The Crafty Bastards Festival is pretty awesome in and of itself. But maybe you know that already.
The B-Boy Battle that's happening in the afternoon is NOT to be missed, however. Sweet fancy Moses, such funky, funky acrobatics. Look closely at this photo -- you'll see me in the crowd.
I saw amazing sight last year, I'll tell you that much. And the dancing, the music and the energy were incredible. If I were not going out of town to meet old friends who are new parents, I'd be staking out a seat by the cardboard now.
Everyone know that food doesn't belong in the bathroom. Just putting an air freshener that smells faux-edible in there is repulsive, and bringing an actual sandwich in -- or a chicken leg -- forget about it. Ugh. I'm a single dude that lives alone, right, but some lines I do NOT cross.
But what about this? What if you were chewing on something and then walked in there? I was at work today and was walking down the hall to a meeting and chewing a carrot stick up and thought "Better tend to this before the meeting," then next thing I know I'm in the bathroom, chewing something.
What's that about? Do you spit it out? I wanted to, but did not.
Those of you that read this thing have grown accustomed to my dizzying, pendulous mood swings. I had a real crank-fest last week there, one that I'm considering deleting. But the GOOD thing about being a moody dude is that you're either experiencing a dizzying high or there's one right around the corner!
And man, I'm telling you, there's no cure for the grumps like 12 hours of solid rock music. Like 40, 000 other people, I went to the Virgin Festival this weekend -- and had the great fortune to be able to take some photos. Here's some of 'em, with, of course, some well-thought-out, incisive and deep commentary, commentary so sharp you'll totally overlook that I am typing this in my underpants way past bedtime.
This is Myles Haskett and Chris Ross of Wolfmother. They gave their freaking all like they always do, but it's a little much to expect any band to rock a crowd's britches off starting promptly at 1:30 in the afternoon. Nothing good about rock happens early, man. All the rockers in the crowd practically had sleep in their eyes still, except the dude in front of me. "You like these dudes, bro?" he asked. "I freaking LOVE 'em," I replied, "but tell me -- have they played 'Love Train' yet?" Came the answer: "Shit, I don't fuckin' know, man ... I'm DRUNK!"
Gnarls Barkley pulled it off live for real. The whole show was performed live -- no samples, deejaying, or prerecorded trickery that I could tell. They had a string section, guitarist, bassist, backup singers -- all to perform an album that was made by two guys in one room, shaping samples and singing over them. It was real musical alchemy, watching one kind of gold turn into another.
Cee-Lo has a smile that is an actual renewable energy resource. He and Dangermouse were sitting there being interviewed by MTV, and he looked kinda grumpy - not unlike King Kong getting ready to tell the blonde lady "get back to dancing." Then someone asked for a picture and this SMILE came out, so big his ears must have gotten wet, just 50 million watts of bright whiteness.
The dudes were really not all that excited about taking this photo with me -- you could tell they were tired of the whole enterprise, but when I asked, Dangermouse was like "ah, alright," and they kicked out legendary photo faces:
Man, was the Who ever impressive. Old enough to be my gay dads, Daltrey and Townshend put on a show that none of the other rock acts could top. Townshend windmilled, Daltrey whipped the mike around like a cowboy with a lasso ... they gave the people what they wanted. The set was light on new stuff, heavy on the hits. I can't believe one band a) wrote that many iconic rock songs and b) had the ability to still play them perfectly after 25 years.
Seeing the Who live from the photo pit totally made up for the absolutely asinine behavior exhibited by the show's security. The deal with being in the photo pit is that you can only be there for three songs, no flash photography, and then you're outta there. Theoretically, photographers are allowed to walk out under their own power, but nobody told the security guy in charge of the photo area.
The last note of the third song was still ringing in the air when he started making the little cords in his neck jump out, screaming, "out, let's go, let's go" and shoving people (and by people, I mean me) for emphasis. I mean, the Who is explosive and all, but I really didn't think they were going to start lobbing grenades down the front of the stage. Apparently I was alone in that thought.
This little guy got rocked straight to sleep ...
I tried to hate the Killers for months. I kept hearing all this stuff about 'em on MTV at the gym, or from a bunch of kids that claim with a straight face that Blink 182 is their favorite punk band. It got my 'kids today, they don't know real music' speech all geared up. Then it turns out like four songs that I really liked from the radio were all by the Killers. Dammit. I'm a fan.
The Flmaing Lips were far and away the greatest part of the whole festival. The band brings out the giddy, giggly excitement in me -- they just conjure this feeling of hope, wonder and FUN so effortlessly. They played a bunch of songs off the Soft Bulletin, which they released in 1999, and the band seemed to be having as much fun with the same songs last night that they were having when I saw them in Perth two years ago.
