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May 19, 2013

Cliche College Reflection

Foreword: So obviously I was going to do one of these. Anyone who knows me knows I have an insatiable need for attention (probably not my most redeeming quality) and I've been doing these embarrassing, reflective-type posts since I was in middle school probably. Why I feel the need to open my brain for obscured strangers in the late hours of the night is completely beyond me but I do. I think I need to show people the man behind the curtain and prove that I am aware and conscious of the terrible things I do every now and again. I got into an argument recently about whether being aware that you do bad things redeems you in any way, I'm in the camp of actions speak louder than words but that's neither here nor there. So here's the deal. I pour my heart out to whoever is interested and then regret it in a few days and take the post down. But, while it's up, you all get to listen to good music and judge which, lets be honest, everyone likes to do every now and again so here we go. 

P.S. If you're new here, the original concept of the blog was the idea that we're driving around in a car you and I. I work the radio, drive where the road takes me, and blather incessantly. That's why there are videos posted between paragraphs of ranting. I think in any good conversation the music sets the mood or the mood sets the music, either way, listen or don't. Save your judgements for the anonymous comment section which you all can avail yourselves to. 

P.P.S People still read this? I haven't posted in this for about a year. I feel bad about it. If you are one of those few people who are interested I will try to make this post extra exciting for you muchachos.

Things I've learned in college:
I really learned next to dick in any of my actual college classes. That is a terribly awful thing to say after spending four years of my life and thousands of my parent's dollars sitting in a classroom so I feel as though I should backtrack a bit. In my general education classes I learned dick. I learned fun facts that you may just as easily pick up from reading Cracked, i.e. monkeys have tails apes don't, if the Earth was the size of the head of a pin the nearest star would be in Washington (not exactly sure if this was the example, whatever, universe is big we are tiny), wind is caused by the Coriolis effect, a group of pugs is called a grumble and a group of unicorns is called a flamboyance (these last two things I didn't learn from my classes but still, a grumble? c'mon, that's awesome). But other than fun facts, I learned how to cram for tests and then dump the information because I will literally never ever use it again.  

However, what I did learn was how to think critically. I learned how to cut through a text as if it were soft bread and get to the heart of whatever argument is being made. I learned how to analyze motivations, compare evidence and draw conclusions that back up my initial claim. Perhaps you sit scoffing that I'm simply scrambling to find some way to justify spending four years of my college career reading books while you figured out how buzz through tax returns and play the stock market. To which I say, scoff away but I use those skills every damn day. Knowing how people make arguments, craft images of themselves and ideas, and subtly manipulate conversations, has made me who I am. For better or worse I suppose. Here's something true I didn't learn at college but learned while in college, intelligent people are more depressed. So... hooray for that. 

On that subject, I learned that every single person goes through the shit. Some people have to fight their way through more than others and I think I've been lucky in a lot of ways but I've definitely had to deal with the dark parts. A pretty damn smart person told me a while ago that no one gets through childhood unscathed, and now it's just a matter of patching up the broken bits. I've really had to deal with that. The shock of moving to a brand new city where I knew literally nobody caught up with me after a particularly pronounced bender which put me into the hospital freshman year. I don't like to talk about it much but that's when I first knew I had to deal with some mental issues and I think I'm not special in any way when it comes to that. There have been days where I just don't want to get out of bed, where dreaming about a girl I knew a long time ago seems about a million times better than going to a party where I have to dance and sing and put on a good show. There are those late 5 o'clock mornings where I feel like I'm toeing that edge of sanity as my mind cycles and spins endlessly. But what's helped me is that I know I'm not alone. I learned that even the most confident people have moments of doubt, people brimming with happiness lose themselves in the dark, and we're all kind of in it together. 

So I learned how to cope. I have a two pronged approach now. I either work out until I can't stand or write until my brain has no more strength to spin. I learned that I love to write. I realize that should be fairly apparent at this point but up until like a year ago I just thought I liked to write, I never really called myself a writer. It was a strange thing to sit down and just be like, "oh wait, this is what I've been doing in all my time in school, in my free time, and it occupies my mind a fair portion of the time, perhaps I ought to do that." It sounds kind of pretentious, so I'm sorry for that, but I do, I like writing. I write the shakes out, I write the demons down, I write even when I have nothing to say. Different shapes, different forms, but I like to do it. I like writing action and dialogue. Someone turning to another and calling them a curly headed fucktwat, the other person responds, a scuffle ensues, and then everyone drinks (everyone always drinks in my stories). I'm in love with living in the worlds I create. I fill it with all of my friends and we can act how I feel we all need to act but can't for one reason or another. It's nice to write without boundaries or rules. I write dark poetry about fucking rich republican women in the back of their mothers' mercedes. I write about a space bounty hunter who saves damsels in distress but is whipped (lovingly) by his strong wife with a beehive hairdo. And I write about a man fighting for what he thinks is right in a world where the darkness bubbles unseen beneath every surface and he has to embrace his own darkness to win. So yeah, I like that. 

I learned the term Weltschmerz which for those of you too lazy to read a wiki article, is a term coined by some dead German guy to describe a feeling of world weariness. It's a word to encompass the feeling that there is so much wrong in the world and there is absolutely nothing you as an individual can do to fix it. I forget who said this quote and I don't want to look it up but it was something like all great artists feel a great responsibility to right the wrongs of humanity and the art stems from their inability to do so. Now obviously, I'm not going to call myself a great artist. In the above paragraph I talk about writing about space bounty hunters. But I do think this is a kind of sickness that is pervasive in a lot of people in my generation. Because we have access to the internet and this seemingly infinite wealth of information, we know all about all the shit of the world and it's frustrating. I think personally that's why I like creating worlds in my own writing. It's a sort of anesthetic, it has a warm fuzzy feeling like a good painkiller. It's like movies, music, video games, alcohol, naked strangers in the night, whatever. They are all just temporary stays from this heavy feeling of impending doom, or a slowly approaching natural death at the very least. All the anesthetics have a kind of twisted humor to them and I think that's why people embrace them. Losing yourself in cathartic hedonism is kind of like pissing into the yawning void. It's like standing naked on a mountain and shouting yourself hoarse at the dusty, empty ground below. I don't know, it's just interesting, something I learned and something I think of and deal with every day. 

