Posts tagged Green Room Music Source
In follow up to my Quid Pro Quo article, and my unyielding commitment to put out print-worthy advice on the internet, I’d like to talk to you about South By Southwest. As you all know, SXSW is a big music industry dealio in Austin, Texas. Every band, that isn’t big enough to not care, desperately wants to perform in front of the scores of industry spooks who wield the mystical powers needed to fling careers into the glorious limelight.
Some artists are so convinced that the elusive official showcase, or hip slot at an industry party, will abracadabra them to such fame that they will do anything to play- including bothering me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are examples of artists who showcased at SXSW and caught the eye and ears of someone with connections and went on to be hugely famous. It’s happened. However, one showcase making it or breaking it for an artist isn’t realistic. It just doesn’t work that way. But that isn’t why I don’t want you to e-mail me asking for a show at SXSW.
Every year, without fail, the emails start coming in as March approaches. I get e-mails and calls from all sorts of people looking for shows at SXSW. Wayward requests from friends, people I’ve never heard of, clients I decided to stop working with, even clients who decided to leave our roster. It’s nothing personal I’m sure. I’m guessing the folks that reach out to me for shows are also reaching out to everyone else in their Rolodex who they think might be able to help them. This is a huge mistake for almost all of them. (Now, don’t get me wrong, there are artists who have done me a favor by playing our annual SXSW showcase. They don’t necessarily need to do it for their careers, but they’re willing to help us out. Then there are the calls from my current clients, who currently pay me. They certainly have a right to ask what we can do for them down in Austin too. Additionally, I don’t hold it against those who know me who come to me for help and advice- that would be silly.)
There’s etiquette involved with asking for favors. You know how you don’t ask someone you just met to help you move? Just like you don’t ask someone you’ve just done business with for the first time to lend you a hundred bucks, right? If you’re thinking “No, I don’t know that…” then we’ve struck upon a much larger issue that will wildly impact your life in a profoundly negative way… Well, similarly, it’s inappropriate to ask a professional who’s services you haven’t retained for a free favor that, realistically his paying clients are also asking for. In fact, it’s inappropriate to ask for any favor that isn’t realistic in nature- you won’t get it, and it won’t make you look good.
When I’ve brought up such examples of poor etiquette to my classes and there are always students who question why I don’t do favors for artists simply on the merit of their music and their future potential. That’s a good question. It certainly isn’t because I’m mean-spirited, or unkind, or unethical; it’s quite the opposite. I have an obligation to my current clients. I have an obligation to do what’s best for my company as well (It currently feeds my family, to whom I also have obligations…) How would they feel if I offered a spot to someone I don’t work with, who doesn’t have an existing pull to help our showcase out? They’d be rightly upset. The other artists performing would also be upset as they’re hoping for the best showcase possible. And, last, and certainly not least, South By Southwest wouldn’t be happy – in fact they might simply refuse to let the band perform an official event. At the end of the day, all performers need to be approved by SXSW, and they, of course, are also hoping for the best showcase possible with the most buzz worthy performers at allevents.
But, that’s not all- I now know some things about the person who’s asking for the favor. I know that they don’t fully understand the game. The SXSW game, the music industry game, the communication game…you name it. I also know they could careless about me and my company. They’re not contacting us for a general business inquiry, they’re asking for a one-off specific favor that only benefits them. These are not the qualities I look for in business partners- they’re the red flags I try hard to avoid.
Now, there’s an old saying, “Ask for nothing – get nothing.” I love that saying; I believe it’s true. You usually need to be ambitious and tenacious to get what you want. You can’t sit on the sidelines and hope your wildest dream lands in your lap. It won’t. But you don’t want to start asking everyone for everything. You need to take the time and truly understand how things work before you ask anything of anyone. I have done a lot of favors in my life, and I expect I’ll happily do many more. But the favor has to make sense and the person asking has to make sense too.
I haven’t really given much actual music industry advise on this site since I started it. There are too many people tossing advice around out there, and no shortage of musicians who think they don’t need advice, and very little about the exchange appeals to me. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy teaching — It gives me an appropriate place, time, and specific topic to dole out advice. This unregulated, free-form, internet know-it-all advice from everyone is… not good. In fact, even the information I see from people who have one or both feet in the music industry is typically terrible. And, one final stupid article was the straw that broke this ass’s back…
The article I read gave three simple steps on how to get into CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Step one was to be able to attend a fest in New York in October without getting paid to do so. Step two was to have music industry buzz. Step three was to make sure you promote the show once you get it. So that’s three steps, and of those three, only one is an actual step sandwiched between the obvious and the unrelated. Sorry to waste your time by rehashing, but I want to illustrate how bad a lot of the advice out there is. Bad and pointless. But, just like this nut job here, I don’t like giving criticism without also providing resolution.
So, I could write an article on how I would go about getting your band into CMJ. In fact, I could lay out a strategy to get your band there without Sonic Bids or an Agent, or even solid buzz, but I’d rather address the more broad issue plaguing musicians and those who give them advice: Quid Pro Quo.
If you want to know “How to get into CMJ?” you’re asking the wrong question. The right question is “Do I have anything CMJ wants?” Well, what if you’d rather find a booking agent and let them worry about CMJ for you? Fair enough. Do you have anything a booking agent wants? Do you have anything a label wants? Or a manager? Or a music editor? If you’re think “Yes, I do! I have great music!” You’re dead wrong. Having talent is the prerequisite to getting into Music Business 101- its not the reason you ace the class.
