Archive for April, 2012


Just got back from the show, thought I’d write a little review while things are still fresh in my mind. So here goes…

At the last minute my friend Sarah decided to go with me. We got there kinda early, and the mostly empty building was reverberating with the sounds of a mellow, spacey electronic soundscape, which we later realized was provided by the first performer…

The opening act was just one guy who went by the name Doldrums. I’m still not sure exactly what I think about his music, nor do I have any idea how to classify it. It had all of the elements of dance music – drum loops, synthesizers, keyboards, samples, digitally effected vocals – but in no way was it dance music. His compositions took pretty abstract forms, with jerky transitions and no apparent structure. His beats were rather subdued for the most part, definitely not something you could dance to. When they did occasionally move to the forefront they were still mostly undanceable – very irregular rhythms with touches of tribal drums and lots of stops and starts. His samples were mostly annoying, with a helicopter sample reappearing entirely too frequently for my tastes. His vocals were flat-out horrible – high-pitched and nasally, drowned in reverb, and run through so many vocoders and effects that he often sounded more like a text to speech program set on “Japanese woman” than a lanky white boy with a hipster haircut. For stretches of a minute or two he would start doing something that sounded really cool, but ultimately it would morph into something painful to listen to. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he is clearly trying new things and attempting to do something unique, but it just didn’t work. Sarah absolutely hated his set, and more than a few members of the audience walked away, preferring to sit outside and chat or get drinks at the bar to listening and trying to figure out what the hell he was doing. So the overall verdict is his music is creative and definitely different, but not something I (or a large part of the audience) would ever want to listen to again.

The second act was a four piece band called Blouse. They had a girl singer who played guitar, another girl who played keyboards, and two guys handling bass and drums. Whoever was running the soundboard mixed them horribly – the vocals were buried and the keyboards were so loud that they almost hurt my ears when she played higher notes. The frontwoman (is that a word?) was constantly bending down to adjust her monitor and her effects pedals, and on one occasion she apologized for things not sounding quite right. But in spite of technical difficulties they kept on and managed to give a pretty good performance. Their sound was very dark, yet atmospheric, sort of like a mix of The Cocteau Twins, Fever Ray, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The singer’s voice, although hard to discern from the mix, had a certain sweetness that made me think that at some point in time they would break out into a huge pop chorus, but that never really happened. This isn’t to say their songs weren’t accessible, they most definitely were, just not in a mainstream rock sort of way. The rhythm section was tight, the keyboard textures were usually pretty interesting, and the guitar tones ranged from jangly to full-on distortion, sometimes in the same song. I was especially impressed with the drummer’s use of synth pads and triggers in addition to acoustic drumming. Fans of some of the more abstract New Wave stuff coming out of England in the early 80’s, the shoegaze movement, or 90’s alternative rock would probably like them a lot. While they didn’t blow me away, I enjoyed them.

By the time the headliners took the stage there was a pretty big turnout. After a false start and some tinkering with the light fixtures behind them, they finally kicked things off in grand fashion. A keyboard arpeggio and crashing drums set the tone for their set, which was somewhere in between arena rock concert and rave. The singer spent a lot of time playing with a Kaoss pad and a few other synths and loops, and frequently played bass on songs where the usual bassist switched to guitar. For those who aren’t familiar with Bear In Heaven, they build their songs around synth loops and arpeggios, and at times sound like they’re more content to jam on a groove than construct a pop song. Live this translated even better than I had expected, they managed to pull off a huge grandiose sound with such minimal instrumentation. Their drummer is flat-out amazing, often sounding like three drummers at once. He really pounds the shit out of his drum set, but is still able to lock in perfectly with all the loops and play amazingly intricate and unconventional rhythms. They have a knack for taking the most otherworldly sounds and beats and fitting them together into a long, deep groove that practically dares you to surrender to the music. The combination of strobes, colored lights, LED track lighting, lasers, and smoke machines made for a very visual experience as well. The whole spectacle had the vibe of a great party, except instead of a DJ you had an amazing live band. Even after being a fan for a few years, I’m at a loss for words. They definitely take things to a new level with their energy, top-notch musicianship, and all-powerful groove. Bloggers and hipsters like to toss around a lot of big words and name drop obscure Krautrock and industrial dance bands, but experiencing these guys live gives on the feeling that they are one of the few bands out there who are truly doing something unique that defies easy classification.