I learned sorry isn't good enough sometimes. This was the hardest thing I've ever had to learn. Somehow as a kid, I thought that if people make mistakes and they admit them and ask forgiveness, everyone moves on, everyone tries to do it better. This is just not the case. It took until I burned a bridge so thoroughly that things were never the same again that I realized sorry doesn't cut it. I don't like speaking in generalities (mostly) so I'll just say it, the summer before my junior year was a very tumultuous time in my life. I went to Coachella for the first time and lost myself entirely in this feeling of absolute freedom, of hope in the world and in people, and also hope in myself. I believed that if I was blunt all the time and never played the bullshit games that people play to keep society moving, I would somehow be able to start fixing things. It was in this way I took on a persona that served as a kind of foil to what every one does on a day to day basis. Everyone puts on a mask, everyone defines their personality and acts the way they think will get the most people to like them, the most people to fuck them, whatever. I just put on a mask that was about a hundred times louder and more obnoxious than anyone else's. I still felt as though I was standing for what I believed in, and it felt incredibly freeing and euphoric to be able to act any way that popped into my head like some sort of anarchic Peter Pan. But really I was just being an asshole. And then it all came crashing down when I got fired from the DA. That was when I realized how far I had pushed people away and to this day I am still ashamed of the way I acted at that time. It's almost scary because I know that's simply a part of my personality, that I have the capability of losing myself to this sort of chaotic monstrosity and I learned I have to deal with it and just try my best. 

I learned that no matter how moral or righteous you might think of yourself, sometimes there are choices you are forced to make where there is no good outcome. And you do something that haunts you every single damned day. Something that spits in the face of your lofty ideal of friends over everything. I learned that no amount of words can ever fix the betrayal of a friend you truly care about. I regret that more than anything. People who say they have no regrets are either fucking liars or have never been faced with a truly difficult choice. 

I learned that love never really dies. It's either replaced or it changes to something like a cancer and a cross. 

I learned that I have some of the best goddamn friends in the whole world. I have friends who know I make these colossal mistakes, that I hurt people without meaning to and sometimes with meaning to. I have friends that know I struggle, like most people do, to find a balance, to find a path to fix the broken bits of myself, to act like the man I know I need to be. Sometimes all that takes is a "suck it up pussy" type sentiment and sometimes that's what I need. Other times they'll let me drunkenly lament about how the world is bullshit, how I think I'm a bad person, how I think love is something we tell our kids to keep them from knowing a more complicated truth, and sometimes that's all I need too. I really can't express how grateful I am for all of them, for any of you reading, I'm so goddamn happy to have you all in my life, I'm supremely lucky in that respect, I'd be lost without you mofos, sappy emotions etc etc etc love you guys. For real tho. 

I learned that I'm strong, that I can handle things on my own. I learned that I can take quite a beating and stand back up and ask for more. I think that's why I applied for the Peace Corps. It's another proving ground. It's another chance for me to go out there and test myself. It's an opportunity to give myself to a cause I believe in, to meet people I would never in a million years meet, and experience life in a way I never could as a middle class kid from the suburbs. I was able to get through college without burning out, without having a life altering meltdown, or anything like that. I busted my ass in a few of my classes to get good grades so I could continue riding this ride. 

I learned that I loathe writing in a coherent fashion. Strunk and White can suck my dick. If I want to place a long rambling sentence with about a billion dangling clauses and the reader gets lost because of all of the and's then I'm sorry. I write the way I talk. I think this may be a bad thing and eventually I'll probably have to fix it, but until then, eat it grammar.

I learned how insanely lucky I am, truly. So many people have it so much harder than I do and that's something I really try my best to never take for granted. I write because I think that's the one thing I can eventually give back to the world and hopefully help someone, anyone out there get through this sticky mass of life. That's really all I am trying to do. 

I learned that there is still love in people. Perhaps not that saccharine Disney, fairy tale bullshit, but I mean, real love. Not the kind of easy free love that people are willing to toss out like wilted flowers at some muddy, trash filled music festival. But the kind of love that's inherent in all of us, that we need to fight for. It's the love I feel we all need to stand for and shake off the societal restraints that keep us from doing so. I think I die a bit inside every time I read the vitriolic, ignorant, hate-filled comments on the Internet but I think it just strengthens my resolve that these people, more than anyone, need love in their lives again. They need to be reminded that there are still good people out there, in fact the world is filled with them, no matter what the news tells you. Despite us being so solidly divided into red and blue and being so beaten down, I think we all want the same things, we're just frustrated by our lack of real options in terms of politics. And I think everyone feels that same frustration but I think everyone still has the capacity to hope. I mean, that guy who saved those three kidnapped ladies? He's just an average dude, I think most of the people in the world have the capacity for that kind of heroism and strength, I just think you just can't let those bastards get you down. 

I learned that sometimes a long hug from a close friend, or a facebook poke from someone you haven't seen in ages is enough to turn a day around. I learned that if you ever tell someone to have a great day and sincerely mean it, (as in, not forced to say it), they'll probably have one. Little kindnesses are what keeps us all breathing I think. That and fucking awesome music. Also oxygen. 

I learned I'm absolutely terrible at keeping in contact with pretty much everyone I am not in immediate proximity to. This is something that really bothers me but I'm not sure how to fix it. I try really hard to maintain some level of contact, even if it's small. I wish I was better at this and I'm working on it, but just know that I will be thrilled to see you if I haven't in a month, and even more thrilled if it's been years. I think once you make a bond with someone that never really fades. So this is all to say, be prepared for me to stumble into your life and grab a beer at some point. I miss the shit out of so many people and I know when I leave SD I'll miss the shit out of so many more people. But I'm always down to see and talk to whoever I can. I quite like all of you guys. 

