Dear music news sites:
Could AbsolutePunk maybe be a little bit more “news” and not so sensationalist, and change the title of the current thread to “Member of Volumes Involved in Fight, Details To Be Determined” instead of “Member of Volumes Jumped at Rockettown”? I think PropertyOfZack broke with a similar vibe, but then backed off the language a little bit after seeing some of the conflicting reports.
It seems that one of the members of Volumes was having an altercation with another guy in the mosh pit at a show, considerably after their set, when a security guy jumped in. Reports are that he was really drunk (at an all-ages venue where alcohol isn’t allowed).
Knowing how these shows are, and looking at this Volumes dude’s tweets, and some of the more sane descriptions of what happened, it sounds like he was going to fight someone no matter what. So many things have spread lately that have been false because of rumors started by sensationalistic journalism within this music scene.
Twitter isn’t really a place for facts. It’s a place for opinion. Basing a “news story” off of a few tweets is pretty irresponsible, and it makes people’s jobs a helluva lot harder in the music industry. Especially a story that’s so one-sided. Saying someone got jumped based on them saying they got jumped is pretty sensationalistic journalism.
The more I connect myself to supposed news sites, the more I realize that they’re really pushing for ratings by being the first one to break something, the one who says something the loudest. No one would ever talk about Jonny Craig if music news sites were aiming at posting about great things happening “in music”. The “For Today” thing wouldn’t be reported the way it was if these sites weren’t basically personal blogs that can sell advertisements.
So which is it, news sites? Are you news sites? Are you blogs? I’d just like to know, because I follow you all on Google Reader to find out what’s happening in music. Not to read overly-sensationalistic bullshit driven by an agenda.
Rocketown, the Christian venue in Nashville, can be considered homophobic to have fired someone over wearing a gay-rights shirt. However, if the venue is owned by a church, and the church’s beliefs are that homosexuality is a sin (no matter how misguided that belief is), at some point, there’s a line that needs to be drawn regarding employees REPRESENTING the company that they choose to work for.
Do you think the NRA would fire someone for wearing a T-shirt to work that says “I think we need tighter gun control”? Your “uniform” is not something you are allowed to choose in some places, whether you like it or not. If you show up to Jimmy John’s wearing a band T-shirt and jeans, you’ll be sent home. If you continue to do it, you will be fired.
So here’s the thing. Seems as if this employee of Rocketown had been told in the past to not wear the shirt. He chose to wear it, and as such, he basically chose to go against the wishes of his supervisors. So the fact that he was fired isn’t the issue. He basically CHOSE to be fired (in this context, because he was willing to defy his supervisors). The issue is, and I’ll give the employee mad props for this, that the venue believes this way, and he wanted to speak out. It’s a fundamental problem with Christianity, where they truly believe that they are loving a homosexual person by trying to convince that they are sinning, and to convert themselves away from their life of sin. They see it the same as convincing an alcoholic to go to AA to fight their addiction. When the employee arrived to work that day with that shirt on, he made a choice. He decided to stand up to the belief (not so much the venue) and tried to make a statement.
The way he did it is probably wrong, and if he’s looking to take this to court to get a settlement, that’s even more wrong. If you believe that gay people have the same rights as everyone else, you probably shouldn’t be working at a Christian venue. Or a church. If you were a pastor, you couldn’t wear that T-shirt to church (just like you couldn’t wear ANY T-shirt). If that organization wants to pay you to do a job and send the public a message, they should have the right to let you go if you’re not sending that message. Wear a shirt at McDonald’s that says “I think Burger King is better.” See what happens.
But the way the news world blew this up, they took all responsibility away from this employee. He deserved this, and he was wronged that. He wasn’t wronged. He was willfully employed at what was probably (I haven’t seen paperwork) an organization who could let a person go “without” a reason. The nicely-cropped .jpg he circulated of him being asked to not wear the shirt looked like it was from a past incident, saying that if he were to continue to wear the shirt, termination or suspension COULD be their next action.
The image is here: http://www.altpress.com/images/uploads/news/Info.jpg
So as much as I’m glad people are seeing the light on this issue (and it may not seem that way because I’m trying to talk with some sense), the way it happened was wrong. Bands and news sites jumped on the news, immediately declaring that “he was fired because he wore a shirt”. If you read actual news articles by local newspapers, it says that the reason he was fired is unclear, varying from “liking an inappropriate picture on Facebook” to wearing the shirt to them not having given him any reason at all.
My overall feeling is this:
1 - News sites, define what you want to be, and be it. Either be sensationalistic blogs like TMZ, or report to me actual, sourced, well-thought out “news”. Once I know what you are, I’ll choose who to follow. You cannot be both, as your career will be short.
2 - Stand up for what you believe in. But be the bigger man. Fight hate with love. Fight bigotry with compassion. Fight discrimination with acceptance. I understand that in most civil rights battles, things get messy. Sometimes you have to blur some lines to get your point across. But I think that it’s important there’s integrity in the fight, even if the other side shows none at all.
To all of my gay friends (those that I know are gay, and those that I don’t), as someone who was raised in the Christian community, I accept you as you are. You are welcome in my world to have the same opportunities as me, regardless of who you love. My personal relationship with my God does not pass judgment upon you. If you need my help, I will be there. But I will also fight to find TRUTH in matters like this, as sometimes, it’s not always as clear-cut as social media wants to believe.
As a concert promoter who has done many shows in all-ages venues (including churches, skate parks, rec halls), there are certain things that are not welcome. Sometimes, it’s OK to put away your right to expression to simply show respect for another group of people. Sometimes on tour, it’s OK to not get lit, not be belligerent in the pit, because a venue isn’t OK with it. These are all the things that are being overlooked in this story. Be smarter than this, everyone. Choose your own path.
I got home from great hangs and conversation with close friends, and all I want to do is blog. I should be in bed, because I really should be early to work tomorrow. But it’s not gonna happen. Here’s what I’ve been finding out about myself over the past few weeks:
I love humanity, because I’ve started to understand it.
I’ve come to grips with the fact that 95% of the problems in our lives are either caused by ourselves or by humans as a whole. That’s a weird thing living on a planet with shit like earthquakes and hurricanes and blizzards and lions and poisonous snakes.
It used to be, the earth would try to kill you. Now, we’ve found so many ways to shelter us from EVERYTHING that can harm us, both physically and emotionally, that we’ve naturally filled that void in our lives with things that we do to harm each other and ourselves. We’re now battling about turning in our guns, while giving all the kids in the local baseball league trophies, because there should be no winners and losers.
Once I kind of had that self-revelation, that everything I do has an impact, I chilled out quite a bit. I still have bad days, as does everyone, but in general, I’m a much happier human being. I don’t have to be as extreme in my beliefs. I don’t have to force everyone to think my way. With all the craziness going on lately with gay rights, gun control, crazy flu viruses, cold weather, and just human issues in general, it’s really easy to just pass judgment on everyone and everything around you. And maybe it’s because I’m comfortably living in a place that’s warm, where there’s food in the fridge, that I can have this kind of “kumbaya” existence, a zen-like feeling about my life where I’m in balance and harmony with my surroundings.
Shit happens. All the time. I get just as upset or angry or sad as anyone else when my car breaks down, my computer dies, someone at work does something I’m not happy about, or when someone I know is hurt, injured, loses their way, or passes away.
But it’s nights like tonight, having quality conversations with people who are truly trying to open their mind and just live their lives, bettering the world for those around them, where I realize just how cool life is.
This sounds like a bunch of hippie jargon, but it’s true. It’s not that I don’t care about politics or social issues, because I do. It’s that I know that not everyone is going to believe what I believe. Those who are truly outraged because some dude got fired from Rocketown because he wore a gay rights T-shirt are doing so for the right reasons, but I think that’s it’s important that we not let our disdain for discrimination and our natural human love for getting on a soapbox to drive us to hatred ourselves, and also to drive us away from finding out the truth of the matter, hearing both sides of the story, etc.
