Saturday, September 13, 2014

To "Wax" Philosophic

Here we are about 10-12 years into a movement and I've decided to join. Call me current. As a matter of fact, I've been a proper slave to it for several months now.Total rookie shit, I know. It's getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous... I'm talking about the resurgence of vinyl, LPs, wax tracks, good old records, man. I'm hooked and well past the point of no return. I'm head down in the stacks, nose to the crates, belly to the bin. I'm on craigslist digitally underlining a made up map in the garage sale section on friday nights, I'm trolling my hood every Saturday morning, scoping out brilliantly colored slightly neon signs affixed to telephone poles. Looking for arrows and numbers. Elbowing out the elderly on their silly little quests for decorative and/or commemorative plates and old curtains.  I'm everywhere I can be without cloning myself, looking for these goddamn records, leaving my bored kid in the car(windows cracked half open,people) Thrift stores, church sales..no garage or stoop or flea market is off limits. Hi. My name is Seano and I'm a curbaholic.


However.......I was a cassette guy right out of the  gates in 1980 when I joined the Columbia House 6 tapes for a penny club. I still remember the six because I still hear the tape hiss in my head from playing them to death on my GE tape recorder and later Panasonic Boom Box.That's right, Boom Box is capitalized. And yes, I never bought those two cassettes at full price and avoided prosecution, most likely by providing them with an assumed name like Ben Dover or Hugh. G. Rection.

They were Billy Squier-Don't Say No, Van Halen I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin IV, AC/DC-Highway To Hell and The Doors-Greatest Hits. These were my go-tos, until I was old enough to ride my bike down to the Music City shop in Perinton Square Mall, with a couple weeks worth of lawn mowing money and add to my collection. Cassettes fit easily into my Cannondale bright yellow bike seat bag. I couldn't have imagined riding one handed on a 10 speed all the way back up that hill with a slippery bag of albums under my other arms. Cassettes were portable and in another year, fit perfectly in my Panasonic silver Walkman knock off. (Just like the brand Kleenex became the word for all tissues, Walkman became the word for all portable cassette players, at least in idyllic upstate NY).

My parents had a stereo, and a bunch of albums housed in an old wooden icebox in our funky little farmhouse, including Sgt. Peppers, Physical Graffiti, Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills and a host of others. I remember those iconic covers, wanting to know who R. Crumb was, wanting to see the pictures behind the brownstone windows on the gatefold, wanting to research all of the so called Paul-is-dead symbolism within the lineup...

I don't remember my parents having music on as much as I do at home. Nor do most of the busy people I know. My father was always working in the yard or ensconced in some art project in the barn, my mother was always taking my sister to some dance recital. I wouldn't call either of them influences for my musical ability or obsession. To the both of them, music was something you put on during conversation, when they had company, and the kids were in bed. But those albums, those covers, the big bassy warm sound that rumbled out of my Dad's big brown cloth covered speakers, that's what stuck with me. I used to pull a chair up to the ice box and play those albums, years before the ease of cassettes and blank TDKs and recording arena rock tracks off of the radio took over my listening experience, thus began to chip away at my general attention span.

Now, decades, and 2k cds in boxes and 40k mp3s later, I've returned. You'll find many vinyl appreciation blogs and youtube videos out there, and naysayers vs. pundits in every corner of the globe, volleying beliefs, insults and scientific studies that approve or disprove vinyl's sonic superiority. Which at the end of the day is all very relative, case study by case study, with speaker quality, vinyl thickness, speaker placement, tube amplification, 1300 dollar turntables vs. white ear buds all coming up for consideration.

I don't care about any of that bullshit. I found that over the past ten years or so, music listening became something I patched into my lifestyle, squeezed into a road trip big or small, affixed to my ears while I worked or played. It became invisible, fleeting and as shallow as the next track scrolled through with infinite ease. It became something to acquire, peruse and discard or file away in a dead hollow cloud nobody can see or figure out the location of. Smaller, Faster, not even there, but will come when you call it, when you will it to appear, for your own personal function or form.

Multitasking. Some call it a revelation. I call it a killer. Why not stretch your mind and body to their limits? You'll get it done sooner, faster. sign off on it. On to the next. Bitch slap your bullet points, bully your bucket list, bring your " A" game to all of the games people play and watch all of your critical synapses struggle against each other in a cage match to the death. I'm not good at it, but surely fell/fall victim/champion to it as we all have.