After the show I picked up a copy of Bear In Heaven’s newest album, I Love You, It’s Cool. The packaging and artwork on the vinyl release is pretty great. I just downloaded the mp3 copy and I’m almost through my first listen as I’m writing this. It’s a little different from their last album, and not nearly as huge sounding as their live show, but so far it’s very good. Most of the stylistic detours they take are successful, the production is crisp and fits the tone of the music perfectly, and the songs sound just as strong as on previous releases. If you’re already a fan, definitely pick up the new album. If they come anywhere near you, by all means go and see them. If you’re not a fan, their live show could most certainly win you over. And if you’re not familiar with them, what are you waiting for? For once the assclowns at Pitchfork got something right – Bear In Heaven is one of the most original and important bands currently making music.

 

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A Quickie…

It seems as though WordPress has done a little redesigning. Either that or my not having updated to the latest version of Firefox is causing things to display wonky. Oh well, I found my dashboard and here’s a post.

I’ve been staying pretty busy trying to give legs to my idea of building a professional looking website, but not much has come from it as of yet. I’ve also been working on the newsletter for work.

I have a few new picture ideas, and a Portal-themed series I conceived on the walk home from work tonight. If I can do what I see in my head it should be pretty awesome. I’ve also been writing on my new $12 guitar. I have one song mostly recorded, I’m just finishing up lyrics. I have another with two lines, but my neighbor Angela says she wants to write lyrics and sing it, so hopefully that will go well.

The big news is this is my Week Of Awesome Concerts. Tomorrow night I’ll be going to see Bear In Heaven at the Grey Eagle. On Monday night I will be seeing the legen(wait for it)dary Dick Dale at Jack Of The Wood. I’m pretty pumped about both shows, hopefully neither will disappoint.

And that’s really about it, other than the usual boring stuff. Now to get some sleep, I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow…..

 

Socialism, Wow!

Tonight I attended a meeting of the Asheville Socialists, a branch of the International Socialist Organization. It was a pretty low-key affair, at the Wall Street Coffee House. There were only five people there – there is a sixth regular member, but he couldn’t make it. They had a discussion about a book by Lenin, talked about some upcoming events, and a little about the Occupy movement.

While the group is pretty small, they seem to be pretty dedicated and active in the community and in cooperation with socialists worldwide. They spoke a bit about an upcoming convention in Chicago, which has a lot of well-known speakers. It sounds like it would be a pretty interesting event, so assuming the cost isn’t too high I might want to go.

I was also somewhat impressed with the Wall Street Coffee House. It has a nice atmosphere, some interesting art on the walls, a bunch of used records for sale, and free wi-fi. They have a few open mic nights during the week, one for music and one for comedy. Seems like a pretty cool place to kill some time, even though I’m not a coffee drinker myself.

I’ll attempt to make it to next week’s meeting, and possibly the convention at the end of June. And who knows, I might talk to the owners of the coffee house and see if they’re looking for any new artists to take up space on their walls. We might not be able to end class warfare anytime soon, but it seems like a good group to be a part of.

 

Daydreaming

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about leaving the country. Part of this is due to a general frustration with this country – our corrupt government, our ridiculous laws, our crumbling economy. Part of it has to do with personal frustrations – wanting to go somewhere where my art might be more appreciated and it be easier to make a career out of it, not being able to find a woman who isn’t psycho, and an overall desire to get out of here and live somewhere more exotic and start a new life. I had a lot of these thoughts before I joined the Peace Corps, but I’m not about to do that again. If (when?) I leave this country, it will be completely on my own terms, and assuming things go well, I might not come back. But all of that is just idle daydreaming for the time being. I still have to think about two jobs, bills, my art and music, my health, and the state of suspended animation my social life seems to always be in. One day, inshallah.

