Monday, December 29, 2014

Best-Ofs and Biggest Disappointments of 2014

This post is fairly under the wire, but I'm gonna get it in anyway. It wasn't a very busy year for content at Circle of Fits, in fact this is only my 20th and final post of the year. Must be the binge watching binges or the new vinyl addiction that kept me away from the posts....anyhow here are a few of my picks for the Best-Ofs and Biggest Disappointments of 2014.

Best Albums of 2014

I should use the word "Favorite" or the phrase "Listened to More Than Once" but Best-Of will do for now.

1) Manipulator-Ty Segall: Look out Mr. White, this is your new Jack of all Trades. At 27 he puts out an average of 3 albums a year as singer, guitarist and drummer in several psych/garage/fuzzed out/space folk projects. This year, manipulator had something for everyone of his fans. A highly listenable, and slightly refined version of the bullet points of his talents.

2) Lazaretto-Jack White- Not as much oomph as we wanted, but still the best and biggest Rock Star we have these days. I just wish his pretty vinyl wasn't so expensive.

3) Once More 'Round the Sun- Mastodon- The riffolympics continue for these" metalled" athletes from the ATL. Not as singable as The Hunter, but crushingly as beautiful.

4) Midnight Sun- The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger- A highly underrated pop/psyche rock outing from Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl. I wonder if Sean is ever going to not be compared(in an unfair negative way) to Pops because this fine tuned cornucopia of beautiful pop soundscapes certainly holds its own.

5) Morning Phase-Beck- I could not escape comparing this to my fav Sea Change(as did many other lazy writers) and ended up not caring as much.There's just not enough heartbreak(damn you, happily married family man Beck!) But it will be number One on my second chance records of next year.

6) Bad Self Portraits-Lake Street Dive- I hopped on the bandwagon for this one and the ride has been as pleasant as one of a dog's with an open window. This Boston bred Indie soul/jazz band has one of the best singers I've heard in years with the stunning Rachael Price. And they dress really well.

7) Royal Blood- Self Titled- Merely a rhythm section but one that leaves you wondering how a clean cut duo can crack open the fucking sky with no pulled punches and sonic bomp like that.

8) The Beast of Left and Right- Lazer/Wulf- I luv this twisted wreck without a crash experimental metal trio. The only thing they are experimenting on in their audiences, who lay wet and dazzled by their dark array of metal math spit out  like binary on fire.

9) The Voyager-Jenny Lewis- Maybe its the slight ginger with a guitar fetish I possess, or maybe it's just because she writes great songs (with or without the help of Ryan Adams), I don't miss Rilo Kiley at all.

10) Stay Gold-First Aid Kit- Sisterhood from Sweden. Very clean and enjoyable indie folk with a lilt to it.

Biggest Disappointments of 2014

1) Green Day gets the RRHOF nod and Richie Blackmore has not gone all Blackmore's ninja Knight and put a flaming arrow in between Billy Joe's hot topic inspired eyeliner.

2) Billy Corgan- The most thin skinned self absorbed blowhard that the 90s has ever produced. This cranky cretin actually thought Tommy Lee was a good drummer and wrestling was legit while slagging hard working vets like the Jam and Foos. He cannot just shut up and play his guitar.

3) Bob Lefsetz- Bob, I used to love your letter but not all musicians want to be big bloated rich superstars, not all musicians want to embrace streaming or social media, not all people care about ski trips, Apple and Pop stars.

4) Thom Yorke- another year, another collection of glitch blip and beep with half howled unintelligible laptopped lyrics over them. Here and gone like the last one. Hacking soundtracks. More ZZZZ from the 10101010.

5) The embracement of Fatassery- Is this bootylicious part two, Iggy, Nikki, JLo, Beyounce and  Ms. Trainor? You have the cache to have on call trainers, video editors and PR people to keep your butttastic statements on the positive side..most people who struggle with their weight don't necessarily want to be proud of it, no matter how you spin it.

6) Sting- because Sting is a disappointment every year.

7) Mark Lanegan's latest album - Mark, your current live band was the best youve ever had...where were they when you recorded this album? A whole album's worth of a drum app was too much of too little for me.

8) Taylor Swift was on the cover of Time magazine, Taylor Swift was everywhere. Are her talents that massive? Or is her team made up of very powerful 19-25 year old PR people. Are the journalists all tweens? Who the fuck over the age of 21 care about Taylor Swift? What percentage of the REAL GENERAL TASTE CONSCIOUS PUBLIC give a flying fuck about this girl?  Once again, Taylor Swift was on the cover of Time Magazine.

9) Brody Dalle- I love her, but let's stop calling her a punk icon at this point. Her latest album was VERY experimental and nobody had the balls to say it. Mostly sung in a washed out hush of a voice wayyyy out of her comfort zone, the songs(most of em) fell short of anything everybody knows that shes capable of..

10)  The "Serial" Podcast hype....I mean at this point it's comical. Hey lookey here!!! I guess the world REALLLY dicovered podcasts this year...AHEM..theyve been around since about 2003-4, shit I even had one! 9 years ago!!!  But really now, the crime was boring, the characters were boring, the ending was apparently boring, and if it hadn't been produced by Ira Glass nobody would have cared. This is hipsters getting a clean hush voiced radio version of what Nancy Grace and a plethora of true crime trash TV shows have been doing for years....

11) This years Season of Louie- excuse me, I wonder if you could help me find my laughs anywhere? Lots of serious contemplative stuff like the "fat girl dating" and the extremely boring Non English speaking Non girlfriend. Yay, she did a duet on the violin with my daughter? Yay I saved Ellen Berstyn in an elevator twice!!!  Thank goodness for Pamela Adlon salvaging the game in the final inning.

12) Prince's afro or Prince's bad mustache? I can't decide.

13) Hozier = Magic= Goyte.  If you don't know what this means youre doing great.

14) Boyhood. The kid didn't take one acting lesson and he had 12 years to do it.