So, I'm going to strip it back down, I'm going to indent my lovely couch with my lovely ass a moment or two after I split a gatefold open, engulfed with a waft of mildew and memories slide that black circle out of that worn sleeve, and plunk it down on my 1979 Pioneer PL-512 turntable. I'm going to drop that arm, and look at the cover and the liner notes, while I listen. And while I do that, besides partaking in an adult beverage, I'm going to do fuck all else.

I'm going to repeat this heroic, primitive series of events often, while some of you are bluetoothing while you compare organic tomatoes, shuffling while you bodycycle. I'm going to be here enjoying the crackle of the dust in the odd groove, the risk of skip, the warm bruise of the bass blanket. And these are my roots, these are the steps I must retrace. This is the emotion I must court, date and score with.

However....A vinyl nerd I am not. I have adhered to some personal guidelines after several run ins with hipsters of a previously unseen level of pretense and snobbery. I have arrived at auctions or musty garages to find too many an archaeologist of wax in my way, and I in theirs.  My rules are as follows:

1) Unless an album is on my holy grail vinyl trail, I'm not spending more than 8 dollars on it. This means I don't buy new releases on vinyl. I'm not spending 35 dollars on a new pair of Levis let alone a new album.

2) I don't buy re-releases on vinyl. Sure I really want that Stooges-Fun House I saw the other day. It may or may not sound better than the original, but I want the original. Call me an antiquer, people.If the original is found, see #1.

3) If at all possible, I prefer to "find" vinyl by accident, rather than go to a record store that has something that I covet nicely displayed. Record stores are down the list for me and mostly a last resort behind suburban garage sales(I say suburban because 9 out of 10 times a suburbanite just wants to get rid of that stack of albums his wife keeps loudly reminding him to get rid of, and therefore has no idea/or the disposable income not to care about what he has.), thrift stores in the middle of nowhere(the further away from the city, the better) and finally estate sales where the word HOARDER has been mentioned in the listing.

It really is about finding a bargain NOT for their collector/resale value but so I can buy MORE albums with the wad which I've allotted for myself. I plan on giving my son everything I have in my will with a STRONG addendum that if he doesn't share the passion when he is of age he may not give away or sell my collection but must leave it for an heir that is sure to appreciate it. So who cares if its a first pressing, or still sealed or has a NM on a listing, fuck that! Its about the music! Besides, that crazy notion is reserved for my 4000 comic books.

I would love to hear some/any stories of your happy accidents on your own personal vinyl acquisitive journeys.

Mine are posted on instagram.

Thanks to Derek and Derek and Alex for fueling this fire.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Disgustipated

Oh Beyonce, you're barely human. You're above us all, like a glittering pinata that none of the ghettotastic swingle ladies could ever break open with a thick swing. Your golden, diamond encrusted horn, you toot so frequently. Your faux empowerment jingles are merely just a front for your whack tracks of ebonic prestige....Your latest obliteration of the English language should give all welfare mothers even more hope...



It stay Yoncé, oh Yoncé in that lingerie
On that chardonnay, it’s gonna touch down like a runway
I’m Texas forever like Bun B, and I’m redboned yo
I’m really rit like Donjae, I’m camo in here yo
These thots can’t clock me nowadays
You wish I was your pound cake
Boy you know I look good as fuck
You wish I was your babymomma
Want me to come around and give you good karma, but no
We escalate, up in this bitch like elevators
Of course sometimes shit go down
When it’s a billion dollars on an elevator
Of course sometimes shit go down
When it’s a billion dollars on an elevator
(Ha, ha, God damn, God damn, God damn)


Ah yes. Such poetry, such selflessness and endearment, such word wizardry. Why not just cut to the chase and embalm yourself and your deity of a husband with gold bullion, pepper your dermises with rhinestones and rubies and put yourself on display in impenetrable, untaggable glass cases and travel the worlds worst neighborhoods, like the false idols of a new generation. Put yourself on a real tour, Bey. The needy can line up like a fucking church healing pray to you in hopes of you showering them with the gifts of wisdom and strength needed to break the endless circle of poverty and join the hood exodus in favor of a better life, with a white picket fence and a private yacht for all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sebastian 2001-2014

We lost our good friend and rescue cat Sebastian on Tuesday. It's been a week of heartbreak and reflection and a bit of regret. The apartment really doesnt seem the same without him. There are tumbleweeds of his hair in their allotted corners and crumbs of his strewn litter align certain kitchen crevices. There's no whine like interruption from the foot of my bed to be fed at 330 in the morning. There's no trotting down the stairs(not all of the way, but enough) to greet me every single time we entered, as he splayed himself out on a step of his choice, belly up for a rub. When my son is with his mom next week, it should be as empty and depressing as I expect it to be here, without my pal Sebastian.

