; it's a great time to relive our wedding day, which we both agree was pretty damn fun.  I did an entry last year about our first dance, but I also reached out to some friends and family to learn more about their first dances.  I thought I'd highlight my friends Pete and Keri's first dance for this entry.  Pete answered my questions via email.

Pete and Keri's first dance as a married couple was to a live band ("They were very good!" - Pete) playing the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere":

Pete reasoned that they wanted something that was "classic and classy and had some staying power" rather than something that was "fleeting or trendy".  If they had it to do over again, Pete thinks they would've selected the same tune since he doesn't recall "being overwhelmed by any romantic tunes since then that have any deep, meaningful significance".  The tune has a special place in his memory, and when he listens to the tune now, he feels a comfort in its familiarity; it hearkens him back to a simpler time.  Although "Here, There and Everywhere" isn't in any regular rotation at Pete and Keri's house, it does pop up from time to time when the music is on "shuffle".

What was your first dance, married people?  Leave your stories in the comments.

Other first dances:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Isolated Vocal Tracks From The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice"

I don't care what you think of the Beach Boys, it's hard to find a performance with this much precision.  I mean, these harmonies are on rails, man.  I love isolated tracks, because often you can hear small imperfections that are buried in the final mix.  There's nothing wrong with the small imperfections; in fact I find it kind of charming.  But damn, this is perfect as it is.  I wonder if they got it on the first take.  Anyway, enjoy this.  I know I did.

Hate Sounds: Food Noise [UPDATED]

I know - I see the word "hate" in the headline and it felt harsh to me as well.  But you have hate sounds too.  We all do.  Don't be judging.  I'll prove it:  how do you feel when you hear nails against a chalkboard?  That's what I thought.  But you know what is a more common, bloodcurdling sound for me?  Freakin' food noises, man.  They repulse me.  It shouldn't be such a big deal, but they can put me in a pretty foul-ass mood.  Maybe you feel the same way.  How do you react when you hear the following:

  • Chewing out loud/talking with your mouth full.  C'mon, man.  Your mom raised you better than that.  For some reason, both are very common in TV and movies, and it drives me fucking nuts even in these fictional situations.
  • Slurping.  I know in many Asian countries, it's considered rude to not slurp your food; but as long as I'm stateside, I ain't havin' it.
  • Chewing ice.  I never really noticed this until I moved desks at work.  Someone behind me chews ice on a regular basis, and it sends me running.
  • Mindlessly scraping your spoon into your cereal bowl/yogurt cup.  You know what?  Scraping your spoon 600 times in your cereal bowl while you talk or space out will not yield any more cereal than doing it consciously 5 or 6 times.  That "CLANK CLANK CLANK" of a spoon against a ceramic bowl might not register for you; but everyone else probably wants to choke you.
Those are the big four that I can think of, but there may be more.  I'm pretty sensitive to the whole thing, but I don't feel crazy for thinking that if I can hear you consuming food and I'm across the room with my back to you, then I'm not the one in the wrong.  I do think it's a manners thing, but I also think - like the nails against the chalkboard noise - it's a primal, ingrained distaste that I can't control.

Okay - end of rant.  There's enough negativity in the world without me adding to it in my own, pointless little way.  Here's hoping that those who read this will be more cognizant of their own food noises.  Don't worry - eventually, I'm going to do some posts about "comfort sounds" - sounds that have the opposite effect of hate sounds.  What are some of your hate sounds?  Leave 'em in the comments.

[UPDATE]  I forgot to add burping to the list above.  The only time burping is funny is when Rick does it on "Rick and Morty".  (Especially when he's saying something while burping.  That shit cracks me up.)  Farting?  Funny.  Burping?  No.  Not funny at all.  I used to laugh my ass off at burps in 5th grade; it's maybe one of five things I've grown out of.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Creekdogs Reunion At Indy Folk Fest!

When the Creekdogs split up in 2013, I was pretty sad about it.  Truthfully, I understated how sad I was.  But like the article says, you never know what the future will bring.  Gratefully, it has brought us back together for a short set on August 5th at the Indy Folk Fest (in addition to the previously announced gig at Apple Works).  We'll only be playing for thirty minutes at this family friendly event, so make sure you're on time. If you blink you might miss us!  We'll hit the stage at 6:45 PM.  Stick around for lots of great music, including music from my friends Amigo Fields.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Concert Review: Vulfpeck [With Links To The Show!]