15) Jimmy Page- Refused a booking on Howard Stern (who's interviews with top tier rockers are mostly great, very few dick jokes or pleading for threesome stories). Phoned in a highly hyped Bio which turned out to be a Picture Book...haven't we seen all the pics of Jimmy/Zep that we need/want to see at this point? And reportedly HAND STAMPED those books at signing events for the fans who waited in line after paying 70 bucks retail for the fucking thing.  The remastered remastered remasters with the NEVER BEFORE HEARD unfinished demos was a bit of a cash grab too.

16) Robert Plant- Just say you can't hit the notes anymore and people will stop asking.

17) Imagine No Imagine Dragons.

18) Neil Young- Ditches Pegi for crazy, goes coocoo for Pono and writes a book about all the fucking cars he loves. Neil, the cars and trains were the parts of Waging Heavy Peace that made it a huge bore fest....

AND BY THE WAY ALL ROCKERS ABOUT TO WRITE A BIO...Please call Keith. Ask for pointers.

19) Ryan Adams and his perfectly messed up hair. We know you have a stylist.

20) Slipknot- rethink the masks. It ruined the already pathetic Kiss and that's what we're hoping for.

21) Wayne Coyne- Running neck and neck with Billy Corgan in the Douchbag of the decade race...stay tuned to see who wins.

22) David Gilmour- Just couldn't leave the island he owns long enough to put fucking lyrics on the "NEW PINK FLOYD ALBUM". Now playing in dentist office lobbies everywhere.

23) Morrissey- Shut up, eat a fucking sandwich or get laid you cocky twat. You're running out of places to play and columns to fill.

24) Goodbye Jack, Joe, Ian, Bobby, Johnny, Tommy and.....Malcolm. We hardly knew ya.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This is Not A Dog Park, Bitch.

As I write this, I cannot stress the importance of your input, advice and or criticism. So please add your fill.....

I'm a curmudgeon. it's no secret, folks. I feel it to the marrow, I fly the flag. I have had intermittent lucid hours of what others would calm calmness or clarity, or god forbid, happiness throughout the years and I love a good laugh just like everyone else. I would be much less of a man without humor. But my thought provoked reality normally teeters towards glass half empty, glass full of curdled milk or glass nowhere to be found. Years of therapy have uncovered the truth under my litany of excuses for it. The bitterness is not a pill swallowed for comfort or attention. Bitter is a large part of my personality. Oh, well.

So with that said it makes the next few paragraphs easy to write, consequences be damned.

Disclaimer: I like most dogs. I had a dog for 15 years that I think about more than often. I wish my living situation was one that would allow me to still have one, but it is not. So I'm stuck with these cats who shit indoors and keep me up at night. yet I still love them. This I am capable of admitting. As for canines, I think some have more positive features than the humans that take care of them. I think, just like humans, there are good dogs and bad dogs, that may or may not have been born that way. I encountered bad people and their horrible dogs today(one in particular).

I took my son to a local park at his request this afternoon. One we frequent, as it is close and he seems to like it. It is a park in the lovely idyllic-to-a-fault Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Lots of privilege, blue bloods and young couples with babies who can't quite handle anything more than a quiet street and a well deserved parking space. It is also a well known spot for people to bring their dogs and let them go nuts with balls, sticks and squirrels. However....nowhere does a sign exist proclaiming that this is allowed or not. So the dogs run free. That is the legality of it I assume.

We were doing our recreational business as well, using the stomp rockets that so many kids from ages 7-12 are enjoying these days. We were using fallen branches as markers to measure the length of how far each rocket flew after we "stomp launched" it. Now we already knew that dogs have smaller brains than humans. A dog sees a stick and he wants it, especially if he and his master had been playing fetch 30 or 40 yards away. My son doesn't like dogs because he has been pestered, chased and maybe threatened several times in his life by dogs, and each and every time it was a dog in the pit bull terrier family (what a surprise, a pit bull..Come at me pit bull owners, I'd be happy to argue the merits of any other breed vs. yours).

That said, a little brown terrier came out of nowhere at high speed and wanted the stick in my son's hand and started chasing him. My son was frightened and I shouted at him to drop the stick but he didn't hear me. After about 20-30 seconds he dropped the stick and the dog grabbed it and ran. The dog only wanted the stick. My son sat down and cried, scared and exasperated, complaining about the dog. When a dog is chasing a kid, 30 seconds is a lifetime.

My problem is not with the dog. My problem is that the owner who was 30 yards away, never moved, never told his dog to stop...just plain didn't do a fucking thing and the dog ran back towards him with the stick. The guy never said a word, never approached and never apologized. Now I don't know about you, but if it were my dog, leashed or unleashed and it started chasing a kid, I would have sprinted towards it and called it off or immediately leashed it or dragged it off by its collar until there was enough comfortable distance between the dog and the child. I would have felt awful and apologized profusely to the child and his or her parents.

But this guy failed to do any of that. So I yelled "Who's goddamn dog is this?" and he raised his hand as his dog returned to the fray 30 yards away. As I marinated in the glow of his stupidity, I put a hand around my ear and in mocking fashion yelled "What's that you say? Are you apologizing?" Just then his female friend or neighbor whom (I kid you not, was wearing her baby in a Bjorn) yelled back at me..."This is a dog park, Go home!"

Now this is just one of the thousands of reasons my faith in humanity pales in comparison to yours. This is not a dog park bitch. And if that dog had knocked my child over..if its paws or snout had come anywhere close to connecting to my son's person, I would have done everything in my power to maim that canine with my fist or foot. I would have beat it with the stick it ripped from my son's hand until it walked funny and shit blood for a week. I would do anything to protect him. And if you didn't have a baby attached to you, I would have headbutted some sense into you until you could whistle through the holes in your teeth line, and then called the cops on the owner of that dog and on myself for losing my patience.

But instead, I just walked away with my flustered son. I did go home. And I thought about how you would feel if a dog lunged at your papoose or was chasing your fat ass around while a small brained pit bull was nipping at your babie's booties.