Sebastian or "Sebbie" as Hud often called him was a 12 year old orange tabby crumpled up into a dirty sad corner of a cage at the Philadelphia SPCA last May when we first saw him. Older rescues are a much "harder sell" at the pound and Sebastian's description affixed to the cage announced that previous owners had to get rid of him after "allergy problems". Really? After 12 years of having him? What a crime. Well, we put an end to his tenure there and brought him home.

I had always been a dog person. I mean, we had cats growing up in an old farmhouse, but they were outdoor cats.I don't believe I bonded with them as much as I did the dogs we had.City Cat, Pansy and Snowball all met their various demises as often times outdoor cats do, by desertion, a friend's motorcycle and a neighborhood attack. So it was onto a life of dogs for me. My longtime companion was a wonderful golden retriever named Blarney(no, not the purple dinosaur) who was my confidant and fellow traveler for 15.5 years. I lost him in 2003 and had no interest in getting another dog for two reasons. I was living in NYC at the time and my fiance(later my wife, then ex wife) was sort of a crazy cat lady.

She had a cat named Ruby who was the real love of her life, a persnickety old tabby who didn't like anything but being left alone. This fed my perception of cats as animals who never really bonded to their human as dogs do, never followed them around, never went on hikes or bike rides with them, never partook in the fierce pleasure of sticking their head out of a moving vehicle at 65 miles an hour, etc. I didn't think there was hope for us, my fiance or Ruby.

Little did I know. We started spotting a stray emaciated orange tabby  scrounging and begging in the connected back yards of our neighbors apartment. My ex started feeding it and soon after, asked my opinion on whether we should keep it or not...and that's when Marmalade entered our lives and changed my opinion on cats forever. Marmalade was instantly interested in everything in that little apartment quickly attached to us and even gave friendship with Ruby a try. Ruby was far from a kitten, and prone to hiding under the bed in full brood mode when Marmalade was holding court. That wouldn't change much over the years, but when Marm wasn't around Ruby would crawl into your lap. Who knows whether it was for the selfish reason of needing to be stroked or an attempt at love of some sort. In the next year, we rescued several animals, an old beagle we named Gilligan(but couldn't keep), an orange tabby who had just been struck by a car and was found bleeding and broken in our hallway and I even had a go at rescuing some feral kittens nesting in a window well, but as soon as I got them out they scattered in a flurry of hissing and screeching. I was becoming an animal rights person, a borderline activist ...who still loved a good steak of course.

We moved to San Francisco in the early fall of 2004 and ended up driving across the country....with two cats in cages in the back seat of a big Ford Explorer. Marmalade would gaze out panicked and wide eyed, but mostly scared silent for the 9 state scurry. Ruby howled and cursed in a dull roar for the entirety of our trip. Those two cats figured out a way to coexist, through that move and our stay in San Francisco and the birth of our son. Another cross country trip back east to Philly in 2007 led to a a new house and then Ruby's tragic death from cancer in 2009. Clifford, a large, mostly white (with orange accents) cat then joined the fold. We split up in 2010 and the ex got custody of the cats . I guess I was a cat person as well now, because it really sucked not having a cat around for the first time in almost 10 years.

I lasted three years without a pet until that great day last May when we brought Sebastian home. Sebastian was diagnosed with a UTI in May of this year, He had been sluggish and hitting the litter box repetitively to no avail. When I took him in to get looked at, they were able to "express" urine. This is a fancy way of saying to squeeze pee out of him.They prescribed antibiotics and pain killers and he was back to waking me up at odd hours for food in no time.  When it happened again a week
ago...he couldn't really move. I tried to find his bladder and couldn't, I gave him the same drugs as he was given in may hoping they would take. They didn't. I took him into a clinic in South Philly after the SPCA said that he was "blocked" and they couldn't help him. When a cat is blocked, they most likely have formed crystals in their urinary tract and cant pee. This becomes potentially fatal when the trapped urine re enters the blood stream and shuts the kidneys down.