Who:  Vulfpeck  (Opener was Joey Dosik)
When:  13 May 2017, 8:30 PM
Where:  The State Theater, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Short Take:  Unless super expensive light shows and over-the-top stage production are your thing, you will not see a better concert this year, period.  Feel your battered, cynical heart blossom into an organ of hope and life.  Feel your soul  inspire (and believe) the words that comprise stupid sentences like the previous one.  Smile and feel unsinkable like a junior high kid with a nasty crush and a great song in his head.  In these strange times, there's nothing more subversive than that.

The Set List:  All links are from the the very show reviewed in this blog entry - thank you, Internet.
(Major thanks to Paul Zink for tracking the set list and finding links to the show.)
Conscious Club
My First Car (w/ Jack Stratton drum solo)
The Speedwalker/Sky Mall
[Stratton father/son jam]
Aunt Leslie
[Stratton mom "Funky Duck" dancing lesson]
Funky Duck
Boogie On Reggae Woman
Wait For The Moment
[Jack Stratton flash fundraiser for school in Flint, MI]
Back Pocket (w/ a capella intro)
Animal Spirits
Beastly (bass solo #1, #2, and #3, with alternate view of solo #3)*
Cory Wong

Encore: Dean Town
* - A note from Paul:  "The guy on YouTube has them mislabeled.  His "solo #1" is technically #2; his "solo #2" is really #3.  Solo #1 is usually the shortest, so maybe people don't consider this a "solo".

More:  Pete, Paul and I trucked up to Ann Arbor, Michigan this past Saturday to go see Vulfpeck; though we were all familiar with their tunes, none of us had seen them live before.  Although we all expected it to be pretty good, we didn't know what we would be seeing at all.

The venue for it was great - seeing concerts in old, ornate theaters always give the show a sense of occasion in my mind.  Probably the worst thing about the venue was you had to be a part of some club or something to buy beer.  You can join the club on the spot, but it reeked of some sort of weird extortion scheme.  If you didn't join the club, you had to settle for watered down Maker's Mark.  As a result, I had only one whiskey. Which is probably just as well.  I don't see how booze would've enhanced my experience even a little.  In fact, my two runs to the bathroom had me miss precious opening seconds of both Joey Dosik and Vulfpeck.  Stupid small bladder.

Joey Dosik opened.  I had never even heard of the dude though if I was a hardcore Vulfpeck fan, I would have:  He collaborates with them often.  He stayed on a Fender Rhodes piano for his whole performance, adding drums on the second tune, guitar on the third, then gradually winding back down to just him on electric piano by the end of the set.  Joey has soul to spare.  He sang in this cool falsetto for most of it; sort of mind blowing for me because I never thought I'd see the words "cool" and "falsetto" in the same sentence.  He also pulled off the singing dialogue thing nicely ("I know times are really strange" he sang at one point, seemingly acknowledging the world is in a fucking shitty place right now, but in the most melodious way possible.) - something that usually annoys me more than charms me.  But his minimalist set was full of warmth and love, and just sounded effin' good.  In that sense, he does exactly what a warm up act is supposed to do:  get the crowd feeling alright, ready for the main event.

I forgot to mention he did a great version of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down".

As for Vulfpeck?  There's a lot to say, and you don't have a lot of time.  Why don't I just list out why they were so dope?