And I can’t let my personal belief that I never want to own a gun infringe on the rights of others who feel safer with one in the home. I’m not going to fire statistics at them or call them stupid. People that do that are the same people who say that “seatbelt laws are stupid, who is the government to tell me that I have to wear a seatbelt! My brother got in a head-on crash, got launched from the car through the windshield, and walked away unscathed!”
I’m open to listening to ideas. I’m open-minded to things that I don’t understand. I want to hear from vegans who tell me that they believe that they are lessening their impact on the environment. In the same conversation, I want to hear from meat-eaters who believe that animals were put on this earth for food, and that vegans are causing just as much of an impact because they’re causing their foods to be made under harsh conditions in South America. I want to hear from people who believe that man and woman were anatomically created to be together, because, well, look at how the puzzle pieces fit, but at the same time, I want to believe that we were given the right to choose, and with that choice, we can choose to love whoever we want. I want to hear from those who say that gun control was one of the final steps before Adolf Hitler took power and devastated an entire continent, and as such, we should retain our rights to guns of any killing power, to keep the balance between government and the people. And I want to hear from people that say that more guns = more deaths, and that they believe that they never want to see another gun as long as they live.
The beauty of all of this is that we live in a place where we’re given the opportunity to choose. To weigh options and make a personal choice based on our lifestyles. And to vote, most times with a majority winning, to make changes to our government. Some of you who fear the government may believe that we’re not actually given these options, that there’s some conspiracy pushing us to make decisions one way or the other. Some of you believe that you don’t have a choice at all. And it seems to me that the choices of the many make it very difficult to make what feel like the right choices for ourselves (i.e. why is twice as or more expensive to buy “organic”? Shouldn’t everything we eat be organic? Is there too many people to feed? When did we choose this way of life?)
I just see so many of my friends who get so worked up about things, and immediately, their reaction is anger and fear. If you’re choosing to love and show respect, then react to the things that you oppose with that same love and respect. You’ll be amazed at what carrying that mantra through your life will bring you, both in material things, and in an internal peace that I’ve been searching for my entire life.
I’ve had some weird personal breakthroughs lately, where I say something in the course of passionate conversation with someone I love. Tonight, I was in the basement of the Crofoot talking with Lalita, my cousin (might as well be my little sister that I never had) who’s been going through a lot of stuff lately. She was upset with herself about the feelings she was having about a variety of issues, and I said something that I’m not sure I’ll ever forget. It went something along the lines of “Have feelings. But don’t have feelings about your feelings. That complicates things exponentially.”
You’re allowed to feel a certain way. The human experience is that no two people have the same feelings. No two humans react to everything the same way that another person does. Things affect you differently than they do me. Instead of being upset with yourself about the way something made you feel, accept that that feeling was just your body’s way of dealing with it. For example, if I harbored anger about a situation where my computer was malfunctioning, and I acted poorly towards one of my staff, that’s a problem. But to dwell on and get angry with myself about the way I reacted just compounds the problem. Admit that you felt the way you did, make amends, and move on from it. You’re allowed to feel conflicted, to have your beliefs not line up with your friends, your family, or what you read on the internet. You’re allowed to question, to make mistakes, to try to seek the other side of the story, find clarity. To feel sad when you lose, or angry when you fail, or happy when you win, or pride when you achieve.
These issues, whether it be gun control, gay rights, veganism, or just about any other topic on the planet, are not black and white. They mean different things to different people. Show empathy and respect for the situation of others, and maybe, together you can find a solution that works for both. Some may believe that there is no middle ground on an issue, but you can still be empathetic with that person’s belief. I can’t hate a person raised by a Bible-reading family for believing that homosexuality is a sin. I can’t believe that it’s true either, but instead of spouting hate or trying to tear down a religion, I choose to live my life in a way that shows acceptance and tolerance of BOTH opinions, because I don’t know the answers. Tolerance is a frightening word to some who have been brought up in very strict circumstances, because they believe that it’s letting go of their belief system, where I believe it’s the very opposite.
Tolerance, to me, is allowing for there to be multiple trains-of-thought on nearly any subject. Bob believes that he has the right to own an AK-47. John believes that no one should ever need to own an AK-47, and that our country should stop producing them. Is there a right answer? Can they both be right? ARE they both right? Or wrong? I’m never going to own a gun, but the second this world goes “I Am Legend”, I’m gonna be the first one to write in my journal (you know, because the internet won’t work) the words “Fuck, I should have bought a gun. A big one. That can shoot lots of bullets all at once.” It’s the same feeling I have about having stores of food for an apocalyptic situation. I make fun of my mom all the time for having 6 bottles of ketchup in the basement. But guess where I’m headed when it all goes down?
There are things that are wrong. Killing is wrong. Torture is wrong. Some of the things that are happening in the regions I’ve studied so much in central and eastern Africa, those things are all wrong. But to me, tolerance speaks to the idea that we have an empathy, an understanding, of why those people choose to do what they do. Why a person kills another person. The fear, the anger, the confusion that that person must feel, it sounds terrifying, and instead of being angry at them for killing someone, I feel pain and sadness, not only for the families of the victims, but for the guilty individual and those close to them. What drove them to that crazy place? Why did they feel as if that was the only option? What have they seen? What happened to them to cause them to feel the darkness and desperation that is attached to such things? What did our society do (or not do) to affect the situation? Did our precious metals needs for our technology cause some of the pain? All of it?
I’m really blessed, and I know this. It’s not because I’m better than anyone, or because I live on a higher plain because of my life choices. It’s not because I believe in God (I do). It’s not because I’ve done enough good works to earn karma points. And it’s not because I’m an American, and feel like we’re the chosen people, that we’re the greatest country in the world.
I’m just very lucky, to have found happiness and fulfillment in my career choice, to find contentment and true companionship at home with a lovely, supportive wife who I maybe didn’t deserve, but won’t give up for nothing now that I’ve got her. I’ve got a roof over my head, a bunch of worldly possessions, reliable transportation, wonderful friends and family nearby, the ability to travel, and enough money to keep food in my fridge, clothes on my back, and gas in my tank. For this, I’m the envy of 80% of the world’s population, and I’m so thankful for it all.
I just want to quietly live my life in a way that paints a picture of everything I’ve talked about above. Treating everything and everyone around me with empathy and compassion, respect and honor, patience and care. Understanding that we’re all different, that we all matter, and that each interaction between us is important and worthy of attention. I don’t need to preach (though this blog may come off that way), brag, or convince. I don’t want to argue. I just want to go to work, bring this feeling to those around me, and hopefully encourage others to live in a similar way. If all I do in life is provide musicians with a stage and fans with a place to see those musicians, I think that’s important. And if I impact anyone along the way, that’s bonus points!
Thanks for reading this, if you got this far. I probably could have stopped about 10 paragraphs ago, but I’m a little hopped up on Pepsi and too excited about what lies ahead to sleep. But Teresa just came out of the bedroom and scared the hell out of me, so I’m done for now. Good night, internet. I’ll see plenty more of you tomorrow.
So I wrote this list back in November. And now I’ve sat on it for over a month as I wait for Ron to post the abbreviated version of this list on the Fusion blog. I assume he’s probably gonna roll mine out on NYE, but I can’t wait any longer. Here’s my year-end lists, with a few new updates added since November. This wasn’t as great a year for albums as 2011, but it was probably the best year of my life to date, so that counts for something. Here’s to the pursuit of happiness (not the Will Smith movie) and to living out your dreams in 2013!
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
#1 - Now Now - “Threads”
This album surpassed As Tall As Lions’ self-titled album as “best album to relax my mind and let me sleep” this year. It’s a great listen in almost any setting, and it’s just my favorite album right now. Equal parts massive sounding and adorable. The songwriting stands out as some of the most clever I’ve heard in a long time.