Sebastian died in my arms after I made the decision to have him put down. I just could not afford the treatment or surgery needed to keep him around. There is tremendous guilt on my part, as the only real reason he's not here is that I couldn't afford to help him. To add to my sadness, my landlord refused to allow me to bury him in the back yard, adjacent to the window sill where he kept a close, but fairly content eye on the chirping birds and restless squirrels alive in the tree cover around us. I kept poor Sebastian in a box next to the gatorade and made a decision to take him out into the woods and bury him under a tree with a chorus of chirping summer birds. It is there where he rests for eternity. Goodbye Sebastian, thanks for making me enjoy being a cat person. We will miss you.





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, # Fu Manchu

Namaste and horns up. Headbanging is my yoga. Headbanging is fitness within the confines of a loose noodle. Thrashing my head about like it is plastic and bobbling between a young baseball fan's fingers is my cross fit. Closest to mine own highest calling, this hallowed act of rupturing neck vessels and loosening the bloody bearings in the cranial gears is all for the sake of escape. I am 45 years old. It hurts, but it's worth it. We do what we gotta do. Amidst a festival of decibel.

Some like curling up with a kitten, a two buck chuck and a Dan Brown book. Some like running for straight, endless miles in shiny shorts,then having to run back to square and falsely embrace the monotonous scenery in reverse. Some sit criss cross apple sauce (can't say Indian Style any more) in meditative pose and contemplate silence as a diversion to answering real questions about themselves in real time, while covert flatulence escapes to smother concentration. Some golf, some tend gardens, watching in stealth from bay windows for any stray jart or whiffle ball to crankily collect that may breach the trophy green. Some are born perfect, remain unscathed and empty.

I prefer shaking my brain from the foundations of its cerebral jello mold and re arranging my tainted train of thought. It's like a two hour lobotomy in the presence of overpriced beer and infinite watts.

The whole idea of headbanging IS to smother concentration. And to come out shaken clear and free of all blood clots, brain fuzz, P.T.A. faux pas, aftermaths of yelling at old polaroids, thrown furniture, exposed internet histories...Yet... the head is an air hammer pounding nails made of synchronized, bowel buffering riffs in ringing gnarly succession. Those riffs get knocked back in a riptide line of hairy robotic bows and flips offered up by a crusty cadre of Captains of cavemen, idiots of industry. The band responds by a dodge and a parry and a killstroke emitted from glittering ax and crunchy Celestion cacophony.  The riffs are a reminder (not a reflection) of my goddamn day. I don't bang my head to remember. I bang my head to forget. I pay in advance, and I buy the merch, motherfucker. Forget the crippling responsibility of a single dad's world. Forget the asshat in the LeSabre next to you on the way to the show blaring biggie in selfish omnipresent ghetto noise pollution. Forget the dude who didn't cut your bagel all the way through. Forget Joe the Plummer. Forget to remember. Forget to reset. Not to regret.

I get myself to the place where thwips of hair are painting my chin with sweat. Chafing, erasing.
Grey hairs unplucked, popping out like feathers from a strut-tastic chicken, dripping in the mist of licks.
Hair like tentacles bent on revenge, wrapped up in riffs so dirty, they're clean. Bang 'em if you got 'em. heads and hairs, that is....

We do what we gotta do to get to the godhead, to exhume redemption, to rock on and radiate.

Thank you Fu Manchu for Inspiration, perspiration and palpitation.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Moshtadon

Last night I went to see Mastodon in Philadelphia. I could pontificate on how awesome it was and argue that the precision, aptitude and all around bad- assery of this Atlanta foursome has neither faded nor morphed into anything new(as critics and long time fans have alluded to from 2009's Crack the Skye album on...) rather the band has expanded upon what it has always been...a one of a kind metal experience that pretty much puts on a clinic for any modern metal outfit in their periphery or wake. But I wanna talk about the mosh pit.

Bill, Troy, Brann and Brent barely broke a sweat while their stiff metal fingers blurred skins and dulled frets. Yet this mastery, these songs and a bunch of burly buffoons were the fine ingredients sprinkled on a whirling human cauldron of sweat, stench, piss and vinegar just feet from the edge of their stage..known as the obligatory Mosh Pit.

From the Urban Dictionary: Possible origin of the word "mosh" - the word originated in New York in the early 80s. The previous word for the dance was "slam". The origin is probably Yiddish, as is "mish-mosh" - something all mixed up. It was a specific New York Hardcore variation on slamming which went in a circle (usually counter-clockwise with the stage as 12:00). There was a variation to slower, chuggy music called the creepy-crawly. It may have been Jimmy Gestapo (Murphy's Law) himself who coined the word.