 

Record Store Day

After a pretty eventful Record Store Day last year, I somehow forgot it was this weekend and didn’t ask off from work. Our shifts are 10-7, and that was pretty much the same hours as every record store in town. So yeah.

I took my lunch break around 3:30 and fought my way through ridiculous Asheville Earth Day crowds on Lexington until I finally made it to some stores. By the time I got to Voltage they were pretty much wiped out, only about ten full lengths and a handful of singles left. I managed to snag Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression on 180 gram vinyl, which, although somewhat overpriced, is an amazing album. They had the second and third UT albums but I opted for the debut since it was the first one I heard (not counting the 89-93 compilation.)

After Voltage I headed over to Static Age, and although they had a bit more stuff, they didn’t have a lot that I really wanted. There was a live album by The Birthday Party that I considered, but I’m honestly not a big fan of live albums, so I passed it up. I almost got a single by Hot Water Music until I saw the price tag. I just can’t bring myself to pay $9 for two songs, no matter how limited a release it is. Oh well. I grabbed a free SubPop sampler (which is as uneven as SubPop’s catalog) and some stickers and called it a day.

Next year I’ll need to make a mental note and make sure I either have the day off or don’t work until later so I can manage to get some of the good stuff before it’s gone.

 

The weirdest dream EVAR

So I had a really weird dream last night. No, I mean REALLY weird. It went a little something like this…..

Interior: My bedroom. Or, my bedroom circa turn-of-the-century when I was still living with my family. It was situated in my current apartment here in Asheville, and the decor was brought up to date, but I could tell from the size, shape, color of the walls, and the curious arrangement of my bookshelf and dresser that it was my old bedroom in my parents’ house.

Characters: Me (obviously,) a mysterious girl who was kinda like a combination of an ex of mine and a current friend, a dead hermit crab, and the star of the show, a pet who will henceforth be known as Tiny Spiderman.

The rising action: I’m talking to Combo Girl about everything and nothing, and while doing so I’m showing her my room. On shelf two of the bookcase there is a cage and a dead hermit crab. I muse over the reason for his death – I never actually fed him. Conversation turns to the top shelf, where I keep my pet Tiny Spiderman. He looks just like the real Spiderman, except tiny. Small enough to fit inside a medium-sized fish bowl. And, as I would later find out, rubbery.

The climax: We have no sat down on the bed and continued our conversation. We hear a strange noise. I stand up and look at Tiny Spiderman, who is bobbing up and down in the fish bowl, coming to the surface to blow a bubble and then submerging himself once again. To mock him I wait until he comes to the surface again and blow a gust of air in his direction. This evidently pisses him off, as he leaps out of the fishbowl, lands temporarily on my hand, and bites me.

The falling action: I jerk my hand away in pain and fend off Tiny Spiderman with the other hand, noticing the rubbery texture his miniature superhero skin has. I scream and ask Combo Girl if I should get the bite treated.

The resolution: She assures me that the bite will be fine, since it’s highly unlikely that I will turn into a Tiny Spiderman. We have a good, hearty laugh. Cue music and fade out.

Fin.

 

Life Lesson #6487

Anyone who knows me surely knows that I like spicy food. I don’t mean that in a “I got Fire sauce at Taco Bell because I’m a badass” sort of way. I really like spicy food. When I go to Thai restaurants and they ask me how spicy I want my curry on a scale of one to five, I typically say “seven.” When I go to Mexican restaurants and they bring out chips and salsa I ask them to bring the “real” salsa as well. I eat Indian food about once a week. I always opt for the hottest buffalo wings. If a dish has the name of a pepper in it I order it. My own cooking takes spicy to another level. Not content to make something that causes your nose to run, I have actually cooked food so spicy it gave me a nosebleed.

The hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life was a pepper when I was in Morocco. My host family tried to warn me it was spicy, but I was wearing my American goggles and assumed that I could handle it. My experience has been that the rest of the world has a very different idea of what constitutes spicy. That theory was completely backed up by tonight’s dinner.

The other day I went to a little Mexican grocery store and grabbed some rice, beans, tortillas, and a little bottle of green salsa. Tonight I made enchiladas using the above ingredients. I decided to leave the salsa for last, since I didn’t know how spicy the combination of my bean and rice mixture and sharp cheddar would be. I took a bite and it tasted rather weak, so I proceeded to dump generous amounts of green salsa on top. What followed next was nothing short of ridiculous. I’m pretty sure the neighbors could hear me screaming through the walls.

So the moral of this story is, if you want something really spicy, shop at import grocery stores. If not, then by all means continue to dab little drops of Texas Pete on your food and whine about how hot it is.

 

Newness

A few new things to check out in your bored time…..

Last night I finished my Arizona ice tea painting, “Hoodie (Justice For Trayvon)” and I just uploaded it to my deviantart page.

I’ve also created two new “projects” on my Carbonmade portfolio and added some new pictures. Well, not really new per se, but they weren’t on there a day ago, so new to my portfolio page.

And last but not least, about a month after signing up, I have finally added some songs to my reverbnation page. “Smile” and “Need” will be familiar to any of the handful of people who have actually visited my myspace page. “No Reason To Stay” is a fairly old song that for some reason I haven’t promoted at all until now, and “Hello” is a Lionel Richie cover, performed on my new $12 acoustic guitar and inspired by my friend Beth posting a crazy picture on my Facebook wall.

Hopefully that gives everyone a little something to do in the wee small hours while I’m getting ready to hit the sack. Good night and good luck.

 

First off, allow me to thank all the people who are following me. Evidently there’s twenty of you now. I don’t know how many are actually reading, but thanks, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now 😉

And now, for a blog post………

At the gas station we have a regular customer who is moving to Ohio soon. He came in and said something like, “you’re a musician, right?” I told him I was and he then asked me if I wanted to buy a guitar. I told him to bring it by and I’d take a look at it, but I didn’t really think I’d end up buying anything. He comes back an hour or so later with an off-brand acoustic that’s actually in pretty good condition. There’s a brand new set of strings on it and it has a case. I asked him how much he wanted for it and he said $12. Off-brand or not, you’d have to be an idiot to pass up an offer like that. So I went to the ATM and got out some cash.

He claims to have three more guitars, and he simply didn’t have room in the move for this one. He said he really only wanted to get about what he paid for the case. I don’t know if the guitar was given to him, or if he stole it, or what. I’m pretty sure he’s an alcoholic, so maybe he was just desperate for beer money. But you figure, a set of strings is usually $5-8 or so, and the case would have to be at least double that. So one way or another, that’s a hell of a deal. My manager and I sat around jamming for a while, then after I got home I messed around on it some more. It has a nice dry, dull sound that kinda reminds me of the guitar sound on “Polly” by Nirvana. I’ll most likely just keep it in an alternate tuning – right now I have it in open D. Truth be told I didn’t really need any more instruments, but for $12 how could I say no?

 

Idea…

So like everyone else in this media-saturated world, I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin case. Yesterday I saw this and was completely blown away. I started thinking about it and joking around with my roommate and a new idea was born. I am now in the process of painting a picture of a hoodie using Arizona iced tea. It took a while to get the look of the hoodie just right, and now it’s taking forever for the tea to dry on the paper. I’ll probably end up having to re-paint it several times because the color of the tea is rather light, but so far so good. I’ll definitely upload a scan of it when I’m finished, so stay tuned…