#2 - The Menzingers - “On The Impossible Past”
Instant classic. Our own Scott Bell tour manages these guys, and this record just re-wrote punk rock for me. It borrows influence from so many legends without sounding like they’re ripping off anyone. It’s just a great record.
#3 - Circa Survive - “Violent Waves”
I had this one pegged as my #1 album as recently as an hour ago. That’s how close it is for these 3. But this record took a while to grow on me. The depth of a Circa record is hard to grasp on first listen. It’s just so huge, and even with Anthony’s distinct higher toned vocals, the album just crushes, especially at high volumes.
#4 - Nada Surf - “The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy”
This feels like blasphemy to put them #4. It was a throwback to the days when I used to be super excited to run to the record store to BUY a record before hearing it streaming online somewhere. I grabbed a copy, saw them live later in the year, and it just solidified my belief that this band has never written a bad song.
#5 - The Early November - “In Currents”
I’m late to the Early November party. I’ve enjoyed records from both of Ace’s more recent projects, but never really got into TEN the first time around. Not this time. This record is full of incredible pop hooks, and demands to be listened to again and again.
#6 - Title Fight - “Floral Green”
Would easily be the best punk record of the year if the Menzingers did not exist. It reeks with the type of straight-ahead, powerful sound that I dig in punk rock, with no bullshit.
#7 - Walk The Moon - self titled
I saw these guys back in February, opening for Young The Giant, and it was instantly apparent that they were the “next big thing”. They’re backing that up with sold-out tours, and this record, which is pop perfection. Hooky, vocal-centric, and just purely infectious. And backed it up in December with a perfect live show. No bull here folks, this band is just THAT good!
#8 - Hostage Calm - “Please Remain Calm”
These guys are to be given so many high fives, not only for writing a great record, but for dipping into a scene (pop-punk/hardcore) that’s not known for originality and putting out one of the most creative sets of songs available today. Add to that their intense desire for equality for all people, and their just genuine nice-guy-status, and you’ve got one of the albums of the year.
#9 - A Children’s Crusade - “‘Til We Have Faces”
Sometimes I slip a “local” release into the top 10 with some sort of bias or agenda. But this long-awaited record was truly worth the wait. The band broke up soon after its release, which is sad, but this collection of songs will stand the test of time, at least in my collection.
#10 - Cheap Girls - “Giant Orange”
This record just smacks of everything honest about this industry. The songs sound like they were crafted in another time, when Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and YouTube were absent, encouraging bands to spend more time practicing than tweeting, more time writing than building stage lights and scrims, and more time just playing music on stage than recording “tour updates” to post on their YouTube page.
Honorable Mention: Minus The Bear, Motion City Soundtrack, Bad Books, Rocky Votolato, Such Gold, mewithoutYou, the Soil and the Sun, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
SINGLES OF THE YEAR
#1 - The Avett Brothers - “Live and Die”
The perfect song. I’ve never heard an Avett Brothers song in my life before this one, and digging into their collection after hearing this, there’s not another song in their catalog like it. The best song of this year, and of the past few years.
#2 - Youngblood Hawke - “We Come Running”
Whoa. This band comes out of nowhere to write a how-to on how to mix today’s electronic music with yesterday’s pop/indie/rock style. This song is dynamite on the radio.
#3 - Foxy Shazam - “Holy Touch”
I want so badly to love the new record, but it’s so hit and miss. Half of the songs are great, and half aren’t. This song is not only incredible live (as are most of their songs), but it’s perfectly recorded and makes me want to dance no matter where I am (a big deal because I don’t really dance).
#4 - The Wombats - “Jump Into The Fog”
I’m not 100% onboard with the greatness of this band (I think they’re really GOOD, but maybe not GREAT), but this song is unbelievably great. Kind of reminds me of the weird 90s stuff I grew up on, with a bit of an English twist on it. So good.
#5 - Tiger! Tiger! - “I Salsa Your Face”
Every few years, my favorite Michigan bands write a song that I walk away from every show I see them at, playing that song on air drums, air guitar, and singing it over and over and over again. The creativity and musicianship on this track takes 2nd place to no one. Kudos, gentlemen.
Honorable Mention: Macklemore - “Thrift Shop”, Walk The Moon - “Anna Sun”, The Early November - “In Currents”, Imagine Dragons - “Radioactive”,
SHOWS OF THE YEAR
#1 - Apathetic Critic (final show) - 8/10 @ Howell Opera House
This show was one of those ones that I’ll remember forever. It wasn’t their best set, but it was certainly their most passionate. The people in the room that night will be forever bonded together by the tears and laughs shared that night.
#2 - The Head and the Heart - 3/11 @ The Crofoot Ballroom
Every once in a while, I’ll do this thing where I ignore a band’s existence prior to seeing them live. I had only heard the single on the radio, and my best friend demanded “you’re taking me to see this band”. So I avoided listening to them online, didn’t do any research, and was rewarded with a religious experience along the lines of one that I’ve only had a few times in my entire life, spanning over 1200 concerts.
#3 - Here Come The Mummies - 5/3 @ The Loft
This one was weird. We stepped considerably outside of our normal demographics to find these guys, and it paid off! What an incredibly fun night. I felt like I was seeing a show on the strip in Vegas, but right in downtown Lansing. Their mix of professional musicianship and crass humor truly sets them apart.
#3a (added December 30) - Jeff Pianki and friends - 12/21 @ Howell Nature Center
There’s two great things happening each year in December at the Nature Center. First, I get to hear one of my best friends on earth, Jeff Pianki, play a long, magical set of music in front of a full house, where you could hear a pin drop. Jeff’s set this year was one of his best, and that says a lot. One of the few musicians that I can simply watch over and over and never get bored. And second, it was about 100 of my favorite people, all assembled in one place. So many hugs.
#4 - Henry Rollins - 10/8 @ The Cooley Temple
Henry’s a legend. We don’t have those moments very often that reduce me to fan boy, but seeing Henry on a stage at a show that I produced was pure magic. He was even more understanding and brilliant than I could have possibly expected. One of the coolest shows we have EVER done.
#5 - Anberlin - 6/15 @ The Loft
When I get pitched “acoustic tours” for full bands, I usually think to myself “Here we go. Get paid the same amount of money for a lame-ass, boring set of poor sounding versions of songs that SHOULD be loud.” Well, Anberlin went over the edge. Extra instrumentation, completely re-written songs, and true professional musicianship made this a night I’ll always remember.
#6 - O’Brother - 2/23 @ Pyramid Scheme
The loudest, rawest, biggest sounding band on planet earth today. Coupled with the always incredible talents of the Soil and the Sun, O’Brother’s live show changed a lot of minds that night, and cemented me as one of their biggest fans.
#6a (added December 30) - Kid Brother Collective - 12/27 @ Mac’s Bar
While O’Brother gets the call as possibly the best sounding band of today, Kid Brother Collective’s tones were PERFECT the other night at Mac’s. And this from a band who broke up like 8 years ago. They reunited to re-release “Highway Miles” on vinyl, one of the most important records I’ve ever owned. This was 45 minutes of bliss for me, even if only 30-40 people were watching them.
#7 - Company Of Thieves - 2/18 @ Frost Fest 2012
There’s something magical and exciting about special events like this, where a normal space (a tent in the middle of a freezing downtown street) is transformed by live music and lighting into something considerably bigger and more important. The raw power of Company Of Thieves was never more evident, as folks that were attending solely to “drink outside in the street” were silenced by their showmanship.
#8 - mewithoutYou - 3/5 @ The Strutt
This one was bittersweet, because as we celebrated the return of our very close friends (and one of our favorite bands) mewithoutYou, we also were sad to have this be the final show at the Strutt, a venue in Kalamazoo we had grown to love over the past few years. This turned into a party of epic proportions, and mewithoutYou’s set was fantastic, as usual.