I learned most English literature is incredibly depressing. I figured out why though. It's because it depends where you end the story. The guy and the girl get together and get married? Happy ending, comedy. Same story 20 years later after an affair, a divorce and a suicide? Tragedy. But there are certain times where even though the story runs its course and is still something powerful. There’s one story of a man living alone in a retirement home with only memories of his only true love to keep him company. He then slowly loses his mind and dies but not before setting an example strong enough to last in so many memories. Sometimes that’s enough of a story to keep someone going long after the story is done. Sometimes a story like that is enough to make you pick up the pieces of your own life and try to find the strength that kept him going for so many years, all in order to find the kind of quiet dignity and true love that allowed him to pass peacefully on. Sometimes stories are more than stories. Sometimes stories are more real than life and sometimes you just have to keep turning the pages or pick up a new book. 

Anyways, this is a really goddamn long post. I'm sorry I've put you through this but I hope it was at least halfway interesting. It's cathartic for me to get it all out, I just hope you can make sense of the mess and get what I was trying to articulate beneath the mumbling. Know that you are a beautiful person. If you can take the time to wade through the mess of someone else's semi-coherent ramblings it speaks to a real capacity for empathy and I'm so happy to have known you in whatever capacity I do. We're all in this mess together, and I think we're going to need more compassion, more empathy and more feeling for one another if we're going to build a better world. It sounds like an airy platitude but this is our time, this is our future, and I hope we never lose sight of that. It's been a blast though. Sorry for everything, thanks for everything, I think this next chapter will be a good one. Here's to you guys. 

April 25, 2012

Coachella 2012

I wore my Coachella 2011 wristband to Coachella 2012 and I have the horrible tan line to show for it. Last year’s festival such a life-changing transcendental experience that I thought seriously about cutting the wristband off before I went to this year’s second weekend because there was no way that the two experiences could be compared. And they really can’t be.

The musical talent present at the festival was fantastic which should come as no surprise to anyone who saw the line-up. There was Friday’s M83 performance that boasted chest thumping electronic dance-hall anthems that shot the crowd’s collective consciousness into the space looking shimmering light-show backdrop. There was the Black Lips performance Saturday that had the young Georgian punk-rockers smashing guitars, shot gunning beers with the sound guy, and inciting the tattooed, sweaty crowd upfront to open up a gaping, thrashing maw of a mosh pit and scream themselves hoarse. Even in the 108 degree heat on Sunday, Afrobeat legends, Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 got the entire sunburnt crowd jiving with the funky beats and Kuti’s incredibly charismatic and passionate performance. And Kaskade probably made cracked out bros grind on mostly-naked rave girls to really loud, shitty music, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I missed that one for some reason.

With the ever increasing popularity of EDC type festivals, it made sense that literally every other person who I asked the question of, “what was your favorite show so far?” answered with Swedish House Mafia, Feed Me, Madeon, or Borgore etc etc followed by the inevitable “Yeah I’ve pretty much just been hanging out at the Sahara stage all weekend.” It was probably the one glaring problem with Coachella. The line-up, especially on the Sahara stage which was almost entirely EDM acts, created a huge separation between the music junkies who came to see the music they are obsessed with and those who just came to dress up, take amphetamines, and dance to some dubstep. I’m not saying that electronic music is bad in any way. Acts like the jazz tinged disco of Breakbot and the incredible bass assault by Thundercat were absolutely mind-blowing; and I’m still kicking myself for not seeing Flying Lotus and Death Grips. But that David Guetta party scene was the reason that Gotye’s tent cleared out halfway through his mind-blowing set after that type of people had heard “Somebody I Used to Know.”

It established an us against them kind of mentality that reared its ugly head at The Shins concert when singer James Mercer, only partially kidding, suggested that, “maybe we should all go to war with the people at a certain other stage,” which was a pretty terrible thing to say to a bunch of people tripped out on drugs. But if I’m being perfectly honest, after being called a homo by a group of 8 or so tribal tattooed, spiked hair Jersey Shore d-bags it didn’t strike me as terribly as it should have. Which is not what Coachella should be about at all.

Before you read the next part you should probably watch this:

I realize that if this is your first time listening to this is, it can be abrasive, especially with Mangum's voice but the amount of emotion and passion dripping from every word and just the pure expression is something I hope you can pick up.

Jeff Mangum’s performance was the quintessential type of experience that Coachella should be trying to provide. For those who don’t know Jeff Mangum was the lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, whose album “In An Aeroplane Over The Sea” is regarded by many people as a masterpiece of indie-rock. But after it’s release and the explosion of hype that followed, Mangum disappeared out of the public eye for over a decade. So after a voice repeated the message “the artist requests that no photos or videos be taken during the performance” twice and Mangum sat down next a rack of guitars by himself on stage, it was quickly apparent that this was going to be something different. He opened with “Two Headed Boy pt. 2” and the “King of Carrot Flowers” songs, and people unaccustomed to his high-pitched, distinct singing style and the repeated refrain in part 2 of “King of Carrot Flowers” of “I love you Jesus Christ / Jesus Christ I love you / Yes I do,” left from far fringes of the crowd. But the people who were screaming the words as loud as they possibly could quickly found themselves with their arms wrapped around complete strangers in long rows as they slowly swayed back and forth to the music.

To get an idea of what it was like in this crowd there's this:

In between songs there weren’t any requests for songs just silence and anticipation broken by an occasional yell of “Thank you Jeff!” or “Your music changed my life! Thank you!” It was such a pure and honest performance but also a very complicated performance. Mangum’s sharp features, terse stage banter and intense eye contact showed just how uncomfortable he was playing at a festival headlined by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Jeff Mangum never wanted to be a rock star. You can easily tell from the earlier demos and live recordings that did when he toured in the 90's because he spends the shows joking and laughing with the audience about how his life is sometimes falling apart and making music with his friends is one of the few things that holds him together. But after someone puts out an album that's considered by so many people to be this incredible masterpiece, you can't really play hole in the wall venues anymore and just make music that you like to play. It takes a certain kind of mind to put out such unfiltered emotion and that kind of person really just isn't built or even after the magnitude of reaction that he received. It was easy to see how much it pained him to be there, but he was there anyway to play for the hundreds of people who found something so identifiable in his music. That's what made the performance so special. After an unbelievably intimate cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in The End” and accompaniment by a group of horn and percussion players for the show’s finale of “The Fool,” people were hysterically weeping and holding each other, completely lost in that feeling of ebullient joy.