I’ll break this down into steps.
Step one: Decide what you want. A showcase at CMJ. A Publicist. A manager, etc…
Step two: Find out what they want in return. Buzz, money, reputation, history, etc…
Step three: Honestly evaluate if you have what they want. If you do, approach them through a proper channel. (Hint- if you don’t know the right way to get in touch with someone wait until you do) If you don’t have what they want go back and try and figure out how to get what you’re missing.
People don’t seem to understand that its damaging to ask for things your career doesn’t yet deserve. It shows anyone who’s paying attention that you don’t know what you’re doing. Whereas the opposite is true when you ask for only what is appropriate. This helps build a positive reputation. If you come baring gifts, and understanding what’s required of you to make a relationship mutually beneficial people will take you seriously. Quid Pro Quo: This for that.
Psychics, stolen cars, lying receptionists, and Gold Bond- This is my account of 2012′s SXSW. If you’re in a band, work in the music industry, live near Austin, or watch the news a lot, you’ve probably heard of South By Southwest. If not, here’s a brief summery… every bar that has live music in the live musical capital of the world has live music all day and night for five days while every other imaginable space in town is turned into a temporary live music venue. Then hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians, and other weirdos descend on Austin to feast on the insanity that ensues. So, naturally, I show up as well. This is what I remember.
I had the distinct pleasure of riding down in a van with Savannah Smith and a new band called Enemy Planes. I’ll tell you more about them in another post… But, any intense event should begin with an equally intense journey. A two hour plane ride is not enough to transport you into the alternate universe that Austin becomes in March- a Twenty hour van ride on the other hand? With one lay over for a Radiohead concert? Perfect.
We arrived in the Lone Star State late Monday night and then first had to drop a few stragglers off at a ritzy subdivision of a swamp of some sort. We took a wrong turn down a gravel road, and didn’t know if we’d be able to back out or turn around with the trailer in tow. The headlights of the vehicle did a poor job of lighting the dark and foggy terrain that sloped unevenly down and out of site in front of us. We all sat motionless in the van while trying to decide what to do. Naturally, sleep deprived and delirious, I presumed this was the end and we were going to die here, so I volunteered to leave the safety of the van and scout ahead on foot. There are alligators in these parts of Texas, vicious nocturnal hunters that are hard to see during the day, let alone at night! …I mean, I presumed there were alligators anyway. It made sense at the time. There was a lake for sure, and where there’s lakes, there are alligators. Long story short- I didn’t get eaten. But I did find a spot for the van to turn around. …I guess this part of the story isn’t exciting at all… but pretend you think there were alligators too- then it sort of is. Anyway, I would soon find out that many more dangers awaited me in the heart of the city.
Tuesday morning we all rode into downtown Austin early. The city comes alive around noon with day parties, some sanctioned by SXSW, many more sanctioned by no one in particular, but all luring pedestrians in off the street with free food and drinks. My primary goal in going to SXSW is always to network. My secondary goal is to see how much free crap I can get- weather I need it or not. My first official stop of the day as at a Mexican restaurant called Casa Chapala where Savannah was playing. After eating some free things and watching Savannah play, I went to catch up with the rest of my troupe including Craig (if you’ve been following the last several years of posts you know him) at Club Deville. I like this place a lot only because it’s built like a fort into the side of a hill with steep rock faced walls surrounding it’s patio.
It was while I was photo bombing a group of individuals by this very wall that I met Mimi. After the snap of the flash her friends all scattered, but Mimi stayed, transfixed with the dashing and mysterious stranger who had just jumped into the photo and into her life. At first she seemed like an ordinary drunk who was likely unstable to start with. She stated that she also liked the wall, and that she could climb to the top, twenty feet up, with ease. Given her current unbalanced state, naturally I encouraged her to try. She got a foot off the ground before she realized this was a mistake. But, upon turning from the wall she looked at me as though seeing me for the first time, and grabbed my hand. Trembling she told me that she was a ‘Ren-rat’ and had special powers. Ren-rat is a slang term to describe the hordes or goths, larpers, and other unfortunates who participate in the Resistance Festival on an annual basis. She described growing up at the Renfest in Shakopee- which is a suburb of Minneapolis, because her parents were also dorks. She had gained acute psychic abilities while she grew up- more than likely in a vain effort to wish herself somewhere else.
It didn’t all add up to me- after all, she was dressed like a normal person- but she was intensely concerned for my safety, and I was intensely amused, so I heard her out. She proceeded to tell me that I had great powers myself. Perhaps this was why I was able to foresee I couldn’t climb a sheer rock cliff without trying. She grasped my hand and gazed at my palm and bit her trembling lower lip. I was in danger. I helped people, but I may soon help them so much that I hurt myself. My fortune line also didn’t follow my life line. She said that I would earn lots of money, but for other people, not myself… Stupid clients! I thought. Soon I grew bored with Mimi and made my departure. It was only a few hours later when we would meet again.
Bar close released mass of zombies on to the streets of Austin. Our van arrived out front and I got the call that it was now, or never if I wanted a ride to the hotel. As I exited the club some explainable force made me look to my right down the street. There was Mimi… sort of crawl-walking around. I went over to assist her. She was on the phone with someone.