#9 - Foxy Shazam - 9/24 @ The Loft
I couldn’t not list one of Foxy’s shows in the top 10 this year. They might be the most exciting live band on the planet, and even though we thought this show might be a bit slower and less upbeat, due to them having just been through 4 months earlier, Lansing showed up en masse and gave the band what they called one of their favorite shows ever. The energy was unbelievable.
#10 - Touche Amore/Defeater - 4/26 @ The Loft
Two of hardcore’s newest big hitters were combined on one tour package, and the Loft barely remained standing. This was also the big coming out party for Code Orange Kids, who we expect to be on 2013’s biggest break out stars. Defeater alone was a top-10 performance for me. They’re flawless.
Honorable Mention: Bayside at Pyramid Scheme, Nada Surf at Blind Pig, The Wallflowers at Common Ground, Bled Fest 2012, Ted Leo at the Secret Room
FIVE NATIONAL ACTS THAT WILL OWN 2013:
#1 - twenty | one | pilots
#2 - Real Friends
#3 - Lindsey Stirling
#4 - The Mowgli’s
#5 - GRiZ
FIVE MICHIGAN BANDS WHO WILL MAKE NATIONAL WAVES IN 2013:
#1 - Flint Eastwood
#2 - Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers
#3 - Pity Sex
#4 - Frontier Ruckus
#5 - Doug Mains and the City Folk
Don’t miss your chance to catch Owl City up close and personal!
[CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS & MORE INFO]
LIVINGSTON UNDERGROUND: The Livingston Underground returns in just 12 days! -
That’s so weird to say.
I hope that people care. This is your chance to make something really awesome happen right here in your community. We’re just opening the door a little bit, but you have to crash it down and make it yours. I’ll be the “old guy” that signs the checks and does the…
It’s really hard to stay positive these days. The weather’s acting like a natural disaster movie. There’s a guy with a handgun driving around my area just shooting up cars, seemingly at random, nowhere closer than he was when he started 11 days to being apprehended. The election stuff has us all afraid, at each other’s throats, and thoroughly feeling defeated. Our Tigers blasted their way to the World Series, only to be swept in nasty fashion by the Giants. The NHL is out of commission because they can’t figure out how to split millions and millions of dollars.
It’s all situational stuff. It’s stuff we can’t control. But it seems like it’s all adding up to be something that’s overwhelming. My usual thought for things like this is to just look the other way, focus on what I’m doing, but when things like this start to affect what I’m doing (or other crazy things happen), it’s hard to keep that focus.
I’ve been, for the first time in my life I think, genuinely afraid to be on the road. It reminds me so much of what people go through every day of their lives to have 1000s of militant minds surrounding them, from the LRA and other rebel groups in Africa, to the stuff that’s still happening Eastern Europe and the Middle East, to stuff that happens in inner cities right here in our country. The thought that you might have a gun trained on your vehicle while you drive down the road makes you think about your mortality. Imagining living with that stress every day of your life is unthinkable.
I hope everyone’s safe, and that both of these stresses end soon, that the election works itself for the greater good, and that the f’ing NHL gets their shit together so I can have my positive, constructive release back!
I decided today to start learning again.
I’ve spent the past 5 years running Fusion Shows, and kind of being the guy teaching everyone else. How to put a piece of tape on all 4 corners of a poster. How to build our brand. How to hand out flyers. How to produce a show.
Somewhere along the way, I think I stopped seeking out learning opportunities. I mean, I’ve learned a ton along the way, but it’s been in that same way that the President learns. By mistake, by observation, by working together with others. But I haven’t truly sought out new information, forced myself to open my mind to new ideas.
I want to learn a lot more about our business. About how others have done it. Both the positives and the negatives.
I’m reading a book today called “Ticket Masters”, which is basically the entire history of computerized ticketing, which started in sports and theater, and moved into music in the 70’s. I want to know who did it right, who did it wrong, why those things happened. Why Live Nation and Ticketmaster have made themselves a place in this business. I want to know who the big guys are at the top, and I also want to read more case studies on the little guys, the independent concert promoters like me, and see how they started out, where they’re headed.
I read this article today, about a 62 year old woman from Minneapolis who’s been making her way in the promoting business for 25+ years. Really inspiring stuff. She’s doing it her way, and that’s really the way I want to be remembered.
Now, I’m finishing off my night with a few documentaries on Netflix, starting with a doc on the recording and release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. I read today on another promoter’s blog that because of technology or whatever, kids don’t let it all out at shows like they used to. I kind of feel like that, but I’m 33 now, so what do I know? I just remember being physically drained after any show I went to, even if it was Third Eye Blind or whatever. I crowd surfed non stop, I sang so loud it hurt for days. I wish I could have been a part of live music when Nirvana was playing out. I was a freshman in high school when Kurt died, and I was so completely unaware that there were concerts that could be attended by people my age.
Anyway, I want to learn about the business, especially the concert industry, and I’m going to try to share my findings with you guys as we go along.
P.S. I went for a walk today. So nice out. Limbeck’s “Hi, Everything’s Great” was the soundtrack. Limbeck’s another band that I had just haven’t gotten into for whatever reason. Not because I don’t like it, but because there’s only so many hours in the day. Good record, I’ll give it a few more focused listens to see if I can add it to the rotation.
It’s 1:23 in the morning. Today, I went wild on the internet. Just had one of those days where I felt like I could say no wrong, so I just kept on saying. It was fun. Now I’m watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and avoiding bed.
Today was super nice. Accounting stuff balanced quickly, and I caught up with some friends. I started a blog called Music=Movement, which was supposed to be based on me getting Spotify Mobile, and reviewing albums that I listened to while I walked and got some exercise. The program failed me almost instantly. There’s like a bubble over Hartland that doesn’t allow Sprint to have a good signal, so that sucked. I did go walking yesterday while listening to Nada Surf’s first record on my iPod. Listening to popular while walking around my old high school’s outdoor track and football field gave me a chuckle (see the video for that song).
I’m hoping to find a way to keep that theme going, but regardless, I need to exercise. Need to get out more, which will be harder the colder it gets. Need to start skating again. Anyone wanna join? Sticks and pucks at lots of area rinks.
Really excited for two of my friends to get married tomorrow. Hoping the rain holds off, wedding is supposed to be outdoors. They’re big time outdoors people, but rain and 50 degrees doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for them or anyone else. Hope it’s nice!
Well, short blog entry today, because the Spotify app was wigging out and was buffering more than it was playing songs. I walked for a mile or so around the track across the street, and listened to the Tigers pre-game. Really excited for Miguel Cabrera to win the Triple Crown, and more excited for postseason baseball!
That’s all I’ve got!
A Sample of Livingston Underground -
We’ve gathered up some music from a bunch of Livingston County bands, both new and old. We wanted to give you a chance to hear first-hand just how incredibly talented the musicians in this area are and always have been. We want you to share this with your friends that live here and get them excited about our incredible music scene clawing its way back. We want you to show this to your friends that don’t live in the area and make them jealous of our community. We want you to play this every day in as many settings as you can. The bands featured here are all very proud of their work, and deserve as much exposure as possible.
You can download the album for free at Bandcamp. You can also download the album and, at the very same time, donate some money that will ultimately be used to help fund the opening of a venue right here in Livingston County. Download it, listen to it, and share it.