  • Watching Vulfpeck is like watching a buncha clean cut, straight "A" students melt away all the dumb, pretentious ideas I had about music.  How is it that music like theirs can be fun without being campy?  How can it be positive without being preachy?  How can such extreme musicianship remain interesting without being ejaculatory?  How can a saxophone (Dosik joined Vulfpeck multiple times on vocal duties and sax duties) solo outside of jazz not hurt my ears?  I don't know, man.  But they did all that stuff.
  • With the exception of bassist Joe Dart and keyboardist Woody Goss, all the other band members switched instruments throughout the show.  Again, you'd think this would be a gimmick that would backfire; instead, each musician brought their own take to the instrument.  It was shockingly seamless.  At no point did the music lack because of the switching.
  • I often refer to Vulfpeck as a funk band, but that sorta doesn't work and this show drove that home.  They are probably the funkiest band I currently know about, but they bring a funk flavor to tunes that sound like one part lounge jazz, one part yacht rock, one part 80s pop with a dash of skank thrown in on the tone.  I know, I know - that sounds truly horrendous, but it's not.  It works.  No one else is doing it, probably because no one else can pull it off.  I like how their music references different types/sounds of music without ever actually doing a whole sale rip off of that music.
  • Cory Wong (guitarist) - his guitar tone is straight up 1983, but I've never seen it so perfectly executed live.  Cory Wong on the Vulfpeck studio recordings sounds identical to live Cory Wong.
  • Vulfpeck is hurting in the swag category.  They were selling these ugly ass posters for major money.  But even this is a positive:  I wasn't spending money on shit.  Just my luck they'll become collectible or something.  C'est la vie.
  • A one point, Jack Stratton did this dopey dance, only for a few moments.  If you liked it, you could go to Venmo and pledge $2 to help a school in Flint, Michigan.  Needless to say, they smashed their goal.  Hell, people were literally running up the aisle throwing cash at them.
  • And that crowd:  they were really, really great too.  Vulfpeck had us eating out of their hands, but the crowd was loud when it was appropriate, quiet when it was necessary.  There was some cell phones filming, but never a lot, and never distracting.  I was pretty surprised by that too.  Lots of dancing, lots of smiles to be had.  No one wanted the night to end.
  • Joe Dart.  It would've been worth it for him alone.  His playing is as tight, interesting and creative as it gets.  And it never.  Leaves.  The. Pocket.  I don't usually care much for bass solos (that'll be the topic of an upcoming blog entry), but Joe Dart is the glaring exception.  I could listen to him all damn day.
I'll probably think of some other praise to heap, but maybe I'll just leave it at that for now.  This is easily one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life, but you don't have to take my word for their greatness:  head over to their (lovely minimalist) website and see how many tickets are available for their upcoming shows.  Good luck if you want to go.  

MAJOR hat tip to Paul for supplying the set list and links for this post as well as to Pete, who drove to the show and was fun as hell to spend time with.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Gigs! I've Got Gigs! [UPDATED]

OMG you guys I finally have some gigs I can report on.  Though there are at least two others in the works, the ones I can confirm are below:

  • I'll be performing as half of a duet with Kevin Reynolds as a part of the Tuesday Farmer's Market here in Bloomington.  That's at the Bloomingfood's west location.  This is on Tuesday (duh) June 6th.  We'll be playing from 5 to 6:30 PM.  There's a slight chance that Dan Lodge-Rigal will join us - stay tuned.
  • The Creekdogs (another link, and still another) will be reuniting to play at Apple Works apple orchard in the fall. Mark you calendars - no excuses for missing this one - it is Saturday, October 21st.  We'll be on stage from 2:30 to 4:30.  We should be nice and tight by then, so check it out.
I can't tell you how excited I am to be playing with Dan and Kevin again.  I suspect we'll be gutting our old set list and getting mostly new stuff, so even if you've seen us in the past, I think we still have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Okay - that's all for now.  I hope to have some other big news to report, but I don't want to do that until a few things can be confirmed.  So stay tuned. . .

UPDATE:  Forgot to include a gig that promises to be very, very fun:  I'll be playing with Patrick McNaughton, Dan Lodge- Rigal and Dave Sharp at the 4th Street Arts Festival on Labor Day weekend.  We'll be playing on Saturday, September 2nd.  I'm not sure of the time slot we'll get - I'll repost when I know.  This time, I'll be putting my upright down and picking up one of my electrics.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Make Everyday Sound Like Friday

You may or may not know that this blog's sister blog is The Cool Folder (viewer discretion is advised).  There's all kinds of fun stuff on there: pretty things, hilarious things, political things, stupid things - lots of things.  Check it out - it's a pretty fun little internet rabbit hole in which to lose yourself.  Anyway, I posted a buncha music last Friday that just sounds really good on a Friday.  The thing is, it actually sounds great everyday and there's something for everyone.  So Imma share.  In the search field for The Cool Folder, type "friday playlist" and all those selections will appear.  Better yet, just click here - I've already narrowed it down for you.  This isn't by any means the only dope music posted there, so look around.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brain Flush

Here are some sonically related thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain.  Maybe if I put them out here in the ether, they'll go away.