“Hey Mimi, need some help?” Mimi just looked back at my with that all-knowing drunk stair. ”It’s David, the guy with super powers, remember?” I asked. Recognition crept into her eyes.
“Oh yeah, here, talk to him,” she said as she thrust her cell phone at me.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Damn it, is she loaded again? Is she just totally bombed?” a gentleman asked on the other line. I glanced at Mimi.
“Yes,” I answered, “she’s gone.”
After a few more expletives he asked if I could get her into a cab. Asking someone to get a cab at bar close in Austin during SXSW is sort of like asking someone to go find the Ark of the Covenant real quick for you. But, it appears I have special powers- so I actually did find one quickly. But my powers were no match for Mimi’s. The Cabby refused to drive her anywhere in here inebriated state. I took her back to our van to freak out the boys. We offered to give Mimi a ride to where ever it was she comes from, but she wisely refused a ride from five weird looking dudes in a large nondescript white van. I left her peacefully curled up on the sidewalk, and I have no notion of what may have become of her. God speed Mimi, God speed!
With knowledge of the future and what Austin had in store for me looming ominously in the back of my powerful mind, I headed back to the hotel room for much needed rest. Soon the morningafternoonish time would be here, and we’d need to wake up and head back into the belly of the beast.
To Be Continued…
Day one free items collected: Taco platter, four shots of tequila, psychic encounter, two dozen vitamin waters, and two boxes of cereal.
Ok, so my last blog was about Priscilla and I getting attacked by bears in South Dakota- AND LOVING IT! …that was about six months ago. …or eight. And, it seems as though I’ve gotten pretty bad at updating this blog. I promise to try and do better… but, in the mean time, he’s what I’ve done the last- I don’t know, year or so.
In September we went down to Winona for the fifth annual Zombie Pub Crawl. Unlike some more normal cities zombie crawls, in Winona you get a good feeling for what a real zombie attack would look like. People stop traffic, climb on cars, projectile vomit all over, and even chase unsuspecting college kids who don’t know what’s going on. One high schooler tried to start a fight when his daddy’s Chrysler 300 got a little bit of puke and blood on it… what a wuss. The only zombie he attacked was a girl, and his opening line was, ‘you can’t hit me, I’m a minor.’ Then he promptly tried to strangle a girl zombie before the rest of the angry mob of drunken undead gently removed him and told him to go home. This boy will be a huge douche bag one day…
Also, Priscilla launched Pirk, a soap and beauty company. All natural, organic when possible, soap and face scrubs and bath bubbly salt junk, all that sort of crap. People have been liking it so far!
In October, Maudlin and our agency Green Room Music Source, went to New York City again for the CMJ music festival. I was very disappointed by the fact that we didn’t steal any mannequin body parts this time. We did eat a lot of food, and get a better understanding of how the Russian Mafia operates.
Then, in November, Maudlin welcomed a new band member into our wacky fold. You may remember Nick from last years St. Patrick’s Day adventure.
December was a time for holiday magic! Maudlin hosted our second, kind of annual ‘The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever’ at the Hexagon in Minneapolis. Discribing this event isn’t as much fun and just listening…
January was cold. We don’t do anything in January here because it’s just too cold. When the New year is over we turn in to primordial cave people. …We also make ice sculptures though.
February has Valentines day in it… Weak. I got Priscilla a pan for Valentines day. Yup, a nice pan. I thought this was probably not the greatest gift I’d ever come up with for Priscilla. However, after seeing her reaction to getting a very nice pan, I’ve decided that she only gets pans for gifts from now on. That’s your relationship advice for the year- Pans, chicks dig them. Or, at least, Priscilla does…
That’s about it… Oh, and George Clooney, STOP making movies. Please. The glory days or over my friend. Speaking of people who should stop doing what they do, I found this website recently. What a beautiful charity! www.killlilwayne.org Hopefully someone will make a similar site for Weezer soon. They must be stopped!
Until next time…
As some of you devoted blog reader(s) might remember, we have a good friend in Denver, and we like to visit her. We also like playing rock and roll and viewing bear attacks. So, when the oppertunity came for Maudlin (That’s my, quote un-quote -cool band) to play at UMS we said, “yes please, and some bears with that!”
There are two ways for people who haven’t discovered planes yet to get to Denver: the evil, endless farmyard known as “Nebraska” or South Dakota. Now, some people might not like all things to see in South Dakota, but we can all agree that there is nothing to see in Nebraska. (I hate you Nebraska! I hate you more than bad whale analogies!) …Anyway, there’s this place called Bear Country USA in South Dakota, next to Deadwood. There are bears there. You can pay fifteen dollars and the let you drive around in a big back yard with sixty bears- it’s basically like swimming with sharks. …except the sharks are furry. So… we did that.
(There are lots off really bad family videos of Priscilla and I driving around here that rival the Blair Witch Project, but I decided not to include them.)
After Bear Country USA, we headed on to Wyoming! …Not much had changed there since the last time we passed through. We did meet a gas station attendant who had never been pulled over by the man before. Never. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been pulled over. I must just look like trouble- trouble with a burnt out headlight.
