Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Baby Jesus Remix

Me has composed twelve point plan for good happy success. I’ve only made it to step five, so sue me if your results vary. In step one, the patient is required to return to their hometown for the holidays. In my case, that town is Keokuk, Iowa. You may have read about it in my previous post entitled “Merry X-Max.” It’s a wonderful place and it’s a wonderful life starring Jimmy Stewart as the General Manager for the steel castings plant. Step two consists of hooking up with an old high school “dude,” preferably one who is as cynical as you are regarding the former stomping grounds. In my own example, we will now refer to the “dude” as Bob Weir. In fact, at one time the dude actually looked a little like Bob Weir, even though he enjoyed the Phil Lesh material more. After all, Ratdog is just a step higher than your local Grateful Dead tribute band. Step three requires smoking marijuana. You cannot proceed to step four without completing step three. And as the hometown Bob Weir stated on Christmas Eve: “As long as I can smoke something, I’ll be alright.”
For step four, you’ll need to visit Keokuk’s annual “City Of Christmas.” If you’re not familiar with Keokuk’s “City Of Christmas,” you probably have something similar in your own hometown. Essentially, it’s a bunch of Christmas lights, Christmas themed displays, and a low-wattage radio station that cranks out 24 hours of non-stop Christmas gansta rap. You now understand why you need to complete step three before progressing on to step four.

One drives through the City Of Christmas at a low speed. Speeders and vandals have to contend with the City Of Christmas Police Department. The offices of the City Of Christmas Police Department are a camper next to the bandstand. They wear Kevlar parkas and have their own candy cane swat team. It’s just like an episode of “Hill Street Blues” except all the characters here dress in green and red. When you leave the City Of Christmas, blue neon deer jump over your vehicle. Once again, you really should finish step three before step four. Trust me.
Step five requires you to look for your hometown’s toughest tavern, bar, or honky tonk. This part is tricky, as years may have passed since you’ve actually visited a local watering hole and, as The Byrds song goes “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” What?
Luckily, I just moved from my beloved hometown, so I knew that former violent nightspots like “Dirty Harry’s,” “The Glass Rail,” and “Tweaker’s Shank*” were now closed. Hell, the real violent spots, like the infamous “four corners” bars** (a stabbing every weekend!) were closed even when I was in high school, so there really hasn‘t been a truly scary bar in Keokuk in almost twenty years. I knew that some shady undertakings were taking place in a place called “T.J.’s House Of Music.***” I’m not sure who T.J. is, but I’m pretty sure that the only music there is the sound of people grinding their teeth after doing a line of crystal in the bathroom. It’s now Christmas, so a lot of bars are closed. T.J.’s doesn’t have any external signage, but a glimpse through the tinted windows showed a faint light over the bar. The door was locked and, despite our promise to pay in cash, the bartender refused to let us in, even though two men were still seated at the bar enjoying their Miller High Life and Meth. Bob Weir and I moved on to the ever-reliable Tee Pee Lounge.
There is no draft beer at the Tee Pee Lounge. Pleasure comes your way in twelve ounce cans and there’s nothing fancier than well drinks if’n your in the mood for a cocktail. Surprisingly, everyone was under the age of 30 (’cept for me and Bob Weir) at the Tee Pee Lounge, and even the bartender was pretty hot. I say this with amazement because a friend’s mother used to bartend there and she was at least 65 at the time. The fact that the Tee Pee found 1.) someone under the age of 30 to dish out cans of beer and 2.) that she was fairly attractive means the Tee Pee has made incredible improvements since they first opened in 1943. A drunk dude present that night told Bob Weir all about it. We had bet a round that the bartender wouldn’t know shit about the Tee Pee’s history. She didn’t. I won.
The local Coast Guard was present in the form of a drunk twenty-something guy that sat next to me and told me all about his work. He was very proud of what he did, oftentimes using a military vernacular to try and impress me. What did not impress me was his confession that he had to go to work in four short hours. Thank God the river is frozen over this time of year; this Marine wanna-be really needed to be put to bed and was in no shape ready to deal with The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.
The jukebox played the obligatory Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, and today’s best country. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” played which brought the dozen patrons into a reflective mood. Daddy don’t like to be tied down in Keokuk; hell, even the condom machine at the Tee Pee states “For refund insert baby.” I thought it was kind of clever myself.
Then Gloria Gaynor came on the jukebox and the bartender started to dance. Below is a picture of her dancing, but it’s too dark to see anything. She was hot. Trust me.

Like I said, I only made it to step five because me and Bob Weir totally shut down the Tee Pee Lounge. And even though it wasn’t the most surly bar in Keokuk, it probably was the most fun. And isn’t that what we’re really seeking during the holidays anyway? I got home at 3:30am and crashed the folk's refrigerator for some pickled herring before going to bed to let Santa do his business. Santa. Jesus. They're the same thing, according to Master Shake.

*Not a real bar

**The Four Corners were essentially four bars, each on facing the other on the corner in a neighborhood in West K. Only two of the four remained standing when I was in high school. Now, only one building remains and it's closed for business.

***Supposedly, Styx played there. I don't believe it.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Jesus Died For Somebody's Sins

Jesus is the reason for the season. So forgive me if my worship doesn’t include spending a certain amount of bones on living in a manger. Let me explain. I arrive home on Saturday night to find the driveway filled with vehicles. Inside, my roommate (the owner of this lovely suburban cookie cutter) has essentially asked his older brother to move in with us. Did I mention his brother is married? Did I mention the two have an infant daughter? Did I mention they also have a two year old son? Did I mention they have a five year old daughter? Did I mention that this family of five is now living in our three bedroom house with the two of us? I guess I don’t need to mention that I’m now going insane.
The roommate/landlord did run into some trouble with the law a few months ago that will probably result in him losing his license. His job requires him to travel quite a bit and he was in line for a promotion with his company. The fear was that if his employer found out if he had lost his license that they wouldn’t give him the promotion and, worse yet, may fire him for his actions. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen but it was going to pose a problem with the increased amount of traveling his new position required. He asked me to become his “driver” but that really wasn’t part of my own career goals. He then asked his older sister to undertake the position. She was going through a divorce, or considering one, but eventually she declined as well. Next family member. His older brother was not happy with his own position in Dallas, TX and was considering moving to Iowa to raise his family. Nice plan, or was it. Typically, people have a resemblance of a plan before moving across country and especially if they have four other mouths singing “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” all the way to the Hawkeye state. Now I understand that Latino culture places a high priority on family and the bond between them is incredibly strong. But isn’t the notion of, oh I dunno, logistics also considered when family’s stick together during times of strife. Jesus Fucking Christ. I never want to be married to someone who acquiesces to an idea of moving across country into a younger brother’s house when said house isn’t big enough to hold more than four people. Again, if you’re keeping score, the number of living humans in this home is now up to seven. Jesus wept.