I wondered as a curmudgeon, how much time I should devote to your stupidity and selfishness, and to the actions of your pal, the dog's owner. I wondered if I should write about it and ask anyone who reads it for perspective, rather than a pat on the back.

So that is what I'm doing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

To "Wax" Philosophic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mine are posted on instagram.

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

Monday, August 04, 2014


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

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

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sebastian 2001-2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thank You, # Fu Manchu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Fu Manchu for Inspiration, perspiration and palpitation.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Random Rock Thoughts

I think the new Zeppelin Re-Re-Re-Releases are a money grab. I love me some Zep, but in the olden days of my fandom, I read many a quote from Jimmy Page(from as long as a decade or two ago) explaining that there wasn't much left in the vaults and they had used everything. Therefore, with the upcoming rollout of the expanded catalog(again), I'm expecting some sloppy jams disguised as "lost or unreleased" gems and a shitload of live bootlegs that he went and souped up. Most unreleased stuff is unreleased for a reason. I'll hold out hope for anything in a demo version as it's always interesting to peruse the early architecture of those FM staples. Acoustic demo version of  Gallow's Pole? 1st take of In the Light? John Paul Jones solo-ing on anything?  Boner rising. Super Zep fans will covet anything, but Jesus the catalog has been remastered three times already. I'm good thanks. As long as Ive been able to hear the squeaky bass drum pedal on "Since Ive Been Loving You" from Led Zeppelin III, I'm set. My boner is still going strong, That little sonic ditty has been around for 15 years now. However, if by some miracle I can hear the ice clinking from Bonzo's 12th glass of vodka and orange captured accidentally from the snare mic during tour rehearsals in Sept. 1980, I'm in. If not, I'll pass. As for the live stuff, I've heard the "Listen to This, Eddie" bootleg and that's all I need.

Neil Young is an extremely passionate man, and his soapbox for dissing the sound quality of everything released since 1989 is worn out and rickety as fuck by now. but he keeps standing on it, so A+ for effort, Neil. I have everything Neil Young has ever released, and none of it is on vinyl. I wonder if he still likes me? It's about the love, Neil. Love conquers all, and love does a higher bit rate not make.The Pono music player device thingamabob that he is proposing/kickstarting is a niche item for snooty audiophiles who wanna walk around with a Yello Toblerone-ish item tucked in their khakis, because they can't fit a turntable in a pocket. have you seen this thing? I'm hoping(but not really) that it's a prototype because this thing looks like a bright banana with angles for your back pocket. Should look real awesome in your morning coffee line...gonna fall right outta your yoga pants..Reminder...If your audio file quality don't match your headphone quality, all is lost my friends. all of this fussing over sound quality is moot. So Pono away. The kids won't buy it. The kids don't matter and the kids don't care..I'll be too busy letting my emotions do the listening and stocking up on a variety of bit rates from 8 track to a digital FLAC chip inserted under the skin behind my ear to care.

The envelope filter (guitar effect for anyone who cares to look up) is my latest favorite guitar effect. Nobody does it better than Jerry Garcia. See..hear Dicks Picks any of them ('77-80) where Jerry hadn't yet found a dragon to chase regularly. Oh well, if I had my druthers in 1978, and I was a hairy pitted barefoot female and older than 10.. He'd be my Khaleesi. In the headphones, an envelope filter mimics a cacophony of notes being squeezed gently in tourniquet fashion, and  farted out through a muted trumpet made of old tie dyed t-shirts.The joyous sound makes me wanna bathe in granola salts and red grenadine and teach a hungry bear to stop worrying about global warming and just dance.

The Apple-Beats merger is stinking up my joint. Headphones for fashion weenies who value bass more than clarity meets a company who made everybody listen to music on their fucking phones. So what if it's all about streaming..which is what these shut in audio pundits seem to think is the future of music. I can't wait for the future of music...faster..pulled from the cloud..instantaneous..wait, what?..Net neutrality only lets the beautiful people with the most duckets..get the streamo maximus fastissimus quickery?...the rest of those who care about invisible shit that you can't hold and can't see get ...overdriven compressed to the hilt-disposable streams... through bass heavy 200 dollar fucking headphones. Yeah, baby, the future is so bright(but treble free). We will soon be fashioned to forget...purchase tracks blindly with a button behind glass and wait for them to stream...enjoy a three to five minute song for the short the light to the next one. Repeat. shit out. Bury. repeat.

Pizza is here. I'm out of thoughts.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Bullet points

"Woe is you" a friend said to me yesterday. Fuck her, but she's right. She's usually always right.

A lot of good all of that trippy, dancy Grateful Dead nostalgia did me. I'm no dead head. The only nostalgia I'm good at is the constant post mortem rewind I partake in to re align my bullet points of anger and loss. I'm a rotten son of a bitch to the core and by rotten I mean dry rot. The kind of rot that festers on the inside, corroding upon itself while all outward appearance and structural soundness appear normal, high functioning and strong. My brain is a moldy cross beam that holds my head together, dry as tinder, flammable as ransom note paper. Look at me emoting. Look at me searching for reasons...errr attention, on a quest to find the root of all anger...this anger, the old friend who breaks the day at daybreak, shows you every hairline fracture in my smile, every jaded self punch, every guffaw masked as evidence of the smouldering ashpile of confidence next to my dreams and visions... while keeping it a secret from me until a day where it can unravel in an aimless reveal..a day like today.

I knew I was going to wake up more cranky than normal on this Cinco de mayo, because it's my dead sister's birthday. She would have been 43.

She's dead while millions of useless, murderous, deadbeat, abusive, empty, psycho, sycophants and sabotagers walk the earth.

I saw a guy literally walk backwards down invisible steps, wipe drool from his chin that wasn't there and freeze in place like a mime without falling today, a bleary muted out empty husk of a junkie walking my street...and my sister gets to unwillingly check out early.

I saw a ghetto mom yank her kid by one arm right off of the side walk, take the phone away from her ear where she was wasting her broken ebonic on some fool, whack him on the head with the phone and keep talkin....This bitch gets to walk the earth and Meaghan is gone.