So, just when I had made up my mind that the only way I would ever get out of the car was to veer off the road into a tree- when ever I saw one- we reached the mile high city. We showed up at Steph’s several hours late- which surprised no one, and promptly went to sleep. In the morning we presented Steph with a traditional travelers gift: a wolf hat.
The next day we performed the first of our two showcases at UMS. In our haste to get to the bear yard, we forgot Jason back in Minnesota, so our agent, Craig Grossman, was kind enough to sit in with us. Big thanks to all of our new friends in Denver! We had a blast playing!
And then I forgot my bass… my Frank Black autographed Rickenbacker… I am an idiot. But, the good people of Denver didn’t steal it, and arrangements have been made to meet at Bear Country USA again and get it back… Good fun, lots of forgotten things, and lots of bears… That’s about all I’ve got for this blog. FAIL. Le sigh…
In Brief: I hate to keep ragging on Ben Stiller… but did anyone see Greenberg? It’s the dramatic tail of a suicidal washed up musician, who sexually assaults his brothers barely legal housekeeper. It’s ok though, because after he assaults her, then verbally berates her, she realizes that she’s actually in love with him, and he’s not such a bad guy. He finds out that being a douche bag always gets you chicks, even if you’re a complete loser. I hope everyone who routinely takes all of their social cues from poorly dramatized realism is paying careful attention to this film.
This picture kind of sums things up. New Yorkers are the nicest people in the world, they didn’t even kick us out! We were invited to play the CMJ Music Marathon, and braved the long bore of the Ohio Turnpike to see what the Big Apple had in store for Maudlin. Well, it had great food, kidnapings, vandalism, and grand theft mannequin, that’s what it had in store.
This is where it all started. Downtown Manhattan, in some club somewhere, they had created a ‘musicians lounge.’ This lounge had free booze, free food, free haircuts, free massages, and free interviews with Walter from Stabbing Westward. …So we ended up hanging out there most of the time.
While all the New Yorkers we met on the street were fantastic, we soon found out that most of the 1200 bands from all over the world who came to New York were made up of boring people. As we tried to live it up, they mostly stood in tightly nit groups talking to their own bandmates. Then one really stupid chick I was talking to tried to argue with me about the size and danger of moose. WTF?!?!?!
I was telling a story, I could tell she really wanted to hear, about my family camping trip to Superior National Forest, and I mentioned that a big moose walked out on to the road. It was huge! We were driving a little Focus, and I said the thing was nearly three times as tall as we were. Then she was all like saying this really stupid crap about how moose aren’t that big, and I was full of it, and that they were like big deer and couldn’t hurt anything.
Well, I had never punched a girl before, and I didn’t think now would be a good time to start, but I really wanted to. Instead I found the first woodsy looking guy I could- some dude in a wolf mural sweatshirt. It was ugly as sin, and clearly a joke, but something told me- this guy knows his animals. Turns out he used to give wildlife tours in Alaska. They would scare off black bears that had come on to the resort with golf carts, because, as we all know, black bears are the nancys of the large predator world. He told me they received special training on what to do if you ran into a grizzly while hiking- but if you ran in to a moose up close… you’re just screwed. I lost track of that chick… but someday she’ll get hers…
Anyway, then Jason drank way too much and took over an entire sofa by himself after a lunch stop in Little Itally where he managed to smash a framed picture of James Gandolfini in his inebriation.
Eventually, we found a band that was not boring to chat with, Robotanists. They hailed from LA, and had a bizarre fetish for mannequin hands. Now, I have to give credit where credit is due- they were the first to steal a body part off the mannequin. But Maudlin is not a band to be outdone. Who would be stupid enough to put a bunch of designer clothes on a mannequin and then leave it in a room with musicians and unlimited free alcohol? Yeah, exactly. We plundered the mannequin for clothes and limbs like it was 1725!
As an after thought to all the shenanigans, Maudlin also played a showcase at the Lit Lounge which was great…
Bars in New York stay open until four, and music only went until one. The Lit neglected to let us know that the “green room” became the “smoking lounge” after two… So we had all over our gear spread out when hooligans began to flood in all over everything. Poor Jason ended up getting stuck watching things and was whiteness to several prostitutes haggling with people about ‘jobs.’ Eventually we had to make an escape before Jason was thrown into a deal as a bargaining chip.
We got back to the lovely Wendy’s place where we were staying in the East Village, and I realized I had forgotten the Green Room banner. Green Room Music Source is our booking agency, which I also now work for. I was entrusted with the safety of the banner, and I wasn’t about to lose it, so I told Jason and Priscilla I would be right back and I darted out to hail a cab. It was 3:30 am and I had half an hour to get back to Lit Lounge, but it was only ten blocks, so I wasn’t worried.
I got into a cab and said ‘Take me to 93 2nd Ave” I think the guy said ‘ok’ in some language, but I’m really not sure. Pretty soon he turned onto the freeway, and I quickly tried to explain that I was only trying to go to 93 2nd Ave, which was only a few blocks away. The driver reassured me he know where he was going. Then he told me he was trying to avoid bar traffic because it was dangerous… (as he did 90 on the freeway, slamming on the breaks several times, very nearly rear ending other cars…) When the drive continued I began to argue with him. ”I’m trying to get to 93 2nd, it’s ten blocks from where you picked me up, this is not the right way!” He finally exited onto 93 street and told me that 2nd ave was just a few blocks away. This is important. In New York they use intersections as opposed to street addresses. 93 2nd Ave is in the East Village, 93 AND 2nd ave is in East Harlem. He pulled over and tried to kick me out… What a d-bag.