These are the moments that Coachella should be based around, the indescribable ecstasy that comes from connecting with a group of strangers around a band that they absolutely love. Obviously, not everyone is going to connect with Jeff Mangum and that's fine but the caliber of artists should lend themselves towards finding that emotion. It was that feeling of togetherness that made last year’s Coachella such an unforgettable experience and it’s that feeling that is slowly being pushed aside in order to boost ticket sales, which is a shame. It’s a shame because Coachella has always been about bringing the best bands of every genre together to celebrate the art form as a whole, but the divisive nature of this year’s line-up took that away somewhat. It was still an unforgettable experience but I can’t help feeling like some people just completely missed the point this year.

April 15, 2012

Good Music?

This is King Charles. This is really good music. And I think that's all that really needs to be said about it. Listen to it.

As I get further and further into this music criticism thing, I realize how contrived a lot of it is. Take for instance Robert Christgau the so-called "Dean of Rock Critics." Here's a guy who was the pioneer of music criticism, invented capsule reviews etc etc and laid the foundation for people like me to try and take a crack at what I really love to do. But what I have to ask is, is that type of criticism the best? Or at the very least could there be other avenues to explore?

For instance, take King Charles up above there. I could talk until I was blue in the face about his influences, what genre of music it is, how his musical background affects the sound, how the obvious kitsch could be an ironic take on the scene but I think that's missing the point. Sure it's easy to categorize music and continue dividing it smaller and smaller until nothing is original anymore but mere repetitions on the same idea or imitations of the originator. But the point is that the music is good. That at this point in musical history it takes some cajones for a musician to come along with an image that ridiculous, and a persona that extravagant and be completely serious in making music that's silly and also good. It feels like every new band that is up and coming is a rip off of the one that came before. Rock music gets boiled down to garage rock, slightly different arrangements and in nearly every one the singer's voice is hidden behind fuzzed out distortion. That's what's cool, that's in right now. No real emotion, just a whole lot of clever wordplay and the cliche rockstar persona, it's boring. So on the other end of the spectrum you get this:

From all outward appearances this kind of thing has been done to death. Oh here's one guy with an acoustic guitar singing over it. But there's something intangible about Ben Howard. Pitchfork will never like it because it's not necessarily new or innovative but it's beautiful and it's heartfelt. And that's kinda where the conversation should end.

I mean there are people who treat music like a science, or math. Take this kind of rhythm, add filters, layer this instrument here, vocals over the top and there you go, music. And that works for some people. The music can be interesting and they can digest it and put it together like a puzzle and that's pleasurable to them. But that's completely different than the way I think it ought to be. I guess it comes from my background with it or whatever, but I honestly think it's not good unless it makes you feel something. Unless you see the band and you can completely lose yourself in waves of ecstasy and emotion (not just the drugs). Or unless the music can get you through rough times, or be your anthem of triumph or work as a soundtrack for any part of your life, it's just not good.

I really think there is this schism in music and I think it comes from the divide between Jazz and Blues. I think that's the problem in its quintessence. On one hand you have the complicated rhythms and time signatures, notes that clash and come together in sometimes pleasing sometimes cringe inducing ways and some people love that. I honestly can appreciate it for what it is, dissect it, look for influence and all that but on the other hand you have music like this:

And 99 times out of 100 I'm going to listen to music like that instead. Because it uses simple chords, simple melodies to get across something that's something so much larger than a guy playing a piano. It's music like this that gets people to come together. It makes them forget all the day to day (pardon the french) shit that they have to put up with. All the well-intentioned how are you's and nice weather we're having's and just that surface level garbage. It's not a rat race when you listen to music that means something, that stands for something. You're able to appreciate the fact that you're alive, that the world is beautiful and the characters you share it with are more than just faces you recognize.

I guess that's what has always drawn me to the punk scene. You can't really fake that. Some people try and it doesn't float, ever. It's just heart on sleeve admissions and throat shredding yelling aimed at the corrupt bourgeoisie that are making the world such a hellhole. And more than that its a type of music designed to make people see that they are all on the same side. Regardless of creed, religion, ethnicity or sex, we are all after the same things in life and I don't think jazz, or music based like that can communicate that sentiment.

I just hope that as I get deeper and deeper into this industry, I don't ever lose sight of the feeling. I don't become numb and jaded. I hope that I will always be able to relish unbridled passion and expression because I think that's what we are going to need more of in the years to come.

March 30, 2012

My First Night at the Che Cafe

The Ché Café seems to be securely afloat again and thank tiny baby Jesus for that. It’s one of the most intimate venues in San Diego. The audience stood mere inches from Andrew Jackson Jihad’s lead singer Sean Bonnette and his red rimmed glasses as he tuned his acoustic guitar in preparation for the Phoenix based band’s performance last Sunday. And after only three words into their song “Brave as a Noun” that proximity led to the crowd surging forward, smashing the mic stand directly into his bearded face.

Yes, it was that kind of night.

The show started off with a distinctly creepy vibe as I walked into the dimly lit, already packed venue. Monologues from horror movies like Misery and Psycho were being played through huge PA speakers by the Delawarean opening band Roar. The tunes kept the audiences’ arms tightly folded with their carnival-esque synth organ riffs, alt-rock screams, and disjointed song structures. But the second opener, Laura Stevenson and The Cans, from Brooklyn, promptly won the crowd’s heart.