During the intro to the first song, Wayne Coyne took a little wander around teh surface of the crowd inside a giant Mylar bubble. He was helped offstage and over the barricades by stagehands dressed in superheroc costumes. I saw Thor, Batman, the Hulk, Skeletor, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Before the show got started, Superman was plugging in cord and sorta setting things up. A drunk girl behind me said "Hey, Superman's drinking BEER! Superman isn't supposed to drink that much beer!"
I can't even explain how much incredible it was passing Wayne Coyne around in that giant balloon, helped by Superman and Thor. I could feel this weird hitching in my chest and my breathing got all funny -- it was like laughing and crying all at once at the same time, just feeling so ALIVE.
Of course Coyne shot confetti at the crowd ...
... and there were the requisite costumed freaks crowding the stage, dancing and shouting.
I have to admit -- I completely lost myself during "Do You Realize." Something about the song itself, the cool breezes penetrating the hot crowded air, everyone singing along just made me think about time passing, people I love, people I miss terribly and people I'm grateful for, and I just started crying like nobody's business. I was standing RIGHT next to a co-worker, and I did not need her to see that at all, but man. It was so much all at once, such a release, and to feel the mellow high you feel after a huge cry, surrounded by falling confetti and right in front of your favorire rock band ... that's something you can't bottle, you can't advertise, and you sure can't sell. It's just got to come together, and it was complete magic.
Long story short: I bought two tickets the the Virgin Fest this weekend. Now I only need one. I'd rather sell it, but will consider barter. Any interest, leave a comment with contact info or find me through this blog.
I am sitting here at this screen, staring blankly again, about to just say screw it all and retire to bed with a pile of Batman comics. Again.
Perhaps it's because I do it for work, but blogging is more and more of chore. I do it at work all day, marinate in all types of strategies in my little carpeted pen -- then when I get home it's just bluuagh and consequently I've seen seasons one and two of 'Lost' TWICE.
This time last year it was another story entirely. Now that I'm entrenched in the community a little more, more knowledgeable in my field, I dream of drinking with real pirates, stroking sharks undersea and long journeys to distant lands where I am the one with the accent.
I feel time whistling by, second by second, and each second not spent moving toward exactly where my life would be hurts. Yes, people, I know I have a flair for the melodramatic.
I turned to the Brian Eno Oblique Strategy Generator for ideas for this post tonight. Read more at the link, but essentially Eno developed them as strategies to jog the mind -- to simulate pressure when there was none, or to release pressure when there was too much.
The card I drew read: Imagine a caterpillar moving
And I imagine myself, my trajectory through life, as a caterpillar.
I start each stage of my life all nervous and bunched up, full of potential energy. Then the head gets going, moving along one step at a time until it's as far out as it can get, and I'm covering as much ground with myself as I possibly can. Then the back starts to trundle up towards the front, building that potential energy again and covering ground the whole time ... until eventually I'm in a whole new place.
So to my head, time is standing still and the world is whizzing by, but really what's happening is my ass is just catching up. Lord knows your head can be ALL over the place, but your ass location determines where you're really at.
And that, my friends, brings me a little peace and makes me think I've earned my bedtime.
What do you do when the pace of your life frustrates you? How do you get unstuck?
So there was another one of those DC Blogger Happy Hours this Friday night, this time at Lucky Bar. And, predictably, I pulled another one of my exciting blunders. Last time I managed to smash a drink on DC Cookie's feet -- this time, I really topped myself.
I'd ridden 60 miles on my bike on Friday, and basically got off of my second 30 mile jaunt, tapdanced through the shower and arrived at the bar hungry enough to eat a salted infant. You know you're in trouble when you can kinda feel your body extracting the actual calories from bourbon.
When my burger and beer arrived I was like a python at a daycare center: no wasted movement, pure, lightning speed, just INHALING precious food power. Had my burger fallen on the floor, I would have devoured it like a character in an 80's video game. Ever notice how your character feels more powerful after eating a burger off of the ground behind a dumpster? Any ideas where I stole that joke?
Anyway, I was at a table full of semi-strangers, talking excitedly around mouthfuls while trying to maintain KassyK's eye contact -- much easier said than done. Kassy dear, try not to have Poprocks and Red Bull for dinner before you start drinking...
Anyway, I grabbed my beer like it was ketchup, turned it upside down over my food and banged the upended bottom with my palm. As you can imagine, beer went EVERYWHERE. All I could do was pick my plate up with one hand, holding all the food tightly down with the other and drain the ketchuppy beer onto the floor at my feet like it was totally normal, I did this all the time growing up, why, what's wrong with you people staring and laughing?