Finally, after a shouting match with this guy, we were back on the way to the East Village, and my four dollar cab ride turned into a thirty dollar cab ride. I was able to get the sign though, so it wasn’t all bad. It was no surprise to us when we hailed a cab the next morning to take us to Seth’s place in North Arlington, NJ that this cab driver was also retarded.
Driver: Where are you going?
Maudlin: North Arlington, NJ
Driver: Ok, fifty five bucks plus tolls
Maudlin: Ok (we load in and start driving)
Driver: Where is North Arlington
Maudlin: *le sigh*
Later we realized he had pee bottles in the front seat …if only we had seen them sooner… But, all and all, it was a fantastic blast of a time! The locals were all great, and far better looking than the locals anywhere else- and therefor better. We can’t wait to go back!
See you guys later!
Many and many a year ago a couple of outdoorsy guys named Lewis and Clark went from some place out east, west to Napa Valley and back looking for refined wines and tan babes. They had half of the dangers we have in the modern world, yet they lost half their party. Priscilla and I did almost the same thing last week and no one died. I can’t believe they got paid for that and we didn’t. Anyway, (que flash back music) it went a little something like this…
We wanted to go out to Denver to visit our good friend Steph. Since the government outright refused to commission us to do this, we decided to pay for it ourselves. After months of foreknowledge of the trip, we started planning on Tuesday night- the night we were leaving. We decided to drive to Sioux Falls, SD the first night. Our friend William Shatner helped us negotiate a deal on a room at the Sheraton last minute, which was nice of him. And now we just had to get there in one piece…
Looming over our heads was the bat-shit crazy prophecy of some lady Priscilla works with. She told her that she has a recurring dream where Priscilla and I die in a horrible car wreck and they also find that Priscilla is pregnant with our first child. She followed that zinger up with several other stories about how she’d dreamed things that had come true, concluding happily that she’s always right about these things… (I kind of feel like, if you don’t have anything nice to prophesy about, then don’t prophesy about anything at all.)
We arrived at the Sheriton at about 1am and we went to sleep. The morning had harsh news waiting for us. There was no continental breakfast. I know we only paid $50 for the room… but normally it was $129. I expect breakfast with anything I pay that much for. But, we didn’t throw in the towel- not on reaching Denver, and not on eating breakfast.
Before we continued on, we need to get a new camera, so we set out looking for a department store. The rural west is like some national park where endangered department stores like Pamida and Shopko hide from extinction. We came upon a Kmart in a desolate parking lot. We were able to get inside before it saw us and ran away. There amidst the Jacklyn Smith collection we found the stores remaining electronics and bought a camera. CNow wer were ready to face the long blah of South Dakota.
Here’s a red flag questions for states. Is everything valuable, desirable, or bearable significantly closer to an adjoining state than to the interior of the state itself? If so, it’s likely that state blows. Case in point: South Dakota. (For further examples please see Nebraska, Illinois, or Kansas. If you are unsure of where desirable parts of your state are, try googling your state. If you reside in North Dakota, then google the state you’re planning on living in when you move.)
To get to the ironically named “Bad” Lands and “Black” Hills of South Dakota you need to drive through several hundred miles of utter crap. Rolling fields of nothing. The only thing to do is just take the car to top speed and surf the Internet to stay awake while you drive. The best parts of the state lay on it’s meaty west side, close to the frightening Montana.
In the bad lands we took video on our cell phone of me running into a field of hundreds of prairie dogs trying to chase them, but all you can see is my blurry head moving back and forth with lots of ambient wind noise. I’m not going to include it. However, I feel it’s important to note that I did that.
After chasing prairie dogs, climbing out the clay edges of the hill things, and purchasing potato chips for an inebriated native who asked us for a ride to the next town, we’d seen every thing South Dakota had to offer. We were ready to get to Deadwood. Also Walldrug sucks- It just sucks.
We finally got to Deadwood and I won $100 from a dealer who was a jerk. Which was good because William Shatner was no help with the hotel rates in Deadwood. We payed $90 for a queen room. …this was the smallest hotel room I had ever seen; like someone crammed a queen bed into the bathroom. What’s worse? No continental breakfast. I was really starting to get irritated by that…
The next day we woke up and got ready to go to Bear Country USA! Bear Country is this zoo type place where all the animals roam free, and you drive through and look at them. They can walk up to the cars- I even heard that a few toddlers got killed there! We were pumped.
We exited Deadwood and were back on the open road. An hour later we saw a welcome to Wyoming sign. The realization that we’d made a huge mistake flooded over us the same way it floods over most people who find themselves reading that sign. In our case, the mistake was that we were trying to get over by Mount Rushmore, south east of Deadwood, and instead we went south west and ended up in another state. Fortunately, the road we accidentally took did happen to go to Denver, so we decided to keep going and leave Bear Country for another time.
Wyoming is big and it has hills. Hills kind of vary state to state. Minnesota has river bluffs, which are steep and cliff like. The black hills are pretty steep too, but they’re not following a river and there aren’t really cliffs. They are pretty much all pines too, where as Minnesota sports a greater variety of trees. Wyoming has these really slow slopping large hills with lots of scrub brush on them. I know this whole paragraph is really boring… this was the best I could come up with for the five hours I was in Wyoming.