So he runs the idea by me without much time, effort, or thought beforehand. I mean, it’s just another example of selfishness and how he can manage to overcome a life lesson without negatively impacting a career advancement that will provide him with more cash to blow on fucking toys he’ll never use. As if he hasn’t learned already that all the cash in the world won’t by him happiness and resolve some deep rooted issues caused by, newsfuckingflash, his family. Jesus Christ on the cross.
So the brother is going to become his driver. His wife will stay home (here) and raise the kids until….Well that’s about all I know. I seriously thought this would be a retarded idea that would soon pass, but the situation has proven to be the reality of my surroundings. Jeezee Peezee.
The family is relatively nice and extremely quiet. They refer to me as “the guy who speaks English.” The wife cooks and cleans and I am included in the nightly dinner menu, which is strange as I kind of enjoy doing my own cooking. Added to this, it is an extreme Mexican diet, which isn’t bad with the exception of some low nutritional value ingredients. This works well with the roomies’ revelation that he has diabetes and high blood pressure. And if you’ve ever tasted authentic Mexican food, you’ll understand that it’s a culture that considers beef tripe as a meat. I’m fairly certain that his doctor did not recommend he increase his lard and grease intake during his last bloodwork session. Jeese Louise.
So I have no idea what the plan is, other than there is no plan and that the two year old likes to start screaming for his Daddy at early hours. I know this has to be taking a toll on the roommate, so I’m anticipating that the situation will change around the same time I’ll be actively looking for a new place to live. Jesus H. Christ.
As for now, I’ve got to get the fuck away for the holidays, so I’ve pushed up my schedule and now want to be on the road as early as tomorrow night. I don’t give a shit that it’s bitterly cold outside, the Honda will be loaded up with gifts and Christmas fucking joy after work as I run away from this diverse “Eight Is Enough” episode staring me as Adam Rich. The eighth character, by the way, is the baby Jesus.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Sourmash Christmas Carol

Get yr. Snow license, it’s wintertime. It sucks being a largehearted boy in Iowa with long-distance relationship tendencies. You’re always driving towards fulfillment and then, eventually, driving back to reality. In my case, reality meant missing work entirely and not giving a rat’s ass about it or the repercussions. The funny thing was, I didn’t get a chance to demonstrate my ambivalence towards it; the manager who hates me was totally apologetic about it. In some manner it was her fault but ultimately the responsibility falls on me. Fuck responsibility up it’s tight ass.
So these wintertime travels remind me that I’m driving without insurance. Like I said: “Fuck responsibility.” But the cold air brings me back to other winter nights in a previous life. And while I don’t want to do a “u-ie” and return to that previous life, I do think it’s time for me to finally throw the whole thing in park. Is it the clarity of being sober that’s brought me to this understanding? Probably not, as I feel it has always been in me and drugs have a tendency to do wonders like mask pain and stifle initiative. And to this day, I’d rather enjoy the company of a spliff than a shot of Maker’s Mark. But a shot every now and then certainly does hit the spot.
Now on to one last memory of Christmas past…

In high school, I was moderately involved in theatre. By “moderately” I mean that if it happened to be a production that I was interested in, I would audition. On occasion, I would get a part. There were a few productions that I had no interest in. For some reason, “South Pacific” comes to mind. In some odd rationale, I felt the play was “racist” and signed up for the lighting crew instead of an acting or chorus part.
I can’t remember why I thought “South Pacific” was racist, but I do remember that it has nothing to do with the story that I set out to tell.
Mr. Anderson, our cigarette smoking drama teacher at the high school, approached me and a friend during the fall of my Freshman year. He stated that the community theatre group needed some volunteers for their yearly production of “A Christmas Carol.” Specifically, they needed some help with sound and lighting. Now the other dude had done a killer job running lights for the summer musical production of “Pippin” so I knew he’d be a shoe-in for the lighting chores of the Dickens production. That left me with a chance at doing sound.
As it turns out, they had picked another volunteer to run sound, so that left me with the boring duty of running sound effects for the production. Essentially, all I had to do was make sure there were a bunch of chain sounds for the Ghost of Christmas Past and some wind noises for the Ghost of Christmas Future. Pretty mundane stuff, but as any drama fag will tell you, there are more chances to get laid in school plays than any other extracurricular activity. Having dabbled in both sports and drama, I can tell you there is ten times more sexual activity resulting from the drama camp than any sport can provide. Some of the spoils can also fall on to members of the lighting and sound crew, and the community theatre presented an opportunity to have a go at some of the Catholic school girls. It goes without saying, I could live through the boredom of sound effects if there was a chance at getting a little after the cast party on closing night.
The sound guy they picked up was probably in his late twenties and far to old to be ogling the seventeen year olds in the production. Of course, that didn’t stop him just like the cold winter air didn’t stop him from retreating to his vehicle during intermission to snort cocaine. I’ll never forget him talking into the headsets during the performance how there was a “100% chance of a snowstorm” every night.
So while the sound guy was keeping himself entertained, there was little for me and the lighting dude to really do. I was also dismayed how everyone, particularly the director, always seemed to be too uptight to be really feeling the Christmas spirit. All of this prompted me to bring a fifth of Jack Daniels to the last night of the performance.
I devised a practical joke that would take place on stage in front of a live audience. At the end of the play, where Tiny Tim utters the whole “God bless us everyone” line, the Cratchit family toasts a glass and has a quick drink of wine. Up until that point, the “wine” was nothing more than grape juice or some other Shirley Temple elixir. On the final night, I poured Jack Daniels into the glasses and saved the rest for the cast party after the show.
The lighting dude, cocaine soundman, and myself were all aware of what was about to take place. When the line approached, the three of us turned up the headphones to the stage microphone to hear the reaction. Tiny Tim, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 9 years old said his immortal line and took a big gulp of his grape juice. Now, it’s a scientific fact that most 9 year old boys aren’t used to their first taste of Tennessee whiskey and most will probably immediately become violently ill afterwards. That is exactly what Tiny Tim did on this night. Although no vomit came up, the whiskey did. It came back out of his mouth and through his nose, causing the crippled boy to cough uncontrollably for the remaining five minutes of the play. All three of us backstage rolled with laughter as we heard Tiny Tim trying to expel the last remnants of the smuggled whiskey. All other cast members didn’t seem to notice or care about the new wine. Bob Cratchit actually seemed to enjoy his drink, finishing the nip entirely while on stage. .