Just to give everyone I talked to a little digital reacharound:
Apparently tattooing and good old-fashioned piercing aren't enough for the kids these days. When I was a whippersnapper, we got Prince Alberts and huge tattoos we couldn't really afford and we called it a day. Somebody's always gotta keep ahead of the curve, though, and get something bigger, nastier, and more painful.
Like this young lady, who is probably going to get bored with herself in a year or two and get a manhole cover installed in her lower lip.
Apparently, that's not red ink. That's SCAR TISSUE. My friend Natasha sent me these photos which have been circulating Down Under for a while ... no explanation, just these images of a potentially lovely young lady having her back scarred to look like bamboo. The following photos show the work in progress and should NOT be viewed by my mother or anyone who is trying to eat in the next few hours.
You've been warned.
That photo up there -- it's the freaking SKIN from her BACK. UGH. You can see the little pile of used razor blades in the right-hand corner there. The skin itself looks like pork rinds or earthworms, doesn't it? You could catch a hell of a catfish with that stuff.
After posting that last post, I really need something to clear the old brain-pipes. Here's something cute that I can really support: an episode of the Moomins, based on Tove Jansson's brilliant Moomin family series of children's books.
The whole family went to church together a few months back, which usually never happens unless poinsettas or palm fronds decorate the place. But my grandma was retiring from 6 decades of tireless, passionate floral artistry for her church, so we broke policy and went.
A white man sat in front of us, holding the smallest, cutest baby on earth. My own baby will not be as cute as this one was -- no way. Its eyes were barely open and its hands were like little clay models of fists. While the couple in front of us cuddled and loved this baby like only parents can, the baby was obviously not their biological child: the baby was black.
My sister and I made faces and waved at the kid all through the service, elbowing each other and pointing when it did something particularly adorable. Then we all filed out into the fellowship hall for my grandmother's retirement ceremony and proceeded to get intoxicated on sheet cake from Kroger and little tiny ham sandwiches.
The family gathered back at my grandparents' place -- my parents, sister, grandparents, aunt and uncle. We were going good there for a little bit, talking about the various mentally unhinged people my grandmother has befriended over the years, and then conversation waned.
After a silence, my grandpa piped up.
Anybody see that man with the little nigger baby in church today?
This did not exactly stimulate conversation. In a fraction of a second, we communicated telepathically and agreed to stare at the exact same fiber on the carpet.
After a long, deathless silence, my uncle spoke up:
I know you can do better than that, Dad.
What? Ah, come on, you all know what ...
and sorta trailed off, looking around the room for some kind of recognition or affirmation that he was fine and the rest of the world was all crazy uptight.
Pop-Pop, I think we should try another one,
I said. I wasn't going to embarrass him or myself by trying to explain it, but I couldn't let it pass, no matter how much I still loved him.
He tried again:
Okay. Jeesh, people. Did any of you see the man with the little colored baby in church today?
Technically, it was an improvement on his first attempt. An improvement, yes, without being at all a good alternative.
He was using what he knew to be the best, most respectful word he could think of when the pressure was on. And I know my grandpa's heart, and he's not the kind of person whose actions align with the philosophy that language implies. Somewhere between the early fifties and the early eighties the whole world changed while he was welding for NASA, and the news didn't make it to him. You can't blame him.
I'm not telling this story to make fun of my granddad. Not by a long shot, man. Sure, it's hilarious, but everyone's got a family member just lighting it up at the worst possible time -- regardless of race or culture. If you don't have that kind of story in your closet somewhere, you're probably the repeat offender in the family.
Our grandparents say stuff like this all the time because it's normal for the world to change fast while we're just trying to mind our business and make it to work on time. We're the product of an enlightened information age, supposedly, but at some point we're going to stop keeping up and not notice.
Now my sister and I are the ones laughing, but in thirty years' time we're going to be the ones telling the joke to embarrassed silence at the dinner table. What kills me is that I have NO idea what it's going to be. It fascinates me, knowing that some part of my everyday reality is going to offend and infuriate future generations, my own future flesh and blood.
Is It Illegal to Wear A Tiny Skirt and Look Played Out?
"You know you've got a prostitute in your building, man?"
We were bobbing down the Potomac, a flotilla of tipsy tubers splashing and saucing it up when my neighbor's boyfriend broke the news. While I was shocked, I couldn't say that I was completely surprised.
Apparently she was making a pretty heavy effort to look like she was chilling in front of the building when Marty came over late the other night. Something about the way she said "Hey man ..." and glanced him up and down, then bum rushed her way in when he got buzzed in tipped him off. There was something desperate and aggressively sexual in her stance, and it just set his bells off.
I didn't bother to ask how he learned to read this behavior so precisely.