Eventually we got to Colorado, and shortly after that we could see the Rocky Mountains. The looked just like the Coors can. Denver’s elevation is about a mile from sea level, so they call it the mile high city- not to be confused with the mile high club, which is something else. We found our friend Steph, and went out for fish tacos- the second time in a week. It made me nervous and awkward, but I did it.
The next day we set out on a mission to cross the continental divide and hike deep into the Rock Mountains. We drove for several ear popping hours west and up. One interesting thing we noticed is that all the trees were dead. Steph’s boyfriend Glen told us that some mutant beatle had been feeding on the trees, and due to global warming, it doesn’t get cold enough to kill them in the winter anymore. I suggested burning them out, but in retrospect I guess regrowing the whole forest after the fact should probably be a last resort. Anyway, I could the spirit of John Denver singing about planting trees all the way.
Steph and Glen like to go hiking, and they’ve both lived in Denver for years. So they took us to a mountain slope they knew and we stared up. I was pretty worried about cougar attacks because they are on the ‘remotely possible’ spectrum of things that could happen, and I’m on the ‘very much so’ spectrum of paranoid. It’s just like Kurt Cobain said, ‘Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean I’m not after you.’ …and in this case I think that applies to mountain lions.
I was watching my back pretty closely, and bravely refusing to let Priscilla carry up the rear. (Is that the correct phraseology for that? ’Carry up the rear?’) Cougars, as we all know, like to attack from behind and from above if possible. Naturally they also go straight for the jugular. If you see a cougar in the woods, the only reason you’re seeing it is because it’s stalking you. They’re a no nonsense killer. Not at all like the all too common brown bear, which is known to be pretty much a wuss.
As we hiked, something changed about my brain. I started to care less and less about the enormous killer feline that was probably right behind me. I started to feel a little woozy. My legs weren’t tired at all, but I was out of breath and my heart was beating a mile a minute. Priscilla must have been feeling the same way because she was complaining even more than usual. Steph and Glen seemed just fine. Then it struck me, we’d caught the Rocky Mountain High.
Aside from a pretty mediocre song, it’s also what happens to you when the elevation reduces the amount of oxygen in the air. Also known as ‘elevation sickness’ and ‘tennis elbow.’ Even though I diagnosed this, Steph and Glen kept right on moving at a normal pace up the mountain, presuming we were pansies. They’re like the creatures from Superman II who come to earth and find that they have super powers because of the yellow sun and their super dense bodies. …only it was like the reverse, and we went to their planet and could no longer use our laser eyesight. It totally sucked.
Eventually it started to get dark. We were at about 13,000 feet by then, only a few hundred from the summit. The trees were thinning and snow was on the ground in spots. We were on a clear mountain lake next to the ruins of a small encampment with log cabins that were probably a few hundred years old. The road to the summit started to switch back after that, so it would have taken too long to get up to the top and back down again before dark, so we decided to go home. And then, my phone rang.
Yes, at 13,000 feet, on the side of a mountain, my cell phone rang.
Phone: *ring ring*
Chris: “Dude, what’s up? We’re watching this video of this old show from high school for Todd’s band, and you were running sound. You totally suck at running sound…”
David: “I’m at 13,000 feet on the side of a mountain”
David: “On mountain, reception bad”
Chris: “You want to talk to Todd?”
David: “There are lions here.”
Todd: “What’s up man?”
David: “One ate my hand.”
David: “I’m on a mountain at 13,000 feet, I can’t talk”
Todd: “Yeah, we’re watching this video from high school”
David: “I can’t hear anything, I’m on a mountain.”
Todd: “So what are you guys doing?”
David: “I’m on a mountain, I can’t talk Todd”
Todd: “Ok, well I should probably let you go.”
Thanks Verizon, for letting me share that incoherent moment with someone 1000 miles east, and 12,000 feet down.
Anyway, we went back down, and no one was eaten. The rest of the trip I had a splitting headache, which I later learned was also part of the Rocky Mountain High. So, to combat feeling hung over, we went to a winery. I knew nothing about wines. I knew they were color coded, and that was it. The biggest surprise for me was that these little taste test things with wine and cheese and crackers are free. Free! Yeah, you go to the place that makes the wine, and they just give it to you. Then they serve you free snacks. I also learned I prefer Cabs to Shiraz and Merlot; and I prefer the cheese and crackers to wine.
After that we went to an art show, then to the obligatory performance. Jason wasn’t with us in town, but the good people of Denver still wanted a show. So Priscilla and I played a short acoustic set at The Hi Dive. When it was done, we promptly said our good buys to Denver and our friends, and hit the road. By the time we were edging dangerously close to Nebraska we decided to stop for the night. We went to this cheap joint that I’m positive several people were had been murdered in. And, wouldn’t you guess it, no free breakfast. I could have screamed. Instead I peed in the courner of the room.
We awoke with the heavy weight of the length of Nebraska in front of us. The first sign we see entering the freeway: DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS, FEDERAL PRISON NEARBY. Well. Ok then. We didn’t encounter any escapees that we know of, but we did encounter boredom. Can you imagine if you had to ride through that crap on a horse and it took you weeks? I’m sure that all the stories surrounding the loss of life on Lewis and Clarks trip were made up. They all killed themselves in the great plains. Again, I saved my sanity by surfing the net while I drove.