During the curtain call, Tiny Tim looked white as a ghost before quickly exiting the stage to look for a drinking fountain.
The director was not too pleased with my practical joke and made it a point to tell me and the lighting guy that we would not be invited back to volunteer for the Great River Players. My heart broke and then my mind noticed the oxymoron of the words “volunteer“ and “invited.” The mind quickly refocused as it remembered the words “cast party” and the reason for attending: “Catholic girls.”
Unfortunately, the lighting dude decided to keep up with Tiny Tim in the whiskey department and had almost the same results. By midnight, he was too loaded to walk and he was late for his graveyard shift at the radio station. I had to leave the Catholic girls in the capable hands of other cast members and drive the lighting dude to work, which led me to a brief career in radio. But that’s another Christmas story for another time.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Fall-The Real New Fall L.P.

Most people probably hate to be known as an asshole. Pablo Picasso was never called one, but I'd bet that The Fall's Mark E. Smith has heard it a few times during the band's 27 year existence. After all, when Mark started out, he originally auditioned for some heavy metal bands only for them to discover that Mark was 1.) tone deaf, and 2.) an asshole. So what's an asshole to do but form his own band and piss off 49 former band members (including 1 ex-wife) to the point where "The Fall" is merely "Mark E. Smith's band this time." Mark, perhaps one of music's greatest songwriters, of course worded it best with a song once that admitted "My friends don't amount to one hand."
Originally called "Country On The Clink," the album was planned for release in April 2003. Somehow, a promotional copy was leaked on the internet, even though the promotional material was clearly labeled: "For promotional use only - anyone abusing this will have Mark E Smith to contend with and may God have mercy on your soul!!!". Being an asshole, MES scrapped the album and remixed the entire project because he said so. To be an even bigger asshole, MES provided English fans with a slightly different version of the album last year before releasing it in America in 2004.
There have been some great Fall albums. There have been some really bad Fall albums. And if you believe that bands typically get a little soft after their first quarter century, you'd probably have a number of examples to back up your hypothesis. But you wouldn't have Mark E. Smith fronting any one of them. He's an asshole like that.
"The Real New Fall LP" is a great Fall album. After a few years of surprising silence, Mark comes across positively renewed and the "new" Fall line-up sounds exactly like they did twenty seven years ago: unlike anything else. The music, the lyrics, it's all remarkable. Proof that even at 46 (he looks much older) Mark has got more left in him than England's newest hitmaker. What keeps him both relevant and off the radio is his satirical rants and uncommon delivery. As John Peel said "They are always different. They are always the same."
Six years ago, it did look like the end. Mark had managed to piss off his (then) band enough to the point where a drunken on-stage fistfight broke out between him and...the rest of the band. The performance continued with Mark's shirt stained with his own blood. After the performance, Mark fired everyone except one individual and continued on the road. Mark even went a step further, perhaps salt on the wound, with the album's song "Portugal" which sounds like the reading an angry letter directed to him, essentially chastising Mr. Smith for his abusive treatment of band members and the crew ("You were abusive, way beyond what anybody should have to reasonably deal with. Words fail me how offensive a human being you are. Treat people as you want to be treated!").

"I hate the countryside so much/ I hate the country folk so much" he barks on "Contraflow," but Smith has always been more of an urban poet rather than some Hibbings, Minnesota troubadour. In 1965, Dylan let out a collective sneer asking a generation "How does it feel?, while MES has made a living with a sneer that seldom asks, yet instead demands that you "Open the goddamn box!" on "Boxoctosis," perhaps the album's most memorable track. And I've yet to hear Dylan rhyme "Dolly Parton" with "Lord Byron."
The coupling comes from the standout track "Mountain," which ranks as one of the greatest Fall songs ever recorded. Nobody in music could come up with a lyric like "So I went fishing, and a note from a fish said: 'Dear Dope: If you want to catch us, you need a rod and a line. Signed, The Fish.'" and make it work. Read the line aloud. Now sing it. Now explain how a guy with, at the most, two monotonic notes in his voice has managed to make a career out of it. Not that MES has gotten rich from his original vision of forming a band with "raw music with really weird vocals over it," but if I could, I'd pay him a King's sum to never change from being different.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Too Fast For Larry King Live

The question that appears to be on everyone's mind is "I wonder how the new job is going with Todd?" Well, in a nutshell, the job allows me to drive to a place to do absolutely nothing and get paid for it. I wanted something with low stress, but this is utterly retarded. And it seems that those involved or somewhat responsible for this new career of nothingness, are nothing but apologetic. They then offer me a Wiggles guitar for Christmas.
Which reminds me of past jobs that paid shit but provided me with ample amounts of entertainment. Gone are the days in which I can suggest to a co-worker to urinate in the boss' office and actually witness him doing it. People then ask "Didn't that stink up the place?" but then these people don't know anything about the river cities music leader. This was a place that allowed a cat to drag in the half-eaten carcass of a bunny rabbit, smearing the blood and entrails of the rodent throughout the break area. There were so many health violations present that a little human pee might have actually cleaned the place up somewhat.
Which brings me to Mick Mars and the recent news of a full-fledged Motley Crue reunion. To me, the only thing more exciting than a Motley Crue reunion are actually photos of Mick Mars just weeks after hip replacement surgery. Like I give a shit about a last cash-in attempt by a slightly higher than mediocre Sunset Strip band. They did one halfway decent album overproduced/remixed by the former producer of The Cars ("Too Fast For Love") and one relatively enjoyable album that seemed quite awesome after five beers and several bong hits ("Shout At The Devil"). Then the girls started buying their albums. Then Motley Crue became irrelevant in my world.
Which reminds me that I wanted to mention how absolutely dead Mick Mars looks now. The fucker was old before, but now he looks older than even my Dad and probably walks slower than my Grandfather. It appears that the reason why Motley Crue broke up to begin with was because Mick died. Since there have been remarkable achievements in the world of science, doctors have suddenly been able to resurrect Mick Mars from the dead and the only way to pay for these doctors is to force The Crue to reunite and tour once more.