Rocking a pixie cut and backed by her band’s pop-imbued roots-rock, Stevenson let loose her sweet and warm set of pipes. Combined with simple lyrics about summertime, sadness and cats, the songs were bolstered by the slow beautiful melodies that cascaded from Alex Billig’s accordion. I promptly fell in love with her, and how could you not? Stevenson remarked, “You know? Without sounding like too much of an asshole, I really think tonight is going to be magical.” Once Andrew Jackson Jihad took the stage, it became a tough sentiment to dispute.

While mostly playing in the key of C, and rattling off verses about simultaneously losing and hanging on to faith in humanity, the three main members of Andrew Jackson Jihad turned their simple folk-punk into a spectacle.

“Please only jump up and down, not side to side,” Bonnette asked the crowd shortly after the first song, presumably to keep his front teeth intact. In response a young rapscallion asked for a boost up into the crowd for what I thought would be just a healthy dose of crowd surfing. He instead clambered up onto the low hanging rafters and soon they were full of dangling 20-somethings. At one point one of them flipped upside down and Spiderman kissed a complete stranger to the thunderous cheers from the crowd.

I spent most of the night drenched in sweat, half mine and half mystery, slam dancing in the mosh pit, for the wristband did say “Pit Pass,” all while yelling myself hoarse to jaunty folk tunes as the band pressed on with their sonic barrage.

The first half of the set played out like a drunken sing-along as bassist Ben Gallaty jovially plucked his stand up bass to crowd favorites like “People” and “Rejoice.” The band then brought out another guitarist and drummer, strapped on some electric guitars and whipped the crowd into a thrashing frenzy with more straightforward punk songs like “Heartilation” and “Distance.”

After the final thundering crash of “Big Bird,” the final song of the night, the crowd picked their way across the slippery linoleum floor and stepped out into the cold rain as the steam poured off their bodies. There are precious few moments in life when you can wrap your arms around a complete stranger, who may or may not have just elbowed you in the face while moshing, and be totally okay with it. In my humble opinion, it was a well-earned black eye and an excellent introduction to the Ché Café.

Originally posted on San Diego CityBeat's blog: Check 1, Check 2

February 27, 2012

White Denim Lights Your Face On Fire From Complete Badassery

White Denim recently played a show at the beautiful Copley Symphony Hall opening for Wilco and showcased their extreme compositional prowess fusing jazz, blues and progressive rock into palatable movements of beauty and sound that truly harnessed the lush acoustics of the symphony hall. Then they played 15 dollar rock and roll show for shit-faced college kids at UCSD’s The Loft, and it was awesome.

This is what makes this newly bolstered four piece so special, they seem to be the best kept secret of rock music. Too technically precise to simply be a punk-rock bar band and too many badass rock riffs to play at all the swanky jazz clubs. White Denim is hard to pigeon-hole and that’s for the best. It’s the sense of not knowing what exact kind of set they are going to pull out of their five studio album catalogue that creates the excitement and build-up that makes their live show so incredibly invigorating. Are they going to go with the more compositionally complex workings of D? Or are they going to kick out the jams from their debut Explosion? Or are they just going to improvise the whole time like a meth infused Phish?

Honestly it makes no difference. Where there is a marked difference in feel between each of their albums, when they play live there are no real transitions separating the tracks, they bleed seamlessly into each other for a frothy mixture of eargasm. With their newly added guitarist Austin Jenkins, the older songs that were written while they were still a three piece are fleshed out and given room to breathe while still retaining that unbridled energy that made their earlier singles so relentlessly pulse pounding. The added guitarist seems to take some of the pressure off of singer and guitarist James Petralli. While he still tackles the rhythmically complex portions there is a sense of ease and tightness when he lets Jenkins take the lead and it was showcased all night by the two guitarists smiling and laughing for the length of the set.

It went a lot like this:

The set itself was crammed with literally anything a fan could want. The raucous “Shake Shake Shake” seemed to be the first thing to loosen the expectedly stiff San Diego crowd up. With bassist Steven Terebecki and Jenkins shouting into the mic as a call and response to Petralli’s already deafening bellows, it got the audiences’ feet moving as if they really had any choice. The set thundered onward through jazz tinged freak-outs and face melting solos only slowing down towards the end with a truly touching ballad of “Street Joy” before the band left the stage for the encore. They then stood awkwardly shoulder to shoulder with the audience screaming for them in the tiny room until they got back on. They managed to push the pace even faster for the encore and a blacked out concertgoer tried for beleaguered yet good natured mosh pit. It was great end to an unbelievably intimate brilliant show from a genuine and incredibly talented rock band.

January 05, 2012


So I lost 3 pints of blood during surgery on my tonsils on tuesday. When I stood up from the bed after coming out of my drug induced stupor my blood pressure dropped from around 120 to around 60. My vision swam and I remember thinking what if this is it? It sounds incredibly melodramatic but after almost losing my mom during a "simple procedure" last winter it definitely seemed like it was going to happen to me. And what struck me, was did I really want it all to end like this?

I've been in a slump for a while. I'm not going to deny it. The reason this is the first blog entry I've done since October is because I've just been living in a grey ether. Never really happy, never really sad, just melancholic and numb, which is even worse. What makes it the hardest is looking back over 2011, especially the summer of, and seeing just how arrogant and hubristic I was being. Over the summer I felt like I had something to prove, I had to stand up for what I thought was right, at every instance, even if that meant confronting friends or losing a job that I truly and deeply cared about. There is an incredibly power in believing that you are absolutely right in whatever stand you are taking, but there comes a point in which making yourself a martyr isn't worth being completely alone in the process. So I apologize, again, for being like that.

But once the summer ended with a deafening crash I had to pick up the pieces and start all over. And when October rolled around and I got sick (my strep throat that lasted til December) I lost all my energy and momentum because all my energy went into fighting this infection. Which by the way, when I got them out they were apparently the biggest the anesthesiologist had ever seen, so big that they didn't fit into the containers and I had lots of extra scar tissue that showed I had been dealing with the for quite a while. And although this sounds really bad, and not just a little disgusting, it's given me hope.