Crucial Mosh, New York style! 
Ok, whatever. By design last night, I decided to venture into the mosh pit. My friend wanted to let off steam after a tough week of intense study and I wanted to get a closer look at the band. It has been awhile since I'd seen them live as I was strapped to a breathe machine in a hospital post asthma attack on the night of their last visit to Philly in 2012. I still have the untouched ticket. I seem to be more vertically challenged at general admission shows these days, especially metal shows. There is always an abundance of lanky leathered- up Lurches at metal shows, who tend to hold their ground unimpressed and arms crossed in the middle of the fucking floor, like a loch ness neck telescoping above a sea of black T-shirts with cryptic fonts. And they follow me, like hovering black clouds putting up a denim wall in front of me, needy, leaning in,marlboro light smellin' girlfriends in tow. 
 I haven't reviewed a show professionally in a while either (long story, but hit me up if you need someone who has experience) and didn't have the sweet combo of a press/photo pass and a plus one, either. So it was gonna have to be an old school excursion being whipped through the pit and  coughed up at the front to get the visual results we wanted. If you brave the pit, you can do a mosh charade in motion through the hellish hurricane as a short cut to the front. I thought I was prepared, as a veteran of 6-700 shows, packing on a post- 40 fifteen as added heft to strengthen my stance in this treacherous dance.
 But there are no real rules in a mosh pit. Security tightens up with a don't ask don't see don't tell mentality. Which makes it real loose. These paid cretins are not storm chasers, they want no part of the tornado in front of them, and are ensconced safely beyond the barrier..catching dehydrated or blotto-ed crowd surfers like foul balls in their triage bunker..and sending them on their way via escort or ambulance. Even a community help-your bro-up-when-he-falls is mostly all for naught when you add darkness and a blanket of black tees to the deafening roar of a wall of Orange amps in sync with the strobes. There were bodies on the floor, boots in faces, errant air jabs( a la old school punk rock) in the dark that landed on ruddy cheeks in bass drum- like thuds. There were helicopters of hair whirring into view and obstructing the path to that sweet spot we coveted..the other side of the pit..center stage and a mere plectrum toss from the Masto -monitors. 

My friend made it, being younger, smaller and faster and armed with a plethora of yoga positions in which to weave in and out of the fleshy shrapnel unscathed like fucking Neo from the Matrix.  Me?  The last time I was in a mosh pit proper was at a small Rollins Band in Buffalo, prob 1991, which coincides with the last time I ever spit out bits of tooth. Errant elbows are like medieval maces to a young jawline. That shit scared me then, and it scars me now.But there I was and there was no turning back. I hopped in past the obligatory "arc of bros". This is an(offensive) line of miscreant-ic mortals dressed in camo cargos and their favorite backwards cap at every hard rock/punk/metal show. They pepper the edge of the pit with their muscle for the main purpose of shoving any shaggy nerd into the maelstrom with roid effected snickers and high fives all around. When one member of the arc of bros does enter the actual eye of the human hurricane, it becomes ANYTHING but calm. Most of these cavemen lower their shoulders like strong safeties into unsuspecting pee wees and lift them like a bloodshot bull does to a skinny matador. And thats exactly what happened to me. I was airborne for two seconds( WHAT A VIEW!) and came down just in time to move out of the way of some serious meth-ed out sweat monster conjuring up something with an arsenal of growls and wind-up arms. I got bumped around like the meaty pinball that I am and thrown into it a few more times before joining my friend on the other side. We spent the entirety of Mastodon's set being crushed by the rippling, swaying tsunami of zombies behind us and I had to compete with a rotund metal lady's hamhock of an arm bitch slapping me in my face while she screamed "BILL, YOU FUCKING ROCK !"and making the "heart" symbol with her fingers .

I feel like the Seven Dwarves were all coked up and break dancing on my back and neck. I feel like kneaded dough today...and I'm slow to rise. But that was some show. It was like a spin class with a better soundtrack, bruises and no bikes. Stupid similes aside, I'm a happy man today....25 years between mosh pits is too long. I made it through. Now give me a fucking cookie and turn the music up.

Thank you Mastodon. I look forward to your new album Once More Around the Sun, coming at us in June.