  • I listened to REM's "Fables of the Reconstruction" this AM.  While I understood the appeal they had for me in junior high, all I could think was "man, this sounds like every other band from 1982 to 1990."  Then I realized that every other band was trying to sound like REM at that time.  That's how you know  your band is influential - when everyone else is trying to rip you off.
  • Speaking of REM, someone help me:  When I went looking for my copy of "Fables of the Reconstruction", I was shocked because on the binding side of the CD is says "REM/The Reconstruction of Fables".  I thought man, how could I have gotten that wrong all these years?  I just Googled it, and it actually is "Fables of the Reconstruction".  What gives?
  • Upcoming topics that I will be writing about (even though I've been planning on writing about some of them for years):
    • The importance of silence in my life
    • The importance of white noise in my life
    • A sonic map of my house
    • Home made tape loops from Junior high (that is, if I can get my hands on the media and convert it)
    • Hate sounds:  chewing with your mouth open, burping, whining
    • Comfort sounds
    • A possible return of the Fat Friday Feature
    • Some more Songwriting 101 showcases
    • . . . and much, much more!
  • I did some simple recordings to help a friend of mine learn how to do somethings on her bass.  I used my Pandora's Box for this endeavor.  I love that device - it is indispensable to me - but there is too much choice.  I spend so much time clicking around, trying to find the right sound and not being totally jazzed about any of them.  I did find one setting that sort of approximates the high gain, slightly distorted sound that Chris Squire uses, but again: it's not quite there.  I have seen the metaphorical peak, but with that particular effects box, I will never reach the summit.  I have to address that issue one day.
  • I'm currently in possession of my brother Jim's 1990s Danelectro, (like this one, which actually has a much better bridge than Jim's, which would be one of the upgrades I'd make if it was my guitar) which with a few minor upgrades would be a truly great guitar.  Anyway, strumming around on it reminds me of how truly awful I am as a guitar player as well as how quickly I get bored playing guitar.
  • Please see "The Black Bachelor" video below.  Not only is it funny, but they have reality show music down cold.  I love how quickly the music changes too - funny stuff.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I've been up since 2 AM.  It's 7:48 AM; I'm at work, and I'm already goddamned tired.  It's going to be a long slog to 5 o'clock today.  The problem is that I fell asleep too early (again); and when I do that, I typically wake up at some ungodly hour and can't get back to sleep.  I could've gotten up and been productive or something, but I chose to waste time.  After reading some blogs, I started randomly Googling bass gear - I was looking at Japanese basses again, and man Tokais are cool basses - and I stumbled across a bass called a Toby Chennell Arco Acoustic Bassguitar.  Holy crap, you have to see and hear this thing.

There are many reasons I love this bass - beauty, build quality, original design; but I think my favorite thing is that it manages to be several types of bass that I fixate upon from time to time.  The portable upright.  The acoustic bass guitar.  The "head turner/rare bird".  It comes with an end pin so that it can be bowed, but I'd never use that.  I just think it's a phenomenal acoustic bass.  Although the video below has many stunning basses showcased in it, I've set it up to start with the Toby Chenell.  (If for some reason it doesn't, skip to 1:14 mark.)  Love that upright tone - deep, throaty, woody, just the right amount of "thunk" on the attack of the note; just the right amount of "mwah" on the decay of the note.  Truly, and amazing bass.

I haven't seen anything about pricing, but I feel confident I could probably get a good used car for what it would cost to get this beauty.  Plus, it's made by hand in the UK, so I'd probably have to wait forever to get it.  Maybe the Takamine TB-10 is a good option?  Oh yes, that would be a great sounding option. . . 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Should Music Of The Revolution Be "Fuck You" Or "We Shall Overcome"?