I see the dark underbelly in lieu of the blue sky every day. And that's a problem..No its a lifestyle. A landscape. A masterpiece.  

It's her birthday..but I never liked birthdays. So I was apt to complain about it. Complaining is one of a triad of things I'm a world conquering expert on, the others being singing and painting houses. We all have to be good at something, right?

Let's celebrate being born and sticking around another we're proud of it. Like it means something in this great big world full of gun loving, famine bloated, ozone depleted greed driven scenes everywhere we look or choose not to.

We should all be angry every day. We choose sitcoms, social media, a great back nine, food porn, gambling, bath salts, cross fit and cat memes to distract us.

My problem is that I don't even see the glass.

I've already walked through the burning coals and keep waiting for the next challenge.

My problem is that music and its power is temporary.

Medication and its trail of side effects are temporary.

Therapy is fleeting, expensive, and temporary.

The weeks where I have my son are temporary..distractions from the battle with letting the alien anger win, encase my body in a fiery ectoplasm whom no one wants to fear or repulsion.

I can put a playlist on, talk about my passions, dream about the things I wanna write about...still there.

Read another rock bio. Still there.

Sing another cover song. Still there.

Bitch about Kiss and suck up to the Grateful Dead. Still there.

Practice my son's vocal vibrato before his big choral concert next week. Still there.

It's never been a violent anger. More like a simmering bully that shoves me up against the teeter totter just when the sun hits my face and the synapses are in rhythm and all of my friends are in the room on the playground and we're talking about Mork and Mindy, or the X Files or the acoustic songs on Physical Graffiti....lets me know who's boss. Takes my PBJ and throws the zip loc in my face.

It comes on holidays like this one..Cinco de Deatho...Birthday Deathday. Yeah, thats where it takes my thoughts...even as I push through with a steady roll of awesome memories of a beautiful sis and all of the smiles she brought me when I needed it most....before the alien anger put up shop and stayed there.

Don't blame my mother. That's too easy.

Blame me. I can put that suit on. Been wearing it for years.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Goin' Down the Road Feeling...Good

I'm a Deadhead again.

It all started in Austin last month when my friend Alex dropped the needle on Anthem of the Sun. Alex is probably the last person on earth whom I'd a thunk had a grateful dead album of any kind. But there we were, jamming along to the sounds of the very first jam band.

Then my long lost friend and childhood neighbor Sean and I reconnected on FB and that got me thinking of his several cassette boxes worth of dead bootlegs he had in his messy bedroom in the 80s. It was our very own Golden Age of Unlimited Devotion, man.  He was also the first friend I knew with a tie dye (or 10) that he would actually wear to school. His tie dyes were faded and that impressed me, because I knew he wore the shit out of them. He wasn't no imitation fan, man. He was a real live deadhead, the very first of many Northeast 4th wave deadheads I would meet in the mid 80s. But Sean was the real deal. Couldn't sing a note, but his dancing and all around positive demeanor made up for it. Too bad it didn't rub off on me more often..but he was my real introduction to the Grateful Dead. He taught me about the different eras, the special combos of live songs and lingo like "Estimated/Eyes" and China Cat/ Drumz..with a Z, not an "s" and Space. Infrared Roses was a cd of Drumz and Space mash ups before anybody knew what a mash up was.. Steal Your Face was not only a was an album. He told me all about the dead Dead keyboardists, man. I took it all in, catalogued it and bought the t-shirts, people. I knew the difference between an east coast and west coast Dead show, I knew where the "Phil Zone" was, and I wasn't telling. This was pre-grunge OK? I wasn't beaten down, chewed up and spit out yet.I wasn't connecting musical dots with my angst yet..I wanted to be like Sean in those years '86-'90. When there was nothing left to do but smile, smile smile...

There have been other dancing bear bullet points leading to my renewed interest in Capt.Trips and co.

I spoke via FB to my friend Andrea recently. I was sharing an apt. with her in Aug. of 1995 when Jerry Died. That's kind of a weird day I've never forgotten. Jerry's death was just as hard to deal with as Kurt's or Layne's or Ronnie's. I must have played China Doll on a loop that day.

I picked up "Dark Star" recently..maybe two months ago..the roundtable format book on Jerry Garcia, but I had put it down while reading the Elliott Smith bio..and there it was on my nightstand underneath the Bukowski and the Swamp Thing graphic novel. Time to switch up the sequence of that pile. Right now I'm up to around '79 in the book. Dark days for the Dark Star.

I have a friend who just went to see the Dark Star Orchestra in LA. She told me it was a great night except for the fact that she was "too old" to handle the Drumz/Space portion. I would probably never be able to stand for that long again in my life without the best Owsley blotter money could buy. I wonder if the new jam band kids still start their own "tours" these days with the Dead or even Phish for that matter. My brother tells me it's some guy called Bassnectar. Sounds juicy.

I had a dream of the parking lot scene from one of the two Rich Stadium Dead shows(Buffalo) I attended in either '87 or '90. I still remember the guy weaving in and out of the rows of converted school buses, hibachis and hacky sack circles repeating "Trips, doses, transparencies, yin/yang" or the redheaded dreadheaded deadhead girl saying "need a miracle, actually need two." I can still smell the kind bud, and the grilled cheese entwined with the dank road funk of 10 thousand dirty Birkenstock feet and sticky pits.  You never forget your first outdoor dead show parking lot. You never forget any of them.

For some odd reason, or maybe completely go- to songs when the weather turns bright enough to roll down a window on the winding road home from work and set free some of my own mucky funk have been Cassidy from Reckoning (1980 Radio City Music Hall Acoustic Set)...Birdsong from..anything...Eyes of the World from Wake of the Flood and Tennessee Jed from Europe '72. This natural choice catches me by surprise because for years it was metal, punk, classic rock....anything with a dial that went to 11 and disarmed my thoughts. I think Bird Song or Weather Report Suite or Looks Like Rain or Here Comes Sunshine or Box of Rain rank right up there with some of the most beautiful, inspirational music I've ever heard. And I know every word. It must mean something....but why did I put them away for so long? Could the reason be a s simple as music being cyclical? Or distinctly tied to specific events or eras or ...attics of my life? I still refuse to believe that its linked to the cliche of getting older and probably have to pinpoint it to all of these connections my brain has been making.