When all hope seemed lost, we reached Iowa. We took a wrong turn there and found a car turned into a spider. …yeah. We left pretty quickly. At 9pm central standard time we finally got home to St. Paul, MN. …and then had to go to work the next day. Puke. That’s about that. …also, no one really died on the Lewis and Clark expedition… one dude got sick and died, but sources say it was related to a methamphetamine addiction.
Oh, and when we got back we found a small pirate costume on our bed… We called Laurel who was appartment sitting for us, and she said she brought it over to try and put on our cat. …but it didn’t work out because Leeloo resisted. Well, Priscilla and I had a talk with Leeloo about how she treats guests…
It started out where all great weekends start- Hooters. I go to Hooters all the time because I love the taste of their wings! …ok, that’s not true. I don’t frequent Hooters, and the one time I ate there their food bit. However, Jason and I were downtown Minneapolis at the 7th Street Entry for a last minute show for the United Way and we were hungry. Jason claimed that the chili was good there… I didn’t buy that, we went in anyway. We ended up getting wings … they sucked.
Our server, Samantha, (Who was a little under dressed I might add) turned out to be a professional douchebag handler. …She didn’t tell me that persay. However, I told her I was going to call her “Sam” and requested that she get her picture taken with me for no reason, and she pleasantly agreed, so I knew something was odd. Normally I would expect that she would act all creeped out and then spit in my food, but, when I saw her move on to the next table I could tell she had been professionally trained. The men there were all much older, and much, much more out of shape than we were, making jokes and comments twelve time as lame as anything we said. And she pretended she enjoyed that as well. That’s the mark of a bonafid pro. Kind of America’s Geishas really. Geishas in hot pants.
So, anyway, then we went back to the 7th Street Entry for the United Way show. It was odd because it was a 5pm show. Rock The Cause had asked us to play, when the United Way asked them for help securing acts for their happy hour show. Also answering the call were The Notties. It was a pretty standard deal, we got up there and figuratively showed people a little bit of our butts poking out from our musical hot pants. The crowed figuratively leered at us. …or something like that. But, Maudlin was just getting starting on this fine Friday afternoon.
After we finished our set we raced across the metro to the mall in Minnetonka to the Hot Topic for the last in our series of Hot Topic shows we were playing all over the Twin Cities. If you’ve ever been in a clothing store, and if you’ve ever seen a band play, just put those two things together. All told, by 8pm we had played two different shows. This is earlier than we’ve ever been done playing one show on a Friday night, let alone two. We decided to celebrate.
We went to Scott’s place. …and I forget what we did. I think we went swimming there and listened to the douche from the spare room tell us his favorite vegetable was Cheetos. …I hear this weekend he left a saw on the ground by the pool and Scott stepped on it… Anyway, I’m sure we did some other fun things, and then moved on to the next day. On Saturday we went to Debuque for our third and final show of the weekend.
Dubuque is Jason’s home land. A vintage river town on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, she sports more idiots on water craft than imaginable, and we were three of them. Jason’s mom was also turning 60, and we participated in a surprise party. Our show was at The Silver Dollar Cantina. The manager, Michelle is a kindly spunky lady who was desperately in need of smokes when we arrived. I helped her out by running to the oke dokee- some kind of inbred gas station chain- I was instructed to by her menthols. She smokes them, even though they’re awful, because then no one wants to bum smokes from her. A wise woman.
Our pals in Little Man opened up the show while the staff laid gifts of fish tacos in front of us. …it was a brave move to put fish in tacos, combining two foods that have the same sexual innuendo attached to them… When it was our turn to play Jason got a little nervous because his mom was there, but she loves him unconditionally, so he lucked out. He also performed a few rare Jason Nelson originals as an encore to our performance.
The following day we went back out on the river. Given my track record with watercraft, you can guess that I nearly died. Fortunately you have to hit something harder than water to cause permanent damage. Also, urine washes out of swim trunks quite easily, so no irrevocable damage was done to anything other than my pride.
Then we drove home. That was two weeks ago I think… June 27th. And the next week Priscilla and I were scheduled to take a trip to the wild west, which we did, but I need to start a new blog for that…
I hate how you can’t really advertise your true feelings anymore. The internet turns even the most mild blogger into a gossip whore. I can’t even talk about how I hate my day job and I want a new one because it’s likely that someone I work with will read this, and let me boss know, and then all the work pot lucks will be awkward. Not to mention, that dude I called a douche is probably going sneak up on me and say something designed to intimidate me. The world is more dangerous than ever.
So I try to keep things positive. These guys do that too. If they mention you, they like you. If they don’t, they probably just wont mention you. That’s a sound, friendly approach. But what about everyone else? Should we never be able to talk about things that we think suck? Should we be afraid to let people in our vicinity know that we don’t like their work? Should people even get upset if someone doesn’t like what they do in the first place? Who knows, but I do hate my job. I don’t hate The Alarmists though, so lets talk about them.