Even though it's only been two days since my surgeries I feel better. Obviously not my throat which is incredibly gnarly right now, but just in general. Things don't seem so dim anymore. And I suppose that's not only just my tonsils but also reconciling with a good friend and trying to mend things that are broken. On top of that, this last semester wasn't all bad. I got straight A's for the first time since 8th grade and I will also be working an internship for San Diego Citybeat the next semester. I feel like I am finally getting over the hump in my life, I even came up with another idea for a story that won't be as dark and passionless as the one I had been working on.

This may be the last year I have, scratch that. This might be the last day I have. After getting the wake up call after my surgery I've decided to again live like everything could be snatched away from me at any instant. So I guess that would be my new years resolution, to grab life by the balls and embrace every second of it. It'll be hard but if you don't try then you will always wonder what if. I am going to try harder to get over my emotional distance that I keep from everybody and try to create a year I can look back on and say, that was it. That was the best year I've ever had. I hope the world doesn't end but if it does, I want to make sure I've sucked as much marrow out of life as I could. I hope if you are reading this you can do it too. I hope you find whatever makes you truly happy and capture it. I wish that for you, happy new years everybody. Let's make this a good one.

October 06, 2011

Occupy San Diego

I'm tired of the blabbering. The pedantic rants about what is wrong with America. If you are reading this it's likely you've seen one or more angrily political post about what's wrong. And it's time I did something. I'm participating in the Occupy San Diego protest tomorrow. Not because I think it is necessarily the smart thing to do, or whether or not I think it is realistic that a bunch of nonviolent protesters with signs can change an entire corrupt system. I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do. I'm tired of politicians who feel like they can do whatever they please without any sort of response other than an angrier rabble rabble. Things are getting worse, anyone with eyes can see that. The people pulling the strings, the bank owners, the lobby leaders, the forces unseen with the money behind the curtains are the ones who truly don't care if we poison our Earth. They truly don't care if innocent lives are wasted needlessly in foreign wars. If more people can't pay their rent and are thrown out onto the streets how does that affect their stock figures? The reason that Occupy Wall Street movement has no concise message is because there are simply too many things to name. There has to be a radical change to the way things are run in our government. We simply can't afford to have puppets for politicians any longer, we the people, for the people. And it's high time that those responsible are held accountable.

What do I really have to be upset about? You're right. I come from a comfortable life, my parents are middle class, I was raised in suburbia but I'm not blind. I'm old enough to see these travesties of elections are merely rat races, sporting events for people who don't realize how much they are truly losing by picking the wrong sides, or by even acknowledging sides in the first place. Read a damn history book, since currency has been around it's the haves versus the have nots. Rich get richer, poor get poorer, this shouldn't be anything new to anyone. During the times of the Industrial Revolution it was at least easier to see those responsible and those suffering. These days people just don't know. Education is so expensive because our system needs the misinformed to grind. It needs blood to grease the cogs, it needs the everyman with a 9-5 who comes home every night to drink away his existence to watch TV designed to keep him locked in, to keep him buying things he doesn't need, to keep him preoccupied with trivialities until the time comes for him to die in the streets because a for profit healthcare system didn't see the benefit in keeping another person alive.

Truthfully I can't see all this being changed by a protest. I'm sorry but the presidential election will continue to be a sham. Media will focus all their attention on lame duck presidents, whether Obama or Romney comes out on top the next election nothing will change. There needs to be a revolution. Not necessarily a violent one and not necessarily a physical one either. There are certain things that if humanity is looking to be around long term, that need to change. Reckless consumption, insane amounts of waste, everything being designed just to squeeze another dime out of the system when truthfully what do you really need? Food in your stomach, a roof over your head, clean water, and friends and family. The economy has been tanking because people have started realizing that maybe they can't afford the suburban, maybe they don't need the 72 inch. Production needs to come back to America but it needs to come back as quality over quantity, parts that can be replaced, appliances that can be upgraded and fixed instead of thrown away. It all needs to be changed so that we can have a bright future, or even a future. That's why I will be there tomorrow. I am fighting for tomorrow, I am fighting for change, this is only the beginning, but it's what needs to happen.

Maybe I will see you there.

September 25, 2011

In a Different 'Neighborhood'

I felt like I had to do this. Blink 182 was my favorite band for half a decade, pretty much all of high school. And a lot has changed since their last album with them and with me, and I'd like you to know that I am bit rusty at this review thing but I'm going to give this one my best shot. (P.S the versions that I will be posting on this blog may get taken down because the album isn't out yet and the ones that I have found sound different than the versions than I have. Let me know if they get taken down in the comment section below) (P.P.S I found a website that was streaming the entire album, I didn't download the leaked version. Because that would be illegal. And I would never want to do anything like that)

Given that the above music video is working, you can already hear how different Blink sounds. Yes this is a far cry from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. I've read a bunch of reviews about how much darker the album is than all their other albums and I would just say that they've matured. This is a logical progression from their self-titled album and personally this is the Blink 182 I like the best.

I was introduced to the self-titled album first. My parents didn't think any of their other albums were appropriate so I didn't really get a chance to truly get into them other than their few radio hits until I went to Ashland, Oregon in 7th grade for a field trip. Literally the entire way there, the entire way back was playing that album on repeat, staring out the window making story arcs between the songs and trying to reconcile the sexualized side of "Feeling This" with the fact that I had still only ever held hands with a girl. I think I had a different perspective because of this early exposure. To me the moments when Blink 182 truly stood out was not during their joke songs but the moments when they turned serious. Blink 182 was brilliant because there was no pretense to their music. They were making immature music for immature kids and that afforded them the freedom to talk about love in a way that didn't seem over the top and cheesy. So when the self-titled album came out as their attempt at being serious it came from a very believable perspective of a few guys who got tired of pretending that it was still all peaches and gravy. But even so there was still a certain amount of joy and pleasure that was inherent in the way they went out to explain it.