The Dead were always a different kind of escape for me, and besides my beloved Beatles, probably the "happiest" ( melodic,possibly lyrical) music I ever gravitated towards. It was the perfect combination of warm, squeaky Jerry guitar tone, rumbling dual drums, Bobby's commanding voice and Phil's space bass that kept me listening, singing and sometimes moving. The spectacle of watching others do that fluid- like shake your bones out dead dance was enough entertainment for me.Not to mention the characters and the stories from the songs they rode in on provided by Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow. Those years from 89-91 were really crucial, an influential time in my development as a writer? and performer....positivity really did stick during those years before the black chasms of 93-95 and '97-'01 came along and I needed the volume turned way the fuck  up to drown out or amplify my misguided pain. There was no pain involved in my deadhead years..only pleasure.

People who read Circle of Fits would be surprised to know that I've seen the Grateful Dead live more than any other band I can remember...10 times. Not a patchouli drenched superfan by any means, but weirdly more than hugely influential bands in my canon like QOTSA(6) or Soundgarden(7)....or the Stones(5)

Thanks to Sean, Jen, Lara, Laura, Andrea and my brother Kevin for enlightening me on this journey. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to Dick's Picks Vol. 36. If you get confused, just listen to the music play ....

Please share any and all grateful dead memories with me.......Seano

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Plea to the Ether

 I would very much like to have the freedom to write completely openly and honestly. I rarely feel that I do. I'm trapped in a conundrum of fear based etiquette, banished to a realm of faux sentiment and complete absence of timely reactions, joy based sarcasm, and conversation. I cannot sustain that here without.....
Without judgement from friends, ex wives, ex band mates, hack musicians, ex anythings. I want a free wheeling place where my opinions and my openness to reciprocate the scant comments that land in this little space of mine can thrive , can grow like weeds in a sick swamp of thoughts, rather than a battle of pulling on/up roots that ends up being a constant exercise in my workout with the written word. Exhausted.

Words are my one true companion, yet they fail me more often than not because of my unwillingness to fully embrace them out of fear. Fear of the stress that comes from their backlash. Fear of the stress of my own expectations and progress as a writer The stress makes me tired. When I'm tired, I cannot write. I didn't flex that muscle enough in my youth to make it rote, make it memorable, make it easy. I cannot write when the feeling hits, as I did in my youth furiously scribbling in composition books in basement bars and backs of cars.. pre- internet, formulating the "self" that I know, love and loathe.

Like right at this second as I escaped to my room to sneak in this post in before the like- clockwork interruption of my seven year old in a never ending plea for attention...I knew it would come. There's nobody here but Dad. Nobody to distract him, to hand him off to so I can have 20 minutes to my fucking self to speedily and without proper editing....write this myself. Can't write on the weeks he's with me. I'm walking tired then sleepwalking through notes that cannot connect  in an oft failed post bedtime attempt to fucking write anything of interest.

 It Is Never Going To Happen.

 Onward to non substantial Sunday sunny day fathering . The sun is out and those fucking sirens a block away and the neediness of children have derailed this train.

I'm out.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt. 2: Party at the Pool Hall

The best part of SXSW is anything unexpected. And Saturday night(traditionally the last night of the festival) was loaded with episodes of the unforeseen giddiness that accompanies new discoveries, kinda like that feeling when you climb the big rope in gym class(without the mess).
 So after a long dinner break, Alex mentions a showcase at a pool hall way off the well worn path of the trail of sponsored- this and sanctioned -that. Most likely a sycophant free event. So we roll up in his Saturn to a place called The Grand..which was in tucked the middle of a strip mall and when we arrived the parking lot was full of  clusters of dirty converted church vans and loiterers that looked like extras from a Judas Priest video. I knew we were in the right place. We were apparently there for the Rubberneck Burger City Rock and Roll Party. The Grand is immense throwback of a billiards hall with grimy white walls, low nicotine stained ceilings and at least 20 tables. To the left behind the pinball machines was a badly lit large area where dual stages were set up on the floor in front of the dart boards. They spared no expense. We liquored up and moseyed over to hear the spaced out fuzz rock of Technicolor Teeth. A band that stretches tight slabs of psych/garage and reverb over twitching punkish ponds of delay and noise. Their website describes them as "sunshine punk". Brilliant. And from Wisconsin. Sans cheese. Put it on a Bumper Sticker.

                                                              Technicolor Teeth

Next up was a snarky little gang of ruffians from NYC called  Dirty Fences . Very NYDolls-ish with the lipstick and pigtails to match. Short, double-entendre laden open hand slaps of scuzz rock, a bit derivative, but felt like music you feel like you need a cold shower and a cigarette after listening to. That's good, right? Loved the guitarist's mustache. Kinda looked like a caterpillar under a heatlamp.

                                                                 Dirty Fences

The vibe at the Grand was ground zero for all of my bullet points of rock. Scuzzy, dirty, bluesy, tight with drums that sass you right back. Shut ins with a tetris like maze of pedal boards and no eye contact. I looked around at the cast of characters in all of their their dimestore boots, chain wallets, glitter and sway, acid washed and pompadoured, cave-mannish, barber shop quartet bearded and patched up black denim ways and felt at home. I felt younger than I looked. Alive from the overdriven force of the Ampeg air, puppet string free, loose and randy.   We stuck around for one more round and I'm thankful for that decision because The JP5 from Nashville turned out to be one of the best bands I've seen in years. I say that  a lot, but I think I mean it this time.