Which reminds me that Motley Crue was on Larry King tonight. Let me repeat: Motley Crue was on Larry King tonight. Is there not enough news in the world that Larry Fucking King has to report on yet another Motley Crue reunion?! And in case your wondering, Mick Mars looked like he was going to pass out in pain throughout the entire interview, which mainly consisted of Larry getting Mick Mars mixed up with Nikki Sixx.
Which reminds me that today's kids have no fucking idea who Motley Crue is. Instead, they know them as "The band with that big dick drummer."
Which reminds me that I've spent way too much time dwelling on Motley Crue for one night.

Monday, November 15, 2004

I Miss The Comfort In Being Sad

It's snowing here, and the casual Xanax hangover has brought an urge to sleep again. Either that, or the bullshit reality of working once more in a bullshit position doing the same bullshit that I was doing nine years ago. This ain't what Lennon meant when he sang about ""Starting Over" and Jack Douglas isn't producing my life. But then again, he got assassinated shortly after "Double Fantasy," so I must count the proverbial blessings.
Which gets me to thinking about the Nirvana box set, a purchase that I have yet to acquire. It seems like just a few years ago, but in reality was almost a lifetime away, when radio was ripe with mediocrity and a little power-trio from Washington got Killdozer's producer to clean up their Jack Endino garage sounds and make an undisputed classic called "Nevermind." Working at a Top 40 radio station at the time, a co-worker and friend exclaimed "You should add it!" when we discovered that DGC records would be releasing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as a single. The song was incredible, and it was ours. "No fucking way that thing will ever take off." was my honest reply. It did, of course; we added it at the station three weeks later. And the world turned on its hair metal axis....

So glorious a ruckus and so much a "spokesman" for my generation, I related to Kurt but not in a weird Carpenters "Superstar" kind of way. I liked the idea that someone my age from a blue collar small town who wrote honest songs and played guitar poorly got famous. And the lesson of this story is that rock stars with lots of raw talent and a Mosrite guitar end up with a shotgun wound in a seldom used room of their home.
I came to work at the radio station and started my day. The traffic director paged my office phone and said that Tracy from Elektra Records was holding for me on line one. It wasn't an "add day," meaning that I wasn't expecting phone calls from record companies. But Tracy and I had a nice, personal relationship and so I took the call.
"Have you heard the news yet?" She asked, noticeably upset.
"No. What happened?"
"Oh Todd...They found a body at Kurt's place in Seattle and they think it's him."
Kurt had been missing for a few days and the theory was that he was using again. But her demeanor hinted that it was more than simply an overdose, and when pressed she admitted to not knowing much more than a male body and a shotgun found next to it. She was crying. I didn't know what to think. This man was not a relative, and I didn't know why a sense of panic filled me.
"I've got to go see what's going on, Tracy." I said.
"Call me later." she said. "Are you going to be Ok, Todd?"
Nobody had asked me that in a long time, death or otherwise.
I went to the newsroom and had the news director pull all of the automatic A.P. news feeds that were starting to litter his floor. It was there that I read in chronological order the entire events of April 8, 1994. There was no official word on who was found in Seattle that morning, but most of us understood it was him. The violent nature of his action was something that took me entirely off guard.
I did my part. I read the news. I played the songs. I announced the tragedy. I fielded the phone calls. And when I finally was able to put things in perspective, ironically as I played the lies that housed a chorus of "And I swear that I don't have a gun," I began to feel the emotions of that day. I retreated into the music library and starting to cry for a guy who just fronted a band. It was the first time since John Lennon's death that I had done such a thing. These tears were different, because he was supposed to speak for me somehow, and instead, the selfish fuck took the easy way out. I looked out of the music library window and noticed how gray that April afternoon had become. The afternoon news announcer burst into the control room and noticed me crying. She apologized for the interruption and asked if I was ok. What was different from her concern as apposed to Tracy's earlier inquiry was the fact that the news announcer was verbally offering her two cents on how "stupid" Kurt was for killing himself and leaving his child without a father. True, but she didn't seem to understand that part of his allure was his emotional fragility and the loud/soft=Janov/Lennon therapy of his output. Her uneducated comments angered me. She later became my wife, and I always resented her for the actions she displayed on that day.
Afterwards, I went home to my parents house having recently moved home after splitting with my then-girlfriend. She initially had her own opinions about Kurt too, declaring that he didn't appreciate his fans very much because he was flipping the bird in the "Nevermind" insert photo. Two weeks after Kurt's death, she was replaying his memorial for me and silently weeping next to me on the couch. A tad melodramatic for someone who earlier declared him to be such an ungrateful prick. I guess you could say I was resentful about that too.
My Mother could sense that this front man actually meant something to me and treated me with kid gloves when I made it home.
"I'm sorry about what happened with that Kurt Cobain." she offered.
"I heard about it on the news and I know you really liked him."
I went to the back room of my parent's house and watched MTV report on the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Kurt Loder was talking with David Fricke and, for a brief moment, it seemed that MTV actually understood it had an obligation to do something other than make money. Then came the copies of the suicide note filled with tiny writing, sentences sloping downwards, and words scratched out from last minute edits. A perfectionist all the way until the trigger was pulled.
I couldn't listen to Nirvana much after that. It felt wrong and it perhaps was too real for me to take. I always believed what he was writing, but his violent end suddenly made everything bold-type and personal. I continued to purchase the obligatory posthumous releases only to watch them collect dust. There's a part of me that wants to run out and purchase the new Nirvana box set, but there's the bigger part of me that understands it won't be something I play after the initial spin. There's no amount of demo material, home recording, or unreleased track that will make me understand more than I already know or want to be reminded of.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Bob Dylan-Live Review