This morning in church, the remarks covered a lot of territory.  A couple of things spoke out to me (change happens when you nurture community and speak to your "enemy's" humanity), but the comments about music's role to sustain and foment revolutionary fervor has me feeling confused about what I'm feeling.  Let me see if I can explain.

The minister  told a story from his days as a seminarian when he rode a roller coaster with some seminarian friends of his.  He was terrified beyond reason and found himself singing the words from a spiritual hymn (can't remember the words or the song, sadly) to help him through the first drop of the ride.  His fellow seminarians teased him henceforth, and it became a running gag to sing these lines before even the most common trials, such as an exam.  I found myself amused by the story, but the point was driven home:  music can sustain us in tough times.  Indeed, I often tell people that the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" was my life in the tumultuous times of junior high.  It was important for me to hear my thoughts and feelings so vividly expressed; it was important for me to know I wasn't alone.

Music, the minster posited, can acknowledge our pain and/or bolster revolutionary action.  Citing Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, the minister (rightly) pointed out that music can be the soundtrack for change.  Another minister talked about her time crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.  In talking to folks who had been there in 1965, one the things that the movie Selma got wrong was music.  There was music everywhere, carrying the group forward, helping them through dark times.

I felt like music was being pitched as something that can simultaneously be an instrument of sustenance, change AND reconciliation.  Music can meet you where you're at.  I agree; there's nothing objectionable about that, right?  It's true, I believe, especially with the examples cited during that service:  "We Shall Overcome" and "Amazing Grace".  So why did I feel uneasy about these sentiments?

I mean, hell:  I knew these songs in particular quite well.  My music teachers at St. Mary's in Anderson, Indiana might as well have been Wobblies, for it is there I learned not only of lefty politics, but these radical thoughts were put to music.  I can remember standing on a riser with my class singing "De Colores", "We Shall Overcome", "Abraham, Martin, and John" and "Ship Of Democracy" for people in nursing homes, for Christ's sake.  I took written tests on the likes of Woody Guthrie.  I can still remember the LP that Sister Melanie (or was it Mrs. Smith?) played of "Little Boxes" and "Rock Candy Mountain" - I fucking hated those songs, hated singing them in class.  It took me years to see them as brilliant masterpieces of social criticism. Given my intimacy with songs that inspired the movements of the past, why was I squirming in my seat?

I sorta alluded to it in a previous post.

I guess it was because what I was listening to at the time I was learning these songs:  the Minutemen, Black Flag, MDC, the Dead Kennedys - songs that gave voice to the anger I was feeling; if not in the lyrics (can't say I was harassed too much by the cops), definitely in the abrasive tone and energy.  These songs were ANGRY, these songs acknowledged futility and embraced uncertainty.  That's where I'm at - angry, unsure if my way of life is futile, but knowing no other way.  "Police Story" should be the anthem of the Trump Era.  (Fuck, it pains me to even capitalize that.)

This is where I'm at:  the U.S. is fucked.  It will be fucked long after Trump is gone.  It's time to channel my inner cockroach and scavenge to survive if it comes to that.  I am ready to take what comes next and embrace chaos as a tool, not a problem.  Disruption and discomfort will help to right the ship.  I do not believe violence will ever bring about long term, meaningful change; but I do not believe writing my congressman and singing "We Shall Overcome" will get any traction with those who write laws.  In 2017 I will seek to ally myself with the dispossessed, as any student of history knows that is where true change happens - from the bottom, not the top.  I have fantasies about destroying everything (a very punk sentiment) and rebuilding from there.  Reconciliation feels like something you do after you win the war; let reconciliation happen for me and mine in my life time.  Not to diminish its meaning, but "We Shall Overcome" is for generations before mine; it is not mine.

The question I'm left with today is this:  What, if any, is the role of anger and discontent in change?  I have this energy, this anger.  It doesn't feel like a liability to me.  Is it wrong?  Many folks who have the same values as me like that quote that goes "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."  I hate that fucking quote because it makes justice sound like a foregone conclusion.  You have to fight for justice even after it is achieved.  Do you agree?  If so, what is your soundtrack?