 A three guitar driven blues rock band(pop hooks interwoven) with frontman Joseph Plunkett, whom by means of his voice alone, had to be some sort of Johansen/Costello love child. Two prevalent twin leads with just enough pomp and flash to get more than one of your feet and fists moving, held down with a burly backbeat provided by a mini-ginger skins hitter by the name of Rachel Hortman  I loved what they were laying down and so should you. If I had to pick one band to watch from my four days...I couldn't , but JP5 would be in the top 3..if you're into that sort of bizarre list fetish like me.

   We wanted to make the most out of the evening and Alex and Jamie (total family men with broad musical tastes and backgrounds...and wives at home watching the kids whoo haa!) were in no way ready to call it a night at 11pm. So we headed over to the strange and wonderful Sahara Lounge. As the website sort of proclaims..this venue is like a juke joint that was designed by a permanently drunk voodoo priest who spent time doing an Egyptian pub crawl. It's truly one of a kind and if your ever in ATX, it is a must-seek-out locale. We watched a vastly entertaining band called Goldendawn Arkestra..whose sound I can only describe as bedoin funk. Clad in robes, dropping hot horns and throbbing vibes into the mix  with a rhythm section straight outta stax.. not a booty in the place was stagnant in any way.. I might have been dancing in place too, having totally forgotten  how ill I was and proceeded to prophetilize out plans for my anti hip hop manifesto within earshot of Jamie, much to his chagrin.

                                                            Goldendawn Arkestra

. I wish we could have stayed longer...the vibe was such that I was waiting for a boozed up blind bluesman to take the stage next, could have been that whiskey whispering to me.. but instead it was a four piece that craptastically mashed up the best of reggae beats with the worst of Dave Matthews we hit the up.....SXSWSunday????

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SXSickW Day 3 Pt.1

Day three: The decision was made(post pill and taco cocktail) to plow through this flu with the finest cheap elixirs Austin had to offer...mainly copious gulps of Lone Star beer staggered between water spiked with Emergen-C. My theory was simple: like many a sad cowboy, lovelorn hobo poet or telemarketer...drink to forget. Forget the oft dreamt up scenarios where an imaginary black cloud follows me in destiny's fashion, like a cotton hoodie on a wet day. An oscar winner once said "Gotta keep on livin', L-I-V-I-N." With that slogan in mind, I was dropped off at my first event of the day..The Converse/Thrasher magazine Death Match at the Scoot Inn, starring a line up of beefy, caterwaulin' metal bands.

 The first was the always thrilling, mostly terrifying Savannah band Black Tusk. When the bass player has a neck tattoo of a revolver pointed at his ear and the guitarist and drummer look like the highlights of their lives might be their most recent dumpster dive, then back the fuck up, son. Grimy, blistering blasts of riffs and rhythm escorted to the wind behind high fireball vocals was what the hungover skater crowd was treated just about blew their wheels off the trucks.

I took a break to chortle down another cold one and go watch the skate punx do their bizness on the ramps Thrasher magazine set up on the site. Sort of a hypnotic bad idea watching a steady line of crash and burns as a buzz meets antibiotic cloud kicks in...I hung around enough to catch a song or two of the mighty Kylesa's set and as the tinnutis set in even through obvious infection, I decided to ramble.

One of my favorite venues in Austin is Beerland. Their no frills, couldn't give two shits about your stupid showcase attitude works. It leads to drawing great bands with the same attitude in to this little hole in the wall for packed chaotic shows, and little space to breath let alone have enough room to bring beer to lips over and over again. I caught the tail end of a set by a band that took me by surprise the crushing shoegaze whirl of Nothing, from..surprise no.2 Philadelphia. Its no doubt that there is a hissing cassette of MBV's Loveless on the back seat floor of frontman Dominic Palermo's car somewhere..this great noise-gaze quartet's sound is akin to the whir of spinning chainsaw that dissolves into mist. They reminded me why I have to dig deeper on the mean streets of home and stop denying that there is a scene, if not several in Philadelphia. I could barely make out a face on the stage and was led around by the glint of the blurry headstocks and blunt force trauma of the drums knocking me back even 8 rows deep in the crowd.

I went around the corner and decided to give it a go in waiting in line to see the Hold Steady at Red 7 and after 25 minutes, realized the pitiful absurdity of my actions...the wait was so slow that a cabal of nerds behind me actually sent one of their buds to order vegan noodles somewhere and they were still comfortably dining when I said fuck this-very much and skedaddled across the street to Empire Control Room. I stumbled across yet another great northeast band, the scrumptious hardcore of Brooklyn's Cerebral Ballzy,  armed with twin leads doing the chords of 80s hardcore proud and fronted by an extremely charismatic sinewy black frontman (with one of the best stage names Ive heard since Stiv Bators),  Honor Titus. If you ever need a band for your hardcore basement wedding reception or DIY bakesale who can cradle a crowd in their hands at four fucking o' clock in the afternoon, contact the management for C. Ballzy. Huge highlight.

With a body in obvious shock, awe and overload yet fighting the fumes of exaustion, I wandered over to the convention center to check out the always extraordinary Flatstock Poster Show which showcased these artists this year. This is one the most incredible arrays of present day concert poster art one could ever see and all for sale. My problem was that I'm such a collector that I was overwhelmed with the possibilities and all of my choices for purchase combined with a bum rush of anxiety canceled each other out and I bailed with nada. I scurried over to the Flatstock stage which was a large room with lounge chairs in front of the stage and was blown right away with this teenage power trio called Residual Kid. They are Austin bred and for sure had to get notes from their moms(or managers) to miss school and do this gig. It was well worth the exposure since badges were heavy and aplenty in the audience. They brought a slightly honed edge to a grunge tinged super tight mix of melodic hard rock/punk. These guys should be on your daughter's bedroom wall's and not those over- gelled assclowns from None Direction. Get with it people.

Coming soon...Part 2 of Day Three..Party at the Pool Hall

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SXSickW Day 2

There are links all over this blog post. Scroll over people, places and bands for more info. Somehow my request for different colored text per link didn't work.