Fanboy - Lesson Learned
Hungup - Sinking
All the President’s Men - Gold Rush
Paths - Broken Records
Apathetic Critic - For the Wages of Sin
Contrast - Annie
David Samano - Keep Love Inspired
Alaska - Aurora
Quicksand Swimclub - Better Days
Giraffe Attack! - Pick Yourself Up
Tips - Smoke and Guns
Andrew Price - I Like It By The Lakes
The Deep End - I Could Be Wrong
Harvey Dent - So Long Friends
Kenny and the Swordfish - Good Riddance to Grand Rapids
Montoyan - Garter
Good Weather for Airstrikes - Let Go
Borderline Extortion - Moving too Fast
Tiger! Tiger! - I Can’t Believe Myself
Travis Root - Wall Street
A Hero Falls - From Our Eyes
The Threads - Think Right
Endeavors - BLOODVVOLF
Boss Ross - A Militia Rising
Soul Tiger - Paul Bunyan
Avery Black - React
A Big Crash - The First One to Leave
Grant Thomas - Reminisce
Boherald - Sandpaper Tongue
Total Hipster Crusher - Split 7” Side
Bottle Fight the World
Fuller - My Goin’ Out Shoes
We’re also really excited to announce the big show to celebrate Chris Nance’s memorial show. The flyer below has the lineup!
Album: Celebration Rock
Listen on Spotify: Japandroids – Celebration Rock
I finally did it. I put Spotify on my phone. Right now, it’s in a 48 hour trial of Spotify Premium, which costs $9.99 a month, but I wanted to see what the streaming service was like over the phone. How much battery it wasted. How it sounded. How long load times were.
And I’m blown away. Listening for almost 45 minutes, it took almost zero battery. The quality was pretty similar to listening on my computer. And there was exactly ZERO lag time between songs.
So I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I can’t remember the last time I actually exercised for the sake of exercising. As a 33 year old dude who’s easily 40-50 pounds overweight, and headed the wrong direction at a speed I’m not comfortable with, I need to change that. It’s hard to do, to get motivated.
So as with most things I do, I’ve been thinking a way to tie it to music. And this idea came to mind: ”Find a way to listen to new albums every day/night while exercising, then come home and write a quick blog about the record”. The thought is that the social networking component will give me some sort of interaction, and that my love for new music would keep me walking, riding my bike, or maybe even eventually running (though I hate running so much, always have). And maybe that interaction will build some accountability into me (if you guys harp on me, I’ll get pissed at myself for missing a day, and I’ll make myself get out the next day.)
Tonight, I finally did it. I put Spotify on my phone, took the 48 hour premium trial, looked for a record that I had never heard that I knew I needed to, and I went for a walk, in the dark, and eventually in the rain. I had forgotten how good it feels to be outdoors for the sake of being outdoors, and even the rain felt incredible. I didn’t push myself hard or anything, and only walked for about 45 minutes, but it was enough time to fully soak in Japandroids newest release, “Celebration Rock”. I’ve heard a lot about the band, and have dabbled in listening for a minute or two. In this format, it’s just me and the music, nothing to break my concentration. And by the third or fourth song, I was in a rhythm. I might have even been playing some air guitar as I was walking down the sidewalk in the neighborhood next to ours. It was super good. I’m not a music reviewer, mainly because I don’t have my head far enough up my own ass to get out the, you know, that book that you get synonyms out of. A thesaurus. See? I can’t even name the word that I feel like I need to be a snobby music reviewer. But it was really good, like The Gaslight Anthem if they weren’t boring as hell. Jangly guitars, little bit of Strokes influence, really fun post-punk songs. I dig.
So the goal is going to be to do this as close to every day as possible, whether it be in the morning, taking a lunch break from the office and walking around Lansing, or in the evenings here around home. Pick a new record, jam it in its entirety while getting some much-needed exercise. The hope is that I’ll be able and willing to intensify the workouts soon, instead of just walking. Riding the bike, ice skating, maybe even running at some point.
Not gonna put the cart ahead of the horse though. I really enjoyed it tonight, and I need suggestions for records to check out. If I can build an excitement into the process, maybe I can get myself addicted to the workout at some point.
So, internet. I’ve been meaning to tell you all about my two little vacations. I am blessed enough to A. be able to take vacations, and B. have the internet to write blogs about them. I tell myself every year, I’m going to not book as many shows over the summer. Once school gets out, shows are hard to get people out to. There’s just too many other options. Things like cookouts and beach days and bonfires. Things that I should be doing.
But again, here was Fusion Shows, with 50 shows (plus involvement in many others) from June 1 to August 25. And as August came to an end, I realized that my “summer to-do list” was in dire need of filling. I had done so few of the things I had set out to do this summer, nor had I had any spontaneous trips of any sort. Not to say that I hadn’t lived or experienced much, but it wasn’t really going to be in those “summers to remember” categories.
So once August 25 was done, Fusion had two weeks off, and I vowed to get on the road, in some fashion. Teresa still had to work the first week, so the plan was to head out on my own for a week, return home, pick her up, and hit the road again. So that’s what I did. Here’s how it went:
Monday, August 28 - Haircut, shopping, packing, oil change. Nothing makes me feel more guilty or negligent than an oil change. ”When WAS the last time you changed the sprocket lubrication liquid filterator”? ”You know, I don’t know. I’ll get it next time.”
Tuesday, August 29 - I hit the road. My plan was to take a lot of roads I’d never been on, to places I had never been. I didn’t really have a plan, other than to end in Toronto for a day or two, so I headed south. I had heard of this area called Hocking Hills in Ohio, that was known for it’s natural beauty, camping, and one of the Midwest’s first canopy zip-line tour.
I booked it on the interstate until about Bowling Green, OH, and then hopped off and took a 55mph-er through the heartland. The weather was so nice, I had the windows down the whole way. Even Ohio was beautiful in 76 degree, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky weather that I traveled through.
As I got farther south, the landscape changed. The endless farm country and semi-trucks-passing-me-on-2-lane-highways-when-i-was-already-going-10-over gave way to rolling hills and some pretty decent views. I stopped and had lunch at a little cafe in Marysville, Ohio. I’ve got a thing for diners. I don’t know if it’s watching too much Guy Fieri on Food Network, but I always go in expecting something amazing, and walk out wishing it was more like Cracker Barrel or some other corporate chain restaurant. This time around, I was the only person in the restaurant when I first arrived, and even then, the waitress seemed annoyed that I was there. The club sandwich was pretty decent though. I was mad at first that it was really tiny, but it was the perfect lunch portion.
As I rolled into the Hocking Hills area later in the afternoon, I took the 13 mile road off the highway to Hocking Hills State Park. It was voted tops in the nation in some poll, so I was expecting grandeur. What I got was kind of sad compared to most of my favorite MIchigan State Parks, but it was still pretty nice. I did that thing where you drive in and select your favorite campsite, and then head back to the office.
“Site 155, please!”, I said, excited to have found the perfectly shaded campsite, far from the generator-toting assholes with their huge RV’s, “roughing it” with their televisions and air conditioners running loudly well into the wee hours.
“Sorry sir, someone JUST took that one”.
Of course they did. I just said, “Well, 154 will probably be cool.”
I drove out to 154, excited to set up my little 1 pound backpacker’s hammock, to quietly waste some time before heading out on my zip line adventure. When I got there, I was shocked. There was no real campsite. While my “neighbors” were across the drive setting up on MY campsite, I was left to what literally amounted to a concrete pad, a 8x8 square of grass with a fire ring, and some long grass with one scraggly tree that had seen too many 7 year olds learning how to use daddy’s chainsaw. It was pathetic. So I tried again.
I headed back to the office, for the third time in 20 minutes, and asked to move to site 128. It wasn’t exactly off the beaten path, but there was at least a lot of space, and plenty of nice trees to string my hammock up in between. She begrudgingly switched me to that site, after trying to refund a little old lady for the water that she “pushed the button for” on the vending machine outside, which gave her Sprite instead.
After all of this, I had to get moving. I headed back towards the highway, passing a car that decided to leave the roadway and hang out with a guard rail for a bit. As I swerved through the “wilderness area”, I was kind of impressed. Ohio didn’t suck that bad after all!