She sure does hang out around the front of my building a lot in some pretty revealing outfits. And she sure does spend a lot of time with those two sketchy dudes with the dreadlocks in my builiding. The last desk clerk told me on her last day that they were crack dealers. Who knows the truth, though.
She is, beneath layers of ravaging addiction, a fundamentally attractive lady. Or was. She kinda looks like a healthy, vibrant woman that's had a 'Crackhead' filter in Photoshop applied to her with a very heavy hand.
But there's no law against that, is there? Wearing a tiny little tank top and a tiny little skirt and some platform boots and looking kinda played out? Maybe there ought to be a law, but there isn't one yet.
Like Wanda Sykes' character said in Pootie Tang:
You think that just cuz a girl likes to dress fancy and stand on the corner next to some 'hos, that she's hookin?
I got back from tubing with my judgement considerably clouded. Somebody had been getting stupid with the "Whiskey" filter in Photoshop, and it was making it pretty hard to get my key into the lock on the first try.
An attractive lady approached me, pushing a bicycle. She was wearing a short skirt and a tiny tank top. "Hey, man," she breathed, gazing me up and down. "What you up to tonight?"
We got a 'ho in the building. You can just tell.
It's almost like a completion of the neighborhood, in a way. Like there goes the mailman, the fire truck, the garbageman, and the 'ho. We got the whole Urban Fisher Price set now.
Underneath the jokes, this is really disturbing. I want to call someone and make the whole situation go away. And if I were to call the cops, they might come arrest her, and her dreadlocked pimps if they're really ambitious. But that's not what I want. It's not going to fix the problem.
I want someone to come rappelling out of the sky and treat her disease, render her free of addiction and restore her sense of self-respect. When I say I want the problem gone, I want the REAL problem gone.
I haven't seen her around lately. I went out of town for a few days, though. Maybe someone came swooping in and carried her off to a rehab facility where all her real problems are being fixed at their roots, and she'll emerge a saddened but wiser and more hopeful member of society.
I had a dream about Freddy Krueger this morning. He was stalking me through a number of crumbling backyards in Southern Virginia, over rotten fences, through ivy-choked alleyways and over cobblestones slick with condensation.
Then I woke up, went to the bathroom and laid there trying not to dream about Freddy Krueger again. Have you even tried that since you became an adult? Man, it's STILL hard ...
Shellac at the Black Cat: How Long Does It Take To Microwave a Baby?
The first few minutes of the Shellac show had me kinda nervous. They played "The End of Radio," a long, shambling improv rant that's never made any sense any time I've heard it. Uzeda, the opening band, had brought the signature Touch and Go sturm und drang to the stage, and it just never congealed for me. Would my indie-punk-post-rock-catch-phrase heroes be able to deliver?
The answer to that question: Shit yeah.
Shellac cooly, confidently pushed out one of the greatest shows I've seen in a long time. Most of the reviews tomorrow in the Post, DCist, whatever, are going to mention that the crowd was a little balder, a little fatter, slyly hinting that the indie scene is too old to rock. Those clever little reviewers can get fucked.
Shellac may be older, and Albini's metabolism mellowing into a lower gear, but my god, the music was spectacular. Brutal and wiry, Albini's guitar sound is a secret magic, a signature sound as recognizable as any note from Thurston Moore's hands. Steve Alibini plays like a gunslinger, spare, perfectly timed notes that swagger and slice their way through Todd Trainor and Bob Weston's flawless rhythm.
Trainor and Weston deserve special mention here as Shellac's rhythm section. Sure, Albini is a guitar god and a producer magician -- but Shellac is not a rhythm section behind a single star. All three of the guys are at the top of their game, starting, stopping, stuttering and lurching hard-rocking rhythms and dirgelike thunder on an absolute hairtrigger.
Todd Trainor's drumming has a hypnotic effect, like watching buildings get hit by wrecking balls: you know what's going to happen, you know how it's going to play out, but you just can't tear yourself away from it. Weston's bass is perfectly timed with those wrecking ball drums.
Unlike a lot of indie/punk bands that rose to fame in the 90's and never stopped looking at their own shoelaces (ahem, SLINT), Shellac engaged the crowd in a manner both warm and aggressive. They took questions from the audience. No requests, just questions. They told jokes, like
How long does it take to cook a baby in the microwave?
I don't know, I was busy jerking off.
Trainor flexed mic control and RULED a guy who joked his hair saying "Right, sure, like you're such an individual, with your beard and your little tattoo. I could go home with any of you jerks, but I won't. I've got a great dog, and besides, this is DC and you're all too conservative."
I got no good way to end this thing, so I'm just out. Here's a video of Shellac playing "Steady as She Goes." You either love it or hate it, but you can't say it's like any rock music you've ever heard before.