Bob Dylan & His Band
Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA

It must be noted that if you’re considering an evening with Bob Dylan, don’t go with the expectation that he is obliged to give you anything more than a performance that allows you to be in his presence. He changed the face of music and that means he’s given you plenty, thank you very Goddamn much. Admittedly, The Rolling Thunder Review of 1975 was probably the last time Bob actually went out of his way to make a lasting live impression. Since that time, and especially in the past ten years, Dylan has settled into a role of the traveling troubadour, playing a selection of songs that include a few that just happen to be some of the most important lyrics ever created by a man.
Another important reminder is that Dylan’s voice plays a minor role in his career. It’s always been this way, of course, but it’s especially relevant now. His voice is fractured by cigarettes, a motorcycle accident, and this thing called life. I suppose one could argue that his phrasing is a critical piece to the lyrical genius, but I could argue that, in a live setting, phrasing also takes a back seat.
No. You’re there to pay your respect to the man. He knows it. You should too. He doesn’t owe you anything, and yet his most recent albums prove that he continues to produce challenging material with words that add to his already legendary gifts.
At the same time, I’ve got to believe that Dylan actually enjoys touring and performing live. After all, his 2004 tour started several months ago, brought him around the world and back in time to do it all over again. It’s not like the guy is hard to find: he played the Midwest just a few weeks prior to this late October gig and he continues onward to markets typically overlooked by even farm league performers. As I said, he’s a troubadour and he seems to have a desire to let everyone have an opportunity to see him in person just like Woody Guthrie did before him. It’s a nice role for him, and I wished that at least enough people recognize this opportunity to fill three quarters of the Carver Hawkeye arena.

Despite poor ticket sales, the Dylan faithful were present to pay their respects and hear some of his newer material and changing interpretations on the familiar classics. Who are the “Dylan faithful” these days? Judging by the audience demographics they include old hippies, Deadheads, intellectual types, Middle class baby boomers and the children of middle class baby boomers forced to attend the show with their parents because Mom or Dad bought them a ticket. Hey, it could have been worse: it wasn’t disturbing like the number of 7 year olds I saw with Dad at a Kiss concert several years ago. And while I’m confident that the children who attended Dylan on this night have less of a chance of growing up misogynous narcissistic pricks that spit blood from a demon costume, I don’t think there’s much chance they left the arena with a full appreciation of Dylan’s work.
First of all, undisputed classics that were performed like “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” were so unrecognizable that in many cases it took some of the faithful a verse or two to figure out what song he was doing. Once they did, the faithful were then challenged by Bob’s rephrasing of it, causing many in the crowd who wanted to sing with the master’s words to become disoriented and resort to barking out lyrics before they actually left Dylan’s mouth. This happened to the middle aged guy who sat next to my friend. By the time of “Mobile,” he simply would preview each verse before it came, causing my friend to ask me in painful sarcasm “Do you hear an echo in here?”
But imagine for a moment that you’re Bob Dylan, The Man, and you’ve done a song like “Tambourine Man” thousands of times and you’ve heard from people how brilliant it is a thousand times, what do you do? You know you’re somehow required to examine it on stage once in an while, so why not chop it up, reheat it, and serve it up like a brand new dish? It’s his song after all. He can do with it whatever the hell he wants. Besides, it must get real annoying hearing people sing along with you after 40 years of touring.
The band took this material and his more recent songs and transformed them into a tight late 60’s country rock blend. Bob was dressed in a classy black western outfit and spent most of his time behind the keyboard with most of the band members watching his every move. Occasionally, Bob would break out the harp and serve up a dual instrumentation with the other hand on the keys. The stage was very basic with a curtain featuring the Dylan-eye logo as the backdrop for the first half of the songs and a plain white curtain the backdrop for the latter half. Even the band themselves seemed to complete the basic necessities look by having nothing larger than a combo amp for instruments. If the old fogies were worried about leaving the show with their ears ringing, Bobby made sure the mix was warm and clean with even his harmonica playing falling safely within OSHA noise standards.
What makes Bob Dylan “The Man” was his total ambivalence for the audience that evening. Throughout the set, Bob seldom looked at the crowd and didn’t acknowledge them once with words. The words from his songs were enough, and again, I think he was more interested in making sure that he had a good time rather than those in attendance. Dylan would move over towards members of the band every once in the while and tell them something, which I assumed might have been to add or change something to the night’s setlist.
One of the most annoying aspects of the show was with Bob’s delivery on several of the songs that evening. On five or more songs, Dylan would end the verse an octave higher than on the start. This created the impression of almost comical familiarity, which I’m sure wasn’t the intent. Actually, I’m not sure what the intent was, as the delivery created a blur between songs that were originally miles apart. There’s no reason for an updated version of “Make You Feel My Love” to sound the same vocally as “Tweedle Dee.”
Bob finally addressed the crowd during the encore, presenting the members of the band to the crowd and telling a joke about the drummer’s home state of Louisiana. This would mark the only time that he ever spoke to the crowd or face them. It should also be noted that those unlucky ticket holders on the left side of the arena saw nothing but the back of Bob Dylan up until that point as he rarely left his keyboard and, as mentioned, didn’t bother with any form of eye contact with the audience.
The encores, which remained the same tonight as they did on other dates of the tour, were the classic one-two punch of “Like A Rolling Stone” and then a nice jammy version of “All Along The Watchtower.” And just when the guitarist started to get some fires going with the Deadhead contingent, the show ended. A true Dylan faithful probably expected it while a casual fan probably left feeling either a little disappointed or understanding given the performer’s age.
But Bob doesn’t continually tour because he needs money or wants to somehow connect with his fans. He does it because, I think, he actually enjoys hanging out with the boys. There were times when I felt I was watching a rehearsal or watching a group of talented musicians devotedly backing a legendary icon. This isn’t a slag on the performance by any means, but one clearly has to approach a Bob Dylan concert nowadays with an understanding of what to expect. You’re there to be entertained to some extent, but entertainment has never really been a part of Dylan’s career. What brought him attention is the same thing that helped changed the course of rock music and made it a legitimate art form: his words. We were there to acknowledge this, to pay respect, to honor a man from Minnesota for the contribution he’s made to music. If Bob happens to enjoy himself performing live and living the life of a traveling troubadour, then we ought to respect that and grab at least a few opportunities to see how he’s going to present his art to us. After all, we don’t know how many times Bobby will be able to keep revisiting Highway 61.