I got to the Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, and there was a tour leaving in 20 minutes. I paid my $89, and waited in the lobby. I work on High Ropes courses and zip lines at the Howell Nature Center, so I’m always excited to see how other courses work. I had never done a true “canopy tour”, which is mostly made up of zip lines between trees. Well, this one was well done. Two southern dudes, Josh and Jake, were our guides, and our group only had 3 people, myself and a 50-something married couple. These lines were fun because we were in control of our own speed, having to slow ourselves down by applying the garden work gloves we were wearing directly to the cable. It was a series of 10 zip lines, as long as 600 feet, going over 30 mph, and as high as 85 feet off the ground. It traversed a section of wilderness that included caves, forest, and the cleanest river in Ohio. We zipped right over the heads of two young deer. It was awesome. Josh and Jake were witty, funny guys, who excelled at being sarcastic and convincing you they were serious just long enough to say, “Uhhhhhhhhh, I gotcha, didn’t I?” All jokes aside, they were really good at their jobs, and the course was awesome. As someone who works often in that field, it was cool to see how someone else does it.
After the canopy tour, I headed back to the campground, where to my intense delight, four college kids had set up right next to me, and were drunkenly chucking a football back and forth in the street, while holding their beers and yelling LOUD obscenities, just to be seen (by the old couple to the other side of me, myself, and the families with kids down the block). From the screaming, I gathered that they were OSU students (duh), and that the 2 guys were desperately trying to get in bed with the 2 girls, who had no intention of being a party to that party.
As the football chucking session came to an end, they settled in around the fire and continue with their yelling and ranting obscenely about nothing. Then, dude #2 (I’ll call him Raoul) got out his djembe. He sat down and began to serenade us with the same “beat” over and over again. Loudly. I stormed around the campsite, making a dangerously tall fire, fueled with hatred for all things Buckeye. Raoul was going to die.
After a few minutes, Raoul’s banging started to get even louder, and I yelled something along the lines of “Bro, marching band practice is over”. That’s when girl #1 (let’s call her Megan) decides to tell me how camping is:
Megan: “Man, I’m just trying to listen to my friend’s music. We know quiet hours don’t start until 10, so we’ll be quiet after that. For now though, if you want peace and quiet, you should have totally like set up in the woods or something.”
Me: “Right. All of that. But asshole hours ended a few hours ago, so what about that?”
Megan: “Uh, well, my friend’s really good, man, and he just wants to play his music.”
Me: “But that’s not music, man.”
This continued for an hour, until I just walked over and stood on their site and stared with that “hit it again, and that camp-chair is gonna be a permanent hindrance to your ability to walk when I jam it up your ass” look on my face. Apparently, it was fierce, because they put it away a few minutes later. But they continued to talk loudly around the fire, camping in their headlights until I stormed off to bed at 11pm or so. They stayed up ALL NIGHT, loudly yelling about stupid Buckeye shit. I think most of it was about cheating at everything, cuz that’s what Buckeyes do. I got up at 7am, and the girls were still up, chattering away like school girls. I wonder how long the Raoul and the other dork kept up the pursuit before retiring sadly to their respective tents for a blue-balled evening?
Wednesday, August 30 - I hit the road early, and headed due east, until I hit the Ohio/West Virginia border. I took the road that runs along the Ohio River north, crossing the border from time to time for the fun of it, all the way until I was in Pennsylvania. The country through there was unbelievably beautiful, though lined with power plants and lots of industrial smells. As I came into the Pittsburgh area from the south, I was blown away at the variation in height. One of my favorite things, as a Michigan flatlander, is driving and being able to look down into a valley and see an entire town unfold in front of you. I got into Pittsburgh, and headed to meet another promoter for lunch and a tour of the town.
I came in through a tunnel from the south, and popped out along the river, with the Pittsburgh downtown right across the river. It was really cool. I had heard that the city was cool, but I had only ever driven through on the way farther east. I jumped on Carson Street and headed to Fat Head’s Saloon, a really cool neighborhood bar on the south side. Josh, the other promoter, met me for lunch, and I ordered a burrito with which the secret ingredient had to have been “fire of death”. It was the hottest thing I had ever eaten. It tasted amazing, but I couldn’t finish more than half of it because I sweating, crying, and panting the whole time.
After Fat Head’s, Josh took me to two of his venues in town. First was the Smiling Moose, which is basically Pittsburgh’s Mac’s Bar. A small upstairs club, about 300 capacity, with a similar “punk as fuck” vibe to it. But it did have a floor, walls, and a ceiling, so it wasn’t completely Mac’s, but I dug it. Then we went over to Altar Bar, which was basically a smaller Clutch Cargos, an old church converted into a venue. After that, Josh took me across the street to the Altar TV offices. They’re an internet-television destination, recording and airing sessions and interviews from all kinds of great artists. Some of my favorite on the site were a brilliant live studio session from Now Now, a cool interview with La Dispute, and a really nice session with Good Old War. The quality was incredible, and the artistic value was inspiring. Check it out when you get a chance. Their office space was in this cool upstairs warehouse, and the guys had some incredible technology at work. So good.
From there, I headed downtown to PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the local major league baseball team. The Pirates were home that night, playing the St. Louis Cardinals, and I sprung for a good seat, in the 4th row in the right field box seats. One of my goals for my life, and specifically this year, is to watch baseball live in as many stadiums as possible. As much as any sport, different stadiums are so important to the game, and PNC Park, located on the river with a beautiful view of downtown over the outfield wall, was no exception. It was probably the nicest stadium I’ve been to, and the game was awesome. It was maybe 65 degrees, and the Pirates won 5-1. It was cool to see the home fans go home happy. The game was really interactive without having too much loud music or silly between-inning stunts.
At the game, something really cool happened. Carlos Beltran, a well-traveled star outfielder, in the twilight of his career with the Cardinals, was warming up between innings, playing long toss with the centerfielder. A young boy wearing a Pirates jersey came down to the railing, with his baseball glove, and politely yelled “Mr. Beltran! Mr. Beltran! Please throw me the ball. Mr. Beltran!”
Carlos paid him no attention, and continued to warm up, and the kid kept yelling. As warmups ended, Carlos waved off the centerfielder, and turned and tossed the ball right into the kid’s waiting mitt, just to my right. The kid turned and scampered back up to his parents, his night (and his life) completely made. I was right there, and as Carlos watched him show his ball to his parents, I gave him the customary golf clap, as to applaud him for being a class act. He looked at me and nodded. That’s what’s so damn cool about baseball. There’s still history and honor and respect in the game. He tossed a warmup ball to a kid wearing the opponent’s jersey, when he could have just as easily given the ball to a ballboy or to a coach. And they were losing at that point, pretty handily. Just a classy move by a player that I have grown a lot of respect for.
After the game, I had been told to head up “Mt. Washington” to see the view from the top of the city. On the northside of the city, there’s a rather large hill that is about 500 feet above the rest of the city, overlooking the river and the entire skyline. It was 100% dark when I got up there, and when I walked out onto the terrace of the Duquesne Incline, my breath was taken away. I had never seen such an incredible view of a city. You could see for miles, and people looked like ants, and cars like matchbox and hot wheels of my youth. And loud and clear, between Heinz Field (Football) and PNC Park (Baseball), a band performed at a small amphitheatre (Stage AE). The people were so far away, but the sound carried perfectly over the river and up the hill. It’s always awesome hearing thousands of people singing together, and they were singing a song I knew! Fun’s “We Are Young” rang loud and clear from the venue, and I watched as best I could from a mile away. Then, a few songs I didn’t know, and then “Meet Virginia”? What the hell? It was Train, and they had covered Fun! What band does that? Covering a current single from another band!? Weird.
Anyway, I left the overlook, drove two hours north to Erie, and grabbed a hotel room. It sucked, like most hotel rooms do.