I don’t know Eric Lavold super well, but I do know him and his cohorts Drummer Boy Schwandt and Bassist Brian who are also in the bands White Light Riot and So It Goes respectively. All great guys. So, when I was told that the City Pages peed on them, I wondered what was up. A friend alleged they had recently called them poop heads, and ass clowns who couldn’t play instruments. …or something like that. It’s sparked a huge debate about whether or not The Alarmists suck and/or whether or not the City Pages sucked. Also how in the hell do you spell the Star Tribunes music guys name? I had to know the truth, so I decided to investigate.
Like all important people in the Twin Cities, I had an advance copy of The Alarmists new album, The Over-head Left to listen to. I also went to the release show, and then I read all these articles AND all the blog comments on the City Pages site. Then I read Chris Rachmaninovschneider’s interview in the Star Tribune. I’m pretty much an expert about now, so, I will tell you all the truth. But before I act like I know everything, let me first drag out this story by adding in personal experiences that are unrelated.
As I mentioned, the entire cast of Maudlin showed up to the show. The first bit of evidence that I collected came when I saw the Rock The Cause table in the Varsity Theater. As you may or may not know, Priscilla and I sit on the board of directors for Rock the Cause. If you’re not familiar with how we help the community and music scene, please take a look.
Eric Lavold approached Rock the Cause with an offer. Bands approach us with offers all the time. Some of them are good ones, some are a little self serving. Some would be really difficult and some more realistic to do. Eric’s offer was both generous and easy. At a time when our org could really use some extra cash, he offered to let us accept donations for digital downloads of the new album on our site and keep 100% of the proceeds.
This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but the amount of work, money, and liability that goes into RTC putting on an event to raise money is huge. This required nothing of us other than we upload the song.
The comment was made that The Alarmists drama may have over shadowed their music. Why can’t someones generosity and good nature over shadow the drama surrounding their band? I guess because People magazine would go broke, with the City Pages along with it.
The crowd at the show was great, and the bands selected where right on too. Maudlin had a great time running around and mingling. I let my agent buy me a drink, and Eric’s dad tried to buy Priscilla a drink because she adjusts his glasses at work, but Craig beat him to it and bought her a drink too. Primarily we like Craig as our agent because of the drinks. Anyway, Jason bought himself one too many drinks and then ran around taking pictures for posterity.
The Alarmist show was actually really good. The new line up is great. Someone on a blog made a comment that all the new musicians couldn’t stack up to the old ones, and made special citation of the drummer being included. Their old drummer was very good, but complaining about Mark Schwandt’s drumming is pretty retarded. Aside from being a solid show, it was more raw than the album and had a more personal feel to it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It actually made a few songs I was a little luke on from the album really grow on me.
The Album itself is certainly nothing at all to scoff at. I can see how it differs from previous releases with less edge, but it adds a more haunting feel- actually reminds me a bit of Chris Isaac on some tunes. (course I was just watching True Blood so…[At least, when I first wrote this pharagraph I thought that Chris Isaac wrote that song, but today Barb Abney *cough cough name drop* corrected me. Some random hillbilly wrote that song. ]) The vocals are more stripped and personal. They bring out a great contrast against synths soaked in reverb. There are some dark sounding melodies and hooks, but the album still feels hopeful even if melancholy. Something for a rainy day if you’re not the kind of person that gets super depressed and hates rainy days. I definitely favor the first half of the album with tracks like, “Rhyme and Reason,” ”Car Crashing,” ”Flutter and Fly,” and “Hollywood’s Not My Home.” Not feeling songs like “The Country” or” We Belong” as much, and I flat out do not like “The Elusive Mr Albright.” …not sure what the motivation is on that one.
Over all it sounds very much like a liberation or a rebirth than a swing and a miss. These guys knew exactly what they were going for, and while it’s not going to thrill everyone, I think it will win a lot of people over. As to whether or not The Alarmists will take over the world, who knows- and who cares. They’ve already carved out a place for themselves, they’re making music that’s rewarding to themselves and still have an audience to listen. That is what success is.
I believe in real criticism though, real honesty. If there isn’t anything bad, then, of course, nothing is really good. It’s just all double plus ungood. We don’t want that. I’ve met Andrea from the City Pages before, and even if she hadn’t been talking with me about my band being good, I still would have thought she was really nice. Not at all the kind of person who seems out for a vendetta. The City Pages article is pretty scathing, but, if it’s honest, then it’s not meriting retaliation.
Chris Rumpelstiltskinschneider said that The Amarmists are big enough to take a hit. They are. His own article in the Strib praises the album and gives a great inside look at what’s going on with the band and what’s transpired. It’s hard for me to not take a step back and see the two biggest papers in town arguing about a band and think, “Any press is good press.” Ultimately the controversy made listening to the album more fun for me. …Although, if it was my album getting shredded I would release angry bees into the office of the offending party. Not killer bees, just kind of having a bad day bees.
My biggest complaint with local press has always been what they miss, not what they criticize. There’s so much music here in Minneapolis, and way too much for everyone to go out and see what every band has going on. A scathing review here and there is a service. Just like letting people know about a new great band, and keeping up with what the bands we’ve all heard of have been up too. The more reviews the better, good ones and bad.
So what are my conclusions? People may have differing opinions about whether The Alarmists new album is good, just like people have many different opinions on how to spell Chris Rasputinschnieder’s name- and that’s ok. Because, in the end, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. And, if that conclusion offends you, blame this guy.