To Be Alone With You
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Mr. Tambourine Man
Cold Irons Bound
If Dogs Run Free
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Love Sick
Highway 61 Revisited
Make You Feel My Love
Watching The River Flow
Honest With Me
Standing In The Doorway
Summer Days
Like A Rolling Stone
All Along The Watchtower

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Kittie/Otep/Crisis-Live Review

Quad City Live, Davenport, IA

Nu Metal, not to be confused with the “New Wave of British Metal” moniker from twenty-five years ago, seems to be a sub-genre filled with testosterone-filled young men filled with equal amounts of hatred and commercial desire. The irony, of course, is that the N.W.O.B.M. movement was also filled with plenty of hard cocks that seemed more intent on using them rather than whining about the state of their romantic lives, how unfairly the world has treated them, or how their upbringing was devoid of a strong male influence. There always seemed to be a hint of hatred, but much of the aggression was supplemented by a sense of humor, either by means of lyrical content or by their imagery.
But since grunge made it a little cooler for the metal boyz to discuss their feelings openly, and since hair metal made it cool to actually pursue the golden ring of Soundscan sales, their seems to be a prevalence of music acts that, well, just kind of sound the same. And where metal fans could rejoice in a community of non-conformity, there now seems to be a landscape of Nu Metal acts simply marching in line, which is something that record labels enjoy. At one time, there was no doubt that one could decipher the difference between Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, etc., but I’m hard pressed to see (or, more importantly, hear) the difference between Drowning Pool, Disturbed, Stain, etc.
Which is why I seemed a little bit more tolerant of the female faction of Nu Metal: at least I could hear the difference between the bands. They’ve also got to understand the track record for their ilk isn’t that impressive: The Runaways never really got beyond cult status, L7 never were able to get a gold record award, and the whole riot grrl movement never became anything more than a handful of fervent fanzines. Men seem to like their metal fronted by people with beans and franks and chicks seem to be content with letting the boys rule the roost, at least commercially speaking.
So the fact that Kittie was able to move over 500,000 copies of their debut Spit is very impressive. One has to consider the commercial impact that Ozzfest gave this all-female Nu Metal outfit and, therefore, it was interesting to see how the band faired after the limelight of metal’s most prestigious festival wore off. True to history, Kittie’s relevance, personnel, and sales figures have changed dramatically in the past four years as most consumers seemed intent of having just one album fronted by vaginal walls. I don’t understand why this anomaly occurs, but I do know that it took Lita Ford adding a bunch of synths before she was able to crack the top 40. Perhaps this act gave her the ability to cross-over to a larger demographic, and perhaps this is why Kittie has yet to match the limelight of their first release.
From Ozzfest to Quad City Live, a small club located on the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. Time’s making changes for Kittie, and it’s time for a much needed change in metal’s appearance but I’m not confident that they’re the band that’s capable of doing it. What they are capable of doing is aping a lot of the same shtick of their male counterparts while holding a loose grip on the sound that brought them exposure in the first place: performing balls-out rock with only the vocals providing a telltale hint that there’s estrogen manning the wheel.
This tour, with the uncreative title of “Metal Movement Tour 2004,” brings three bands (Crisis, Otep, Kittie) of sexually common lineage across America with some very uncommon backgrounds. Openers Crisis, hails from New York City, has been around the block for over a decade and undergone numerous personnel changes themselves. The band struggled to find a touring drummer for the Otep/Kittie tour and settled on their original drummer while their current one recuperated from surgery. As a result, the band focused on their older material rather than selections from their latest release “Like Sheep Led To Slaughter.” They performed a truncated set that propelled singer Karyn Crisis’ dreadlocks perilously close to the stage lights. A nice set that deserved a little more allotted time.
Otep, another recent Ozzfest alumni, came next with a more politically inclined direction. Otep (also the lead singer’s name) hails from Los Angeles and mixes a blend of lefty-poli poetry-with a nod to Slipknot. There’s a hint of mysticism about the band and, from what I gather, a lot of Goth elements abound along with more than a hint of Morrison-esque pretension. They seem to have a fervent following too, as many in the audience were drawn to Q.C.L. to see this band. Marching out on stage with a prop pig head, Otep seemed intent on making a statement, and I was surprised that much of the band’s anti-war dogma was accepted by such a, um, unsophisticated town like Davenport, Iowa. But the crowd seemed to grow restless at Otep’s continual need to tone down the volume and turn up the spoken word theatrics. It was the musical equivalent of revving an engine at a stop light only to tamely accelerate once the light turns green. Marilyn Manson once declared of singer Otep: “That girl scares me.“ But the only thing that scared me was the notion that Otep herself started to morph into the decaying corpse of Jim Morrison, which is who she seemed to be channeling on more than one occasion. Things did manage to get close to redline when the band centered on “House Of Secrets” standout track “Warhead.” Unfortunately, by the time the crowd was awaken with this G.W.B. attack, the band exited the stage. And while the crowd began chanting “Otep!” in the hopes of an encore, the p.a. music came up (Slipknot, of course) and the house lights illuminated. In short, the band’s load-in took longer than their actual set did.
Which cleared the way for Kittie. It’s uncertain if both openers short set time was a result of muscle flexing or intimidation, but it obviously made things that much easier for the Ontario, Canada quartet. Probably 75% of the attendees remained for Kittie, including several small children who continued to dart around with Pepsi colas in hand and black Kittie t-shirts on their backs. It was also obvious that Kittie held the full sound and lights hostage until their set started, which came at least four hours after a very young local Evanescence wanna-bees started the metal shenanigans.
If Kittie’s line-up has changed, there is no indication of lack of chemistry between the new members Lisa Marx (guitar), Jennifer Arroyo (bass) and founding sisters Morgan and Mercedes Lander. All four ladies displayed something that seems entirely lacking in today’s nu metal bands: a sense of humor. From the set-opener “Looks So Pretty,” it became clear that, despite dwindling record sales and fan base, the band enjoys performing together and combining old-school metal requirements (hand devil horns, insipid stage banter) with nu metal workmanship (guitar chugging, double kick drum spastics). And it was very refreshing to see a young woman as the first person to stage dive and crowd surf a crowd comprised of at least 65% males. I wasn’t really sure of the woman in her late thirties wearing the “More Fucking Blood” t-shirt, but she seemed happy and the male crowd was tolerant of her stumbling head banging.
The only real concern, aside from a drunken lush with a lit cigarette weaving in a crowded area, was the occasional venture into polished, near radio friendly material like the title track from their latest release “Until The End.” While the audience seemed appreciative of the melodic aspects of this direction, they were very receptive when the ladies focused on the agro qualities that brought them exposure in the first place. They even enjoyed Mick Mars lookalike Jennifer Arroyo’s bass solo which points towards the Lander’s belief that this line-up may indeed be a little musically stronger than the original incarnation.
So while Kittie continues to hold up and exceed many of their male counterparts, it seems a tad disheartening to watch their talent become under appreciated. We’ve seen it before with Joan Jett, L7, Bikini Kill, and other ladies that pursue the territories that seem to be reserved for those with a penis. And while I hate to play the sex card and put everything in such simpleton terms, I can find no other reason why a band like Kittie loses appeal while another male-dominated band with sub-par chops can find a wider audience. The material that is more polished certainly isn’t at the level of a “Kiss Me Deadly” and the band doesn’t seem intent on reinventing the wheel like, say Otep, is (and failing, I might add). The only thing I can hope for is their declaration that they’re in the game “Until The End” because we need bands like Kittie to be around. Sooner or later, metal’s glass ceiling has to break and encompass a more diverse lineage.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Joy Division - No More Ceremonies (bootleg)