Thursday, August 31 - I was planning on heading to Toronto on Friday, so I had a day to kill. I had thought about heading to Cleveland, to meet another promoter and catch another MLB game, but the Indians played at 12:05, and I just didn’t think I had it in me to get into town that early, so I just stayed in Erie. I slept in until almost 11, grabbed a “nearly” free continental breakfast (who charges $4 for a hotel breakfast?), then set out on my quest to find the best beach on Lake Erie.
I found it. And quickly. Erie’s Presque Isle State Park is absolutely beautiful. It’s a pretty huge park with a whole bunch of beaches. Only two of them were “open” for swimming on this day, because it wasn’t exactly hot out. But it was nice and sunny, and I wanted to swim in one of the Great Lakes. And swim I did! It was no Lake Michigan, but it was really nice. Clean beach, nice sand.
Then I decided to head to one of the not-open-for-swimming beaches, and hang up my backpacker’s hammock (my 2nd true love, behind Teresa). I found 2 trees, set it up, and in minutes, I was laying in a comfy section of parachute material, swinging back and forth, looking out at the water and listening to my favorite music on my iPod. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep a few times. I laid there for about 3, maybe 4, hours, until hunger said “Hey, feed me.” It’s a pretty awesome feeling to sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, and move when you’re done not moving, with nothing else in your way. I didn’t really have an end destination picked out, so I headed northeast, trying to stick as close to Lake Erie as I could. It was no Pacific Coast Highway, but it was a pretty scenic little drive at points, running along the shoreline when it could. Near the New York border, I entered wine country, and I swear to God, my sense of smell was enchanted like it never has been before. The breeze was nice, and I drove with the windows open, with grapevines on both sides of the road. The scent of ripe grapes drifted through the air. It was like I was inside a 5000 acre air freshener. For about 10 miles, I drove through this, and wanted to turn around and do it over again. It really was something else, an experience I’ve never had before. The conditions were perfect for such an assault on my senses, and I breathed it all in deeply.
And as suddenly as it started, the natural beauty ended, and I was surrounded by a kind of semi-industrial suburban line of gas stations, family restaurants, and dilapidated small auto repair places. I was approaching Buffalo.
I’ve never really heard much in the way of positive comments about Buffalo, similar to what people say about Detroit who don’t live there or have a stake in it. It’s a struggling town, hurting from the auto industry’s lack of growth. It’s a depressing place, but as I entered from the south, through the region called the “Outer Harbor”, it was pretty awesome. The highway skirted Lake Erie, and the city’s skyline, while not New York City or Chicago, was pleasant to look at in the fading twilight.
I had decided to grab dinner in Buffalo, and then push on to Toronto a night early, to stay with my friend Jason at his place in the outskirts of Toronto. The original plan was to come into town during the day on Friday, and hang out with him when he got done at work on Friday evening, but I figured, instead of grabbing a hotel room and staying in Buffalo or Niagara Falls, I’d sleep on his couch, giving me a whole day to use mass transit to explore Toronto. So first, dinner.
I descended from what I think they called the sky bridge, or skyway, and arrived in the middle of downtown Buffalo. Right near the stadium, government offices, and what seemed like the city center. AND IT WAS EMPTY.
Not like kind of empty either. It was scary, kind of post-apocalyptic. Here it was a Thursday evening, around 7pm, and I assumed that there’d be some sort of activity. Restaurants with outdoor patios, clubs and bars starting to get ready for the night, folks out walking and enjoying the beautiful weather. And there was none of that. There was a lot of building, all of which looked like they had been unused for the better part of the past 25 years, and a few drivers that had this look on their face that said “I kind of wish I was somewhere else, don’t you?” And I did. Immediately. It was like a bigger Fort Wayne, Indiana (that place SUCKS after 6pm - even Subway is closed). I drove around, almost in a panic because there was nothing to be worried about. I was half expecting to round the corner to see Will Smith acting out that creepy scene where he meets the half-dead underground people in I Am Legend.
I had seen a cool waterfront restaurant called Dug’s Dive on the Outer Harbor on the way in, so I decided I’d backtrack a few miles to eat there. I went back over the bridge, and again, the view was great, the sun was starting to get low in the sky, and there was no hint of the ghost town that was behind me. I pulled into Dug’s, and it was instantly the type of place I’d like. It had a little ice cream place on the front of it, and a deck where people sat at picnic tables and ate their dinner. And their food looked GOOD.
I went inside, expecting there to be a wait, and there was. I changed out of my bathing suit from earlier, and after returning to the deck, it was my turn to be seated. I got a spot on the deck itself, overlooking the harbor, where the sun was setting. I ordered the potato-crusted haddock, and it was incredible. The biggest piece of fish I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant, coated in this super good potato chip topping. Crispy and salty and perfectly done. It came with this warm potato salad full of cheese and bacon bits and peppers, a full cob of sweet corn, and a little scoop of cole slaw. For $15, I was in heaven. I sat there and absolutely gorged myself. I’ve never been unable to finish a fish dinner, but this one conquered me. I couldn’t be happier as I leaned back with that “holy shit, I ate SO much” lean, and watched the sun set in front of me over Lake Erie.
I waddled back to the car, and got myself directions to Toronto (my phone and the Google Maps I have become so dependent on weren’t going to work). I called Teresa real quick, let her know I was going off the grid, and headed into the great white north. The border took a while, so I just listened to Our Lady Peace and thought about mounted police and curling and Tim Horton’s and tweeted a lot. Twitter and cell phones in general make most waiting much more bearable. Remember going to the Secretary of State 10 years ago? Most awful day of your life. Now, 45 minutes of Bejeweled with intermittent tweets about how bad the lady next to you smells of perfume, and you’re on your way.
Anyway, I had an extra hour or so on the way, so I had no excuse to not go see Niagara Falls. Teresa and I had been once before, about ten years ago, but it’s amazing every time. The city and surrounding touristy bullshit is just that, bullshit, but the falls themselves are a sight. Seeing them at night, all lit up, just reminds you how crazy this world is physically. People walked hand in hand along the boardwalk, just enjoying the cool mist and taking bad pictures with their flashes up of the falls in the dark, but they were all so happy. And so was I. I realized that I had detoured pretty significantly from my directions, so it was time to find my way back to the QEW (Queen Elizabeth’s Way). As I got close to Toronto, things got nutty. Even at 10:30pm, the freeways were packed, and the exit I needed (and had based my step-by-step, mapless directions) was closed. So, I went from being on-time to being quite late, as I wandered around suburban Toronto looking for a street name that looked familiar to my directions. I somehow stumbled across East Mall, which apparently is a road in Canada. I found my way to Jason’s apartment building. He had a cool 17th floor, one bedroom apartment, which was a bit in upheaval, as he was moving into a new location on Saturday. We stayed up chatting for a while about life, and after a quick catch up on my social networks, I was off to bed.
Friday, September 1 - I had already done the tourist thing in Toronto some years back with Teresa, so I had no intention of repeating that. I actually slept in a bit (all that hammock-time the day before had me a bit tired), and got headed towards the city on the subway line (just a few blocks from Jason’s place). One of my favorite things to do in cities is conquer the mass transit system. My goal is that by the end of the first day, I’m no longer a tourist, and just another person, hopping on and off trains and buses like a pro.
Well, I got off to a rough start. I decided it would be far easier and cheaper to buy a day pass (it was), but first, I had to exchange money. I didn’t know which one was the looney, and which was the tooney, but I needed some of those to make exact change, so I told the lady at the bank I needed “some dollars”. Smart. I got back into the subway, and bought the pass, and stepped back from the window, without going through the turnstiles. The pass looked like a scratch-off lottery ticket, with one scratch for the month, and one for the day. It had no scan bars or UPC codes, so I couldn’t figure out how the hell to get through the subway gates. I stood there for a minute, kind of looking around for someone to help, looking probably quite pathetic. The booth operators on both sides just kind of looked at me like “What the hell is HE doing? Tourist….”