This joy seems entirely absent from their new album. "Neighborhoods" seems to come off as a violent scream against a world that has moved on from the 90's. The world is in a different place, the band is definitely in a different place after the deaths of their close friends, and the listeners somehow have to carve out a niche somewhere in their as well. For that reason, "Neighborhoods" can sometimes come out as forced. Especially during songs like "Wishing Well" where Tom Delonge shows off his knack for catchiness with some "dadadas" during an overly buoyant chorus. It's entirely out of place when juxtaposed with lyrics about "Going to the grave and back."

It's a very strange dynamic because after listening to the entire album the listener is struck by a feeling that the band is chafing at the limits of power chords and pop-punk progressions. It's almost as if the band chose to confine itself in this rigid structure to emphasize the monochromatic world they've begun to see around them. For instance in "Natives" one of the immediate standouts of the album, they're using the exact same chorus progression from "Dammit" and when you put the two songs side by side they stand in stark contrast. Same power-chords, same catchy melodies, but there is a desperation that wasn't there during the times of "Dude Ranch." There's more rebellion contained in this album than any of their other releases as Blink and even in their side projects. The album comes off as gleeful anarchy, like partying until the house burns down.

The album does contain quite a few duds."Love is Dangerous" comes off as repetitive and juvenile like angsty pre-teen poetry. "Fighting the Gravity" stands as one of their more experimental tracks but it's just dull in comparison to other songs on the album. But there is still something that feels like home. The final song on the "bonus" version is "Even if She Falls" and there's something beautiful about it. Delonge is singing about the same unrequited love that he's been singing about since the beginning but after listening to an album about how the world is burning and everything feels hollow, feelings really haven't changed. There's simple piano in "Kleidoscope" after the snarling punk thrash of "Heart's All Gone" and somehow that's reassuring.

So much has changed in the 8 years since Blink has put out a new album. There's an unspoken longing for The Clash to come out at every punk show, you desperately want the singer of The Doors cover band to come close to Morrison, you hope the ecstacy will make you forget the amount of brotanks at a electronic music festival. Somehow in that space of nostalgia and disenchantment there lies a feeling of mutual empathy, of belonging to something that was. Even if the memories have become fuzzy and the feelings have faded, one still has to hold onto those small moments of true feeling and clarity. "Neighborhoods" explores that desire and all the emotion that comes with it. The record stands out starkly from anything any of the members have done and it's a record that I can't stop listening to.

August 30, 2011

Moving Forward

I'm pretty excited about my life right now. I mean there have been a few moments of doubt but looking back at this summer and looking forward, I'm exactly where I want to be right now. It's been a rough but interesting couple of months. I lost my amazing job, got arrested, got into fights with friends, had to confront the past, and turn around and explain it all as well as myself to my parents. It was hard, but I got through it. For every rough patch there's another smooth one coming up. I mean yes, I've had to give up on the one girl I've ever been in love with. It was sad realizing that you just have to pick up the pieces and move on, but I have a lot of hope because of it. This is the first time I've truly felt single since maybe 8th grade. It's stupid to say that but feelings generally are, but it's a good one. Yes I got fired from my awesome job and yeah when it happened it threw me for a loop. I've never been fired and I loved that job, I loved everyone I worked with but it happened for a reason. I've begun to believe in fate, that in a world where literally anything could happen, when certain things do, when certain people come into your life you have to take advantage of it, because the chances are pretty astronomical that they do. Had I never met my friend Hutton in a creative writing class I wouldn't know my group of friends that I have now, I wouldn't have met my roommate, I'm not even sure I would even be in State right now. And if I hadn't struck up conversation while looking devilishly handsome in a courthouse for being arrested I would have never met Alisa and never have gotten involved with Philanthro which is the philanthropic organization I am now a part of.

It's all just very strange, life, I guess. But it's truly growing on me. I'm going out of my way to talk to strangers, pretty girls in my classes, acquaintances because I have no idea where that'll take me. I am trying to put my hands in as many pies as I possibly can (kind've a grotesque and disturbing image I know). Currently I am applying for two tutoring jobs, a job at the Koala (180 from the DA which should be pretty hilarious), a job at KCR the local radio station, a job at an online music magazine and I am continuing to work for Philanthro. In addition to that I am taking really interesting classes (two lit classes from awesome teachers that I've had before, a bible as lit class, and intro to electro acoustic music) and I'm actually going to give this a shot. By this, I mean being a good student, because I truly want to do well, in life I guess. This is really the time to do it so I am going to do it. Even on a personal level I have projects I am working on, a novella that is turning out pretty well for once, I am trying to record music with the access that I get through my music class, I am trying to join a band, and I am possibly trying to start up a music website. I mean it sounds like a lot but it all feels manageable, I'll definitely be busy.

Because of the busyness I will have to make certain cuts to my lifestyle. Summer has really been pretty ridiculous. Literally non-stop drinking (APPLE JUICE), picking up women and essentially just living like a heathen. Which is good, because I truly believe everything in moderation (including moderation) but truthfully it's gotten kind of old. I like drinking, I like drinking a lot, but I'm just not getting much out of it anymore. I've quit smoking (TOBACCO) for the most part so I feel like lumping drinking in with it will only be a positive thing. I have so much on my plate right now, I can't really afford to be hungover and only have half the day to work with. Also because I'm pretty poor and do not want to have to limp back to Sacramento again because I'm out of money. Along with the drinking I need to get rid of the one night stands, I'm just not getting anything out of it anymore. This one will likely be the hardest to get rid of because for so long it was just looking for that one moment, that one instant where you forget how truly alone you are and you are able to just for an instant get past it. But I've begun to think that that one instant is too short and I want, and I deserve something more than that. To my core I'm a romantic that is just trying to find someone to be happy with, so I'd like a nice girl. I know that seems out of character if you know me in person and you have heard me swagger around and act like an ass but that's all an act and I'd like someone to be able to get to know the actor rather than just be part of the show if that makes sense and it isn't too horribly egotistical to say.