On February 29th, 1980, Joy Division joined the band Killing Joke for a leap year performance at the Lyceum Theatre in London. This performance, or at least some of it, has been available on various vinyl bootlegs throughout the years under the titles “Komackino” (sic) and “Isolation.” In 1997, five of the songs from this Lyceum set were made available on the official Heart & Soul box set with much improved sound quality. No More Ceremonies marks the first time the entire Lyceum performance is available on compact disc with a limited edition run of 500 copies.
The set features a list that heavily borrowed from their then unreleased Closer album. As important as that album turned out to be, it’s nice to hear many of those song titles translated into a live setting. At the same time, there isn’t a lot of difference from the studio versions and the ones presented on this document. “Heart & Soul,” “Isolation,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” all suffer from lack of fidelity. The audience seems more enthusiastic with the familiar material like “She’s Lost Control” while one concertgoer seems to exclaim that the newer songs “sound the same.” Martin Hannett’s production would change that, of course, and according to accounts from the spring of 1980, Ian’s behavior became even more erratic to the point in which dates were cancelled. We know about the suicide that took place that May, which makes any document (especially a complete concert) even more enticing to fans looking for evidence of a downward spiral. They won’t find it here, but instead, a typical bootleg quality concert recording of an enormously influential band on the verge of releasing a landmark album and facing tragedy at the same time. For fanatics, that won’t prevent them from seeking out this unofficial release but for fans with a certain amount of control, the Heart & Soul box set is enough to satisfy their thirst for live material.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Joy Division - Refractured (box set)

Like many other fans, Joy Division’s music spoke to me at a pivotal moment in my life. Their influence continues to this day, and they have become a band that I’ve consciously continued to pursue to become what curious onlookers have called “completists.” It’s not an easy task, considering the band had only two proper studio albums, a posthumous odds & sods that did a nice job of sealing any loose ends, and an excellent greatest hits compilation (Substance, 1987) that provided novices with a nice introduction to the unit’s too brief career. Add to this, a top-notch box set (Heart & Soul, 1997) was released with the intention of completely cleaning out the vaults of any material worthy of release while collecting the band’s entire commercial output in one centralized location.
Given the facts around the band’s material and Ian Curtis’ suicide securing the group’s role as purveyors of darkness, it really should come as no surprise that fans continue to witness a virtual grave robbing of additional compilations as well as additional newfound concert documentations. The first effort came in the form of yet another greatest hits compilation (Permanent, 1995) that only signaled a new owner of the band’s masters and failed to come close to its 1987 counterpart. I could live without this release, however, as I already owned the material presented and felt no desire to add it to my own collection simply on the basis of updated packaging.
But fans such as me are saps when it comes to “new” live material presented to us, regardless of how many times a song title is repeated. This trend started with an authorized Factory release (Preston 28 February 1980, 1999), a document with such piss-poor fidelity and continual equipment problems, one could only assume the reason for its issue was to circumvent the floodgate of bootlegs of this performance that have been available for more than a decade.
Factory then issued another live document (Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979, 2001) of what sounds to be from a broadcast source that, again, was available on bootlegs prior to the official release. The performance at this date, however, proved to be an inspiring set that came as close to a definitive live document as one could hope for: tense, urgent, and tight. If you’ve ever felt that Joy Division was a band more at home in the studio, or if you’ve read about the power that they supposedly possessed on stage (but have yet to find proof of it) this is the album that denies and confirms these statements respectively.
Later that same year, Factory Records combined these two performances in a limited-edition set under the title Fractured. The fact that fans now had to choose between the original single disc sets as well as the Fractured compilation seemed to point towards cashing in and the “limited edition” appeal certainly secured that conception. Indeed, the pressings were limited to only 1,000 copies that hardcore fans quickly snagged.
So what to do? If you’re into milking Joy Division fans for all they’re worth, you simply “dress up” the Fractured box set again, up the limited edition quotient to 3,000 copies, and price it all a little bit higher. And that’s exactly what Alchemy Records has done with 2004’s Refractured box set. You get the Preston Warehouse performance and the original single-disc artwork, three live performances from Holland that were originally on the Les Bains Douches disc have been moved to the end of the Preston disc. You get the show from Paris and the original single-disc artwork and (here’s the draw for J.D. fans) you also get another often bootlegged performance from Amsterdam as a bonus third disc, making the whole thing qualify to be a “box” set and, therefore, become more expensive. Just in case you’re not completely sold on shelling out the cash, the “generous” folks at Alchemy Entertainment Ltd. have even included a reproduction of the Bains Douches concert poster, a t-shirt, and the limited edition box itself to store the entire contents. The problem is the concert poster is a small reproduction of the original and the t-shirt merely says “refractured” on it and has no reference to Joy Division whatsoever. I’ve also heard that the Amsterdam show was to have its own jewel case and original artwork as well, but finished product simply adds this disc to the Les Bains Douches case and contains no new artwork for the Amsterdam cd at all.
Since the bonus material does nothing to really entice Joy Division fans, the main draw would have to be the third disc, recorded at the Paradiso on 1/11/1980 in Amsterdam. As stated before, this performance has been the subject of several bootlegs for years, and the official Alchemy release does nothing to raise the fidelity or sound quality. The performance itself is a lackluster one that is hands-down better than the Preston fiasco but not as energetic as the Paris show.
Finally, and this is extremely important, it must be noted that all three of these live performance discs contain an unbelievably infuriating two second gap in between all of the songs. If you were thinking of getting at least an aural document of a Joy Division performance, you would be mistaken. Instead, what’s presented are live audio samples along the same lines as if you were to individually download each song by itself.
Without any sort of true collector appeal, without any evidence of professionalism in the mastering, and without any attention to detail in both packaging and liner notes, Refractured reeks of taking sheepish Joy Division fans for a ride. If Alchemy Records’ intentions were indeed pure, this would have been a perfect opportunity, even considering the low-fi source material, to properly compile a new aural view of how Joy Division approached their emotional conflict on stage. Because underneath all of the technical faults, there lays a sense of humility in the performances: imperfection, fear, anger, drama and talent are all prevalent here. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence of any redeeming human qualities found on Refractured. The entire release merely seems to settle on just trotting out the body of Ian Curtis for a fast buck once again.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Yo La Tengo-Live Review