Eventually I figured out that I was to just show it to the person manning the booth, and go through the turnstiles nearest to their booth. That worked. Seemed really low on the technology totem pole compared to NYC and Chicago, but it worked, and off I headed towards downtown.
I had a 2pm lunch with another promoter who I’d been talking to online for years, Pat Murphy of Union Events. They’re a big independent company that buy shows from clubs to arenas across the entire country. I hopped off the Subway, and headed the wrong direction for two blocks or so (I ALWAYS do that, in every city, get turned around after coming up from the subway). I headed the other way, and it was hot that day, and things take FOREVER to walk in this city. It’s way bigger than it looks. And it looks big. I walked for about 15 blocks, and started second guessing that I had went the wrong way after all, but then I found a familiar street that I had remembered as being a subway stop on my way into town. A few blocks later, and I found my destination.
He had me meet him in a Starbucks (because there isn’t one of THOSE on every corner). We then headed to a local vegan restaurant that he really likes, and I ordered some really good tofu pad thai. It wasn’t your typical pad thai, it kind of tasted like spaghetti with a little thai flavor in it. Either way, it was awesome. Pat is a really good dude. Good chats about bands we like and agents we like (and don’t).
I then posted up at a “Second Cup”, which is kind of like Biggby in Canada (i.e. the alternative to Starbucks, but nearly the same in all fashions as a Starbucks). I got some work done, answered some emails, and found out that the Swellers were in Toronto for a show that night as well.
I met Jason at his office, which was really nice. He works for a booking agency that books tours for huge Canadian bands ranging from Rush to Sarah McLachlan, Sum 41 to the Tragically Hip. Met everyone there, seemed like a nice bunch of people. They had cracked into some tequila, so I think the work day was over.
From there, we headed to a cool sports bar for some killer fajitas. We had a really sweet waitress who looked as if she was more cut out to work at the Hooters down the street, but the food was good, and Jason and I got to catch up while filling our faces. From there, we jumped on a bus and headed to Exhibition Place for “The Ex”, a huge festival events. Exhibition Place is this ridiculously huge festival grounds. Think like a fairgrounds here in Michigan, but well-groomed and with more money than God. One of Jason’s agency’s clients, The Tea Party, were performing at the festival, and Jason had to show his face and say hello to some people. We walked within the festival grounds for what seemed like miles, through hundreds of carnival games and elephant ear stands. They had things like “Fried Butter” and “Fried Snickers” and “Fried Fried Things”. It was disgusting and awesome at the same time. It was like the biggest carnival you could ever imagine.
Finally, all the way at the far end of the grounds, we came to the main stage, where The Tea Party was muddling their way through their set of mediocre cock-rock tunes. Man, they were average. We stayed for approximately 2 songs, before heading out of the nearest exit, to find a cab. We didn’t find any for a few minutes, and started dreading that we were going to have to walk all the way back through the festival to get one. Then, we found one blasting down the divided highway. We gave him a wave, and he came careening to a halt in front of us. He asked “Are you gablehblahbleh?” or something like that, and Jason said “Yup!” We hopped in, and he knew he had just given someone else’s cab away, because he got scolded in some Arabian language over the radio the whole way to Sneaky Dee’s, where The Swellers were playing a set at the reunion show for The Full Blast, a Canadian pop-punk band who did some independent touring with The Swellers years ago.
We got to Sneaky Dee’s, went upstairs, and it was a really cool room! It kind of reminded me of Beat Kitchen in Chicago. The sound wasn’t great, the stage was kind of small, and I can imagine that load-in and load-out was awful. But the show was sold out (Jason was amazed I got us on the list in his town - “one of the toughest tickets in town”, he said), and the vibe was really awesome. The Swellers were just about to start, and they played about a 45 minute set. The reunion crowd, who hadn’t really been show-goers probably in about 5 years, were polite, if uninterested, but The Swellers’ set was excellent. Lots of “pissed off punk songs”, as Nick Diener told us had been requested by the Full Blast.
I was surprised to see Brian Southall at the merch table when I arrived, and even more surprised to see a Fordirelifesake T-shirt on the merch table. They apparently had been friends of the Full Blast too, and were asked to come play a secret set, which was a treat for many in the crowd. Similar to Refused, I missed the FDLS boat when it came through, and so while it felt cool to be at a secret FDLS show in another city (a position about 1000 Detroiters would have killed to be in), I didn’t really feel much during their set. It was cool and all, but I wish that I had known some of the songs. We left before the end of their set, because Jason had to be up early to move his stuff out of his apartment. I found The Swellers hanging outside the venue by their van on the way out, gave hugs, and Jason commented that I knew more people in his city than he did. It’s really awesome to be a part of a community that’s on the move like that, spreading that love from town to town. I never really feel alone when around this scene, because even if I don’t directly know anyone, I for sure have talking points and shared acquaintances with almost anyone on any tour.
We hopped on the subway for the long trip back to Jason’s place, and again proceeded to stay up until 2am, chatting like school girls. Jason’s a really close friend, and I wish I saw him more. He’s just one of those overtly positive people, that you can’t help feeling upbeat around. A cool energy about him.
Saturday, September 2 - I got up around 9am, and got on the road around 10, headed back home. There wasn’t really much to talk about on the way home. I got caught in some holiday-weekend traffic on the 401, and went back over the border in Sarnia. At the border, there was a pause, where all of the border guards came out of their booths and took positions behind their booths, like taking cover, hand on their guns. I’m not sure if it was standard procedure, because they didn’t look concerned, but I sure as hell was! I was just 3 cars away, and didn’t really care to be stuck in some crossfire if some dude decided to open fire. Once I got to the window, the border guard was nice, but the guy next to me, who was obviously of Middle Eastern descent, was being “randomly” searched, and had a real innocent look of fear on his face, that look where you know that you have no control what a bully’s about to do to you. I hope he got through the rest of his day OK.
I got home around 2 or 3pm, and vegged the rest of the day, watching Michigan turn in an embarrassing performance against Alabama.
My week of wandering was over, and it felt great to be home. As most trips do, it reminds you how awesome it is to be stationary, to have a home and a family and a group of friends and a community to come home to. But it also inspired me to try to do that type of thing more often. I spent some great hours by myself, and some more with friends that maybe wouldn’t be in my speed dial. I know thousands of people from this business, and I can call hundreds of them my friends, which is something that should comfort me in times where I’m not feeling so confident. In many cities across the country, there’s people I’ve met through doing shows over the years who would be great to do lunch with. And in those towns, they know where the best places to eat are, where the actual worthwhile tourist stops are, etc. Local guides, I guess.
Can’t wait to get on the road again. But also re-energized and pumped to get back to work, as this fall is our best season yet. I’m excited to jump back in with this group of people that we’ve built up here. The family that we’ve created with Fusion Shows is one of my proudest accomplishments, all of the shows aside. I’m really blessed in so many ways in my life, and I want to share those blessings with others.
If you’re still reading this, thanks for reading. I hope you’re inspired to do some traveling of your own, and just go see people that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise go see. It’ll open your eyes to a lot of things.
LIVINGSTON UNDERGROUND: This is... the story of a band... who cried a river and drowned the whole world... -
Let me tell you a little story about a band.
Well, first, it’s a story about a guy. His name is James Radick, and a few years ago, 2008 to be exact, he reached out to me and asked me if he could play a show. At that point, Fusion Shows was already underway, but we were still regularly presenting…
The no-plan plan. That’s what I call it sometimes, when I just go off on my own, and make things up as I go. That’s my general plan for this week. Going to head east, in theory. Maybe go see some friends in Toronto, and then just continue on to maybe Montreal or Ottawa or both, and then south into Vermont and New Hampshire, before heading back home through upstate NY, and back home via Canada. We’ll see how it all ends up, but I’m going to try to set up my car to where I can sleep in it, and then take my tent too. And my bike. And some food. And that’s about it. Leaving Tuesday, home when I’m done.