Day 2 started out with a chorizo and egg breakfast taco as it should...every day, everywhere. No juice, no toast, no smoothy, no Mc-whatever..just taco. Unfortunately this AM cuisine is much more prevalent in Texas, than in Pennsylvania. I'd put many hours in tossing and turning in anticipation of this here taco and it did not disappoint. It turned out to be the near highlight of the day. Alex joined me downtown for one of the many showcases I unplanned to attend. Walked into a psych-rock spectacular at Hotel Vegas around noon in perfect time to see Sean Lennon's latest band Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger do a two song soundcheck. As a rock rule( ok, my stupid rule), the sons and daughters of rock legends tend to overflow with suckitude, but these guys were extremely tight and the songs I heard were just below awesome. Four part harmonies and soothing psyche/dream rock was enough for me to want to dig deeper.

I wanted another Lone Star at this point..but a mad rush of clammy thick sickness and some truly bad ass fatigue was creeping in. Alex and I parted ways, as he had his own showcase to attend to. I hung around to watch a bizarre Asian psyche pop band belt out some noise and left, only to wait in line at another day party while being cuckholded by this stealthy illness. I'd been sick for two weeks in varying degrees of mucal output but this was different.It felt like the first half hour of being awake after being chloroformed and taken to the infectious disease waiting room of any two bit clinic. I moseyed in a dream state down to Alex's showcase at the Hi-Hat Public House.

 His excellent band The Early Stages (he swears it has nothing to do with cancer) above, were just about to perform while I was on the phone to my doc in PHILADELPHIA begging him to suggest how to salvage my first fucking vacation in 4 years via drugs, blood transfusion, magic elixirs..whatever. What's Up, Doc? His suggestion was that I go to the hospital and get an xray to rule out pneumonia. Hows that for R and R? Hows that for mapping out a wandering journey of  musical discovery in four jam packed days.

  At least I got to hang around and hear three songs from my good friend's band before I took his car home, had to pull over while my body overheated(not the car), got lost, got found again and stumbled into Alex's home like a central Texas pre- zombie on the cusp of turning. How fun it was to have to tell his extremely wonderful wife Cam that I needed to go get an Xray...while she had a handful of little ones under five with needs of their own to worry about. She should have just dipped a pacifier in bourbon and shoved it in my mouth and sent me to bed...but instead she drove me to urgent care with a car full of barefoot kids and seconds to spare because while spaced out I believe I told her I would get a cab on the way there or back...and never did. Doc did the Xray..lungs were clear(no cancer, no pneumonia, no fluid..just air..fucking air.

 He then tells me absolutely nothing at all valuable to my situation by assuming it was either a cold, allergies or the flu. Three scenarios I already knew thank you/fuck you very much here's 200 dollars enjoy the rest of your vacation.  After 10 hrs of sleep, a mountain of pills, a few medical puffs and snorts and breakfast Taco #2 ( a fine migas taco from  El Chilito) was time for the busiest day of all four..TBC

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSickW Part One

I'm sitting in an enclosed screened in porch at the home of my dear friends the Bajoris family. It's a watercolor overcast grey morning in Austin, and the patchy wind doesn't seem to be bothering the bickering birds in the busy green branches above me. I'm wondering how to encapsulate this long sought after return to SXSW, without the usual overspray of complaints one would have( esp. moi) when they were beat up by a cold fist of sickness for the entirety of a vacation.

A vacation for me is here. SXSW is disneyworld for the music fan, an oasis of sound in an otherwise desert disguised-as-a-combo of suburban silence and the shit city beats of sirens in my Philadelphia nights. I haven't had a vacation in four years and this is where I wanted to come. I knew how SXSW had grown quite a corporate tumor since I was last here in 2010, which would make the math of seeing as many bands as humanly possible much more difficult because of the lines filled with badge flashing interns of interns of headphone hawkers and scheisters of streaming services. The most divine path of discovery was now, in my opinion, no path at all.

For those who don't know, SXSW is part music industry-con...with real live panels of industry experts and music biz veterans who sit on deuses in big convention rooms and schpiel their two cents on where the future of the industry lies..and part big hot mess of music spread across downtown Austin in a smorgasbord of showcases, parties and ad hoc gigs made up of thousands of bands and performers from all over the world who travel to Tx. for a variety of reasons. The reasons used to include exposure to new fans and industry types via showcases held by various record labels, but most of that era is gone. The showcases have been taken over by companies like Dickies, Spotify, and Doritos who end up flying in a handful of gigantic big name bands and call it a party where nobody who hasn't paid nearly 800-1000 dollars for a badge or is a member of the press can get in. Even with a badge, the lines are super long and a big fat waste of time. Who needs to see Coldplay, Ludacris, Keith Urban or the fucking Toadies anyway.

The real fun is going to the day parties usually held by small indie labels, several reputable blogs, and local Austin clubs who could not give less of a fuck about SXSW. They are free, awesomely hard to find(unless you have a friend who is a local or yourself are very net savvy) and always have diverse lineups of bands on dual stages. There are plenty of free parties, BBQs and picnics that drag on into the early morning hrs. as well. In my four visits to SXSW, I've never paid for a badge. It's pointless for a music fan familiar with the area. I spent all of my money on beer and tacos and medical attention.It would have been nice to see Soundgarden do Superunknown in its entirety, but I ended up watching it stream live from my sickbed(more on that later....