But yeah I feel like this semester will be different and I want to really tear it up mostly because I know I have the capacity to do so. It's about time that I stop talking about what a badass I am and start acting like one. So Imma get my nerd on, my music on, my writing on, and I'll try to fill you guys all in as it progresses :)

August 24, 2011

The Best CD I've Ever Made

This is the best CD I've ever made. And I will never be able to give it to the person I made it for. I've made a bunch of CDs but this is definitively the best. I just hope you like it.


The CD starts with this one. Once upon a time a boy and a girl couldn't date but always talked about cutting school and going to the beach together. It's hard to love someone who is far away.


Catchiest song in the world. 3 part harmony on the chorus lyrics like "I hit the sidewalk/ And this is how it starts/ hide in a raincoat when things are falling apart Everything seems to be falling apart, but somehow there's still beauty in this complicated, shitty thing we call life.


If you don't smile while listening to this song you've never been in love. Shit, I'm smiling and I am hurting more than I ever have. It's in scrubs. 3 of these are from Scrubs, which would make sense as JD and I are pretty much the same person. How many times can you possibly say and do stupid things and have them still work? There's apparently a limit and I've reached it. But I can still listen to this song and smile at the good times. Hammock under the tree in the summertime, long walks in dark hallways. Times when things just work, when things weren't stressful, weren't shitty, were just fun and simple. I miss that.


Yes this song is on the best CD I've ever made. It's hilarious, blatantly sexual but just fun. I realize that this one differs sharply from all the other ones but I guess I just thought of this girl singing these ridiculous lyrics while driving around in my shitty exploder and it just made me laugh. It's a great song and iunno, fun. Sorry if it's inappropriate but I guess I'm slightly inappropriate.


This song is gorgeous. It was kind've a gamble putting it in here because I really have no idea how you feel about electronic music but this is one of my all time top favorite songs. It's about being in love, a real kind of love. Not a fairy tale, story book fantasy but one with flaws, one that even uses the term "fucking.""You said I'm broken / Happiness / Is a bore" sad but sometimes true, especially in this situation. But it's so real and the crescendo destroys me every single time "So let's stay in / let the sofa be our car / Let's stay in / Let the T.V be our stars / I've found my dancing shoes and they don't fit / All the bright lights, all they do is bore me." They do. I'm sick of the parties, the booze, the one night stands, all I want is to sit on a couch and watch bullshit T.V with you.

BTW if you are creeping on this or if it is actually you. You should listen to all the songs in their entirety, they are all really good and the CD is meant to be played the entire way through. Otherwise you just get to the depressing songs too fast and you miss out on silly R. Kelly songs.


I had to put a Blink song on here. You knew me when they were all I listened to, when I still had innocence, didn't drink, smoke, and still believed that things could work out if you care about the other person enough. It's depressing to say but I'm so completely jaded, I don't really care anymore. I don't care if Tom Delonge uses the term "Yed" to explain his problems. This was on your myspace, and I never asked you about it, sometimes I wish I would have.


Such a beautiful song. Short and stunning. A raspy voice explaining in a minute and a half about how the only thing that truly gives him joy is something he can't ever be a part of. This song really touches me in a way I can't really describe, I just think it's beautiful, I hope you do too.


I don't care how cliche, overplayed or cheesy this song is, I love it. It's simple, it's brilliant. I always think of you as gravity, something unchanging, unwavering, something that keeps me from settling for something that I may be really happy with for something that is intangible. It's sadder when thought of this way, but hey. I don't think you came into this thinking this blog entry was going to be a happy one.


I don't know how much Bon Iver you listen to but this one is just stunning. It may have been in Twilight, but I don't care. It captures that loneliness and that feeling you have when you are finally with someone who truly gets you. It paints such a vivid picture. It's just a good song.


Sooo you know this one. I'm not a huge fan of musicals but truthfully I've always liked this song, perhaps not when it's all over done and ridiculous but when it's understated and beautiful it's striking. It just makes me wish I could have given you this CD instead of posting music videos, this one would have been a surprise and I just think you would have liked this. But things don't happen like that I guess.


I wasn't sure if you'd like this one either. But it's my favorite band. I used to really not like The National, the monotonous voice really turned me off but somehow the music just slowly creeps in and builds and builds until you end up at a National show 3 rows from the front crying like a baby. "Everything I love gets lost in the drawers." I somehow lost all the notes that you wrote me, I think I threw them away at one point or another. Probably for the best anyway.


Yeah The Smiths. I am enough of a hopeless romantic to buy into lyrics like this: "see the life I've had / can make a good man bad." It's interesting to look back at the thing as a whole and try to find the point where it changed. I think what it was, was that I realized how serious my feelings were at a time when I should have just had fun and not worried about it. I'm just too blunt, too honest, and too sure that I could die at literally any instance for me to hold anything back really. It's a problem, obviously.


I know I've put this song into another CD I've made you but I felt compelled to add it. It's in Scrubs and you know precisely what scene it is from. I didn't want the fast version but it was the one I found on youtube and it has Olivia Wilde in it, so why not? The song still gets me even though I have heard it so many times. I guess I'll always kind of see it like your song. Even though it isn't a very happy one. I was originally going to end on this one but I decided against it, instead I picked this one:


I wanted to end with hope. I hope you'll some day come around. I guess that it was that hope has really been the thing that has destroyed me for so long, so it's where I wanted to end this. I don't know if you will ever read this, and that's okay. I just wanted to make this a blog, so if you ever do want to read this you can. But I'm finally moving on, I'm finally feeling like I can do it. It's been a really really long time but it's time it happened. I think there will always be a piece of me that will hold out and that's the innocent part. With the house by the beach and a golden retriever, where things end perfectly and happily. It's yours, and I think it always will be but that can't be the future I have any more but I will fight tooth and nail for something like it.

So here in the end, I want to say thank you. Although it has been trying and terrible, it has made me into a stronger person because of it. I now know what I want and I will be trying to find it. I hope to find someone someday who can look past all the other blogs I will post about politics, and society and revolution and see the kid who wanted so badly to fall in love but got everything he ever asked for. It's a sad ending but that's how it goes sometimes. Goodbye.