Yo La Tengo
Iowa Memorial Union Wheelroom
For nearly twenty years, Hoboken, New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo have provided indie-rock’s landscape with their critically blessed albums and generous live shows. By generous, I mean that one not familiar with Yo La Tengo’s landscape can expect a fairly loose setlist, one that may rework an arrangement of a favorite original or destroy a treasured cover. So one has to be somewhat generous, or unforgiving, when the band rolls into town to perform live. One may also need to “understand” that this behavior is also an end-product of music fanatics like Y.L.T. themselves. After all, part of having an “indie-cred” is to 1.) having a huge music database/collection of your own and 2.) pulling out musical references/nostalgia from nowhere. And Yo La Tengo has tons of indie-cred, as their recent performance at I.M.U.’s Wheelroom demonstrated.
This attitude could be a curse in the wrong hands, but Y.L.T. always seemed like to really be as sweet as their press would have you believe. Indeed, judging from the smiles of band members Ira, Georgia, and James, you gotta be easy of on them for every missed note, poor vocal mix, or half-assed cover simply because they look like they’re having a blast just playing for you. A cynic might balk at the idea of spending fifteen bones to watch a bunch of 40-somethings noodle around for 90 minutes, but that same cynic probably doesn’t have the life experience, musical knowledge or record collection of any one of these Hoboken saints either.
That same cynic might not have recognized some of the enormous talent that joined Yo La Tengo on the stage that night, as part of a self-declared “get out the vote and vote for John Kerry” music get-together. For three hearts became eight as David Kilgore (The Clean), Rick Rizzo, Doug McCombs (both of Eleventh Dream Day), Damon & Naomi (formerly of Galaxie 500) all stood by Y.L.T.’s side (sort of) in kind of an indie-rock super group. The trouble with I.M.U.’s “Wheelroom,” aside from poor visibility, is that the stage simply wasn’t big enough to fit all members on at once, thereby forcing Mr. McCombs to play off stage and for all band members to play a virtual game of Twister whenever they switched instruments (which was often).
Logistics aside, the show started with “Bad Politics” immediately after a television broadcasting the Bush/Kerry debate was shut off. While James McNew struggled to get the septet off the ground, the band launched into the “fast” version of “Sugarcube” which pointed to the reason why you don’t see many seven-piece indie-bands on the road these days: the separation between instruments suddenly becomes a wash of sound with no real distinction, especially when said band doesn’t quite have the mixing equipment (or p.a.) to define each instrument. Things got a little better with the third at-bat “Little Eyes” from their latest Matador release “Summer Sun.” Coming from the power-pop version of “Sugar Cube” into such a lilting song like “Little Eyes” was quite a train-wreck to be sure, but with Ira Kaplan’s Garcia influenced guitar sound standing out over the rest of the din, things started to look up for the evening.
Another concern, however, became the democracy of the night as time was allowed for each performer to highlight some of their own material too. This created numerous technical challenges, particularly when David Kilgore began to get a little frisky with his Stratocaster only to have ghosts in the machine mute his fretwork towards the end of his song. Damon & Naomi, minimalists from day one, turned the tide on the democracy idea by providing a great Tim Buckley cover as well as material from their excellent output. Rick Rizzo also managed to bring things up a notch with a few of his own pennings that made me miss the day when Eleventh Dream Day was around, spreading their Midwestern Television guitar wrangling across the college radio landscape. The crowd agreed, providing Rick with a warm reception prompting him to utilize every bit of stage space allowed to him as well as every fret of his road-weary Les Paul. I wished to hear more of him and wished that Eleventh Dream Day provided him with more recognition than what was granted.
Eugene Mirman also was on the bill providing comic relief, but his material mainly served as set breaks for the band and was over by the time the audience really started to figure out his comedic approach. The guy is funny, but he was only allowed as much time as a Late Show appearance and he had to contend with, again, the small confines of the Wheelroom stage which was particularly treacherous given Mirman’s notion for playing his home made videos.
The night and the crowd were there for one reason and it certainly wasn’t to gather support for John Kerry as the vast majority of attendees were already firmly in Kerry’s camp. No, the audience spent their money to hear Yo La Tengo and, unfortunately, only about half of them found enough patience to stick it out until the very end. By 11:00pm, much of the crowd had given up on the give and take of the setlist and headed out for (I’m assuming) a cold-one as this was an all-ages, dry (read: no booze) event. It certainly doesn’t bode well for those folks’ own hip factor, as Ira pulled out some amazing Robert Quine inspired guitar solos and all three (nay, all eight) brought a few surprises for the show’s three song encore. Ending out the evening was a record collectors wet dream of cover songs: Devo’s “Beautiful World,” Adam & The Ants “Antmusic,” followed by Sun Ra’s “Somebody’s In Love.” Three wonderful, obscure choices from a record collection that most certainly rivals most of those in attendance that night. But what do you expect from three members of a two-decade old band with a little help from some friends with tons of their own indie-cred between them?