I got into town Wed. night on a delayed flight but my long time buds Alex and Jamie picked me up and we went right into town, starting off the night at the famous Threadgills (where ms. Joplin honed her craft before heading west)with two Lone Stars and a shot. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for the shiny faux rock of a band called Vallejo.(no link needed) There were immediate red flags..They were coiffed in too-perfect hats...their band is named after a band member(think Bon Jovi, Giuffria,Pink Floyd) and the lead singer had a guitar slung behind his back like Bryan Adams in that video, failing to use it unless a bland bluesy solo was called was frat rock with a southern twist...the front man vamped during the FIRST SONG calling for everyone to toss back some shots. I wanted to toss mine back up. We bolted while the evening was still young and the moontowers were still lit. ....the next club was called El Mercado, where we stumbled upon a very cool unit(after more Lone Star(goes great with antibiotics) called the Startographers. Very heavy reverb and delay on both guitars, singer like a cross between Stan Ridgeway and Tom Verlaine during the decipherable parts... Loopy hearty shoegaze and the obligatory hot ingenue on bass..loved every minute of it, especially the dis on Austin crowds from behind the mic posing as a road weary well traveled band from Wisconsin...turns out their home base is Austin. I could taste a theme cooking up faster than a breakfast taco....the rest of the night was going in a circle to the left(kinda like NASCAR), me publicly urinating on a large shrub, and failing to find the mindblowing party my friend Alex had "heard" about.  More to come.... ................

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Love Letter to My Band

I am the lead singer in a rock and roll band called Low Rise. We do primarily deep cut covers of classic rock songs peppered with a few glam and cock rockers as well. Ive been a member for about a year and a half now since they parted ways with their previous singer and I joined, after being out of any kind of rock and roll scene since my cross country tour with Bang Camaro in 2009. A triple shot of the "D"s will do that to you.. I'm, of course, referencing my other tour..that three and a half year traverse through death,divorce and depression that I've blathered on about ad nauseum on this here blog.

The five of us meet in a miniscule basement room in South Philly that smells a bit like a litter box once a week to practice, working through our repertoire like any good bar band should. We are all in our mid 30s to mid 40s with busy lives and different musical backgrounds, and the goal is to play out once a month or so. We struggle and stumble like any other band on this level of dedication, with that wanna be rock star dream firmly in our rear view mirrors. On some weeks, life gets in the way of perfecting that drum fill, hot lick, or vocal inflection. And on just as many occasions, we feel the click..we're in the groove and the songs sound superb.In all honesty, we never know what can transpire, but the focus is to rock hard and carry a big stick to the best of our abilities, basically pressure free.

I'm the only member who is a parent, and who is single. Getting to practice ain't easy, and when my son is with me, he tags along, mostly on school nights. I work downtown, and he goes to school in our neighborhood. On practice days I have to drive 40 minutes from work to pick him up at an aftercare program at school, stop home to change and scramble to make a sandwich or stop for a slice of pizza en route back down to the city in time for practice at seven. There he has to gobble his dinner, do his homework and entertain himself while Dad mans the mic down in the basement. Bless his sweet little head.

When I first joined this band, I had my doubts. It wasn't a perfect scenario, it wasn't a "good enough" scenario for a weathered old pro like myself. I bit my tongue, I kept my ego and my comments in check. I had always been a team player in all of the bands I was in, even those I started and led. But my two cents were the ONLY two cents that ever mattered in my mind, so the emotion was rote at that point. There were a handful of times I was ready to exit stage left, and go back to my lifestyle of staring at the glass half empty and torturing myself by complaining about it. That cop- out has caused so many missed opportunities that I've lost count, and when I finally picked up that tally where I'd left off, I was at a dead end every single time.Boo fucking Hoo.....

Something has changed from that point to the one where I am at this very moment. Much to my surprise, I started to have fun.Fun! That anomaly, that sham, that foreign body trying recklessly to permeate my soul all these years..... After a few months, I was able to warmly(and with affection) introduce my sarcasm to certain situations, snafus and false starts within the confines of practice, and slowly, my true character came to light and was well received. No way! Way! I realized that I had a buddy or two to go to rock shows with, to socialize with outside of practice after years of going it alone. I realized that I had not only bandmates, but friends. In short, I got over myself, I saw that glass half empty, chugged it and filled it up again. I was able to forget my troubles and just rock steady for a few hours a week, but gain some friends for a much longer period of time. Invaluable lesson.

When you have a connection you didn't have before, you start to tend to it, nurture it grow. I started to want to go to practice, NEED to go to see my friends! And maybe play a few rock songs while we're at it. That really meant the world to a surly bitch like myself. To be amongst peers, who accepted me for who I am and actually valued my company. When you have that connection, you put more effort forth, effortlessly.

We've had a pretty good run as of late, and are just coming off a sort of triumphant gig to a packed house, where I battled a horrible sore throat that arrived two days before the show. I was able to make it through, with my band at my side, just up there rocking socks and taking names. I am sure that the rock solid connection I now have with my bandmates had a shit ton to do with it.

So thank you,fellow members of Low Rise. Thank you my friends Derek, Robert, Christian and Jen for everything you do for me, inside and out of that basement. Here's to more gigs, more laughs and more love...


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Salt, No Rock

It's the 12th day of februweary and the fifth stay at home and out of work day with my son, as winter tears wider our new assholes here in the northeast. Because of my custody arrangement, I'm with the boy every other week. Every single one of those fucking snow days fell on one of my days,so again, like Groundhog day in the fucking tundra, we're trapped here. Nannies and baby sitters and mothers in laws and live in grandparents and neighborly housewives who stay at home all day and are more suited for this madness and might accept a barter so one can go to fucking work..... are a luxury for most working stiffs, are not in my reality. Them's the stuff dreams are made of.

 I'm in a small apartment that looked like the lego bomb exploded and the rainbow of shrapnel is everywhere, just waiting to pierce a sock and break skin on my way to take a piss. There are mass graves of stuffed animals everywhere, splayed and contorted in a furry blur, There are downed and crushed paper airplanes, There are trails of crumbs that look like gunpowder trailing up to the bomb that is me.. and  coagulated spills of ample hues and jackets mere inches away from their hooks There is a purring purple vein doing para diddles in my temple as the boy keeps procrastinating his clean up. I wouldn't care but I've no playroom, no basement, no yard, no space, no ideas here so the path from important point A to more important point B is a critical one. One littered with these plastic landmines a lumbering giant like myself will be sure to make contact with.

 The grumpiness rolled in like a tasty wave on Feb.1 and a perfect storm of body blows and repercussion concussions have littered my human highway. There is a constant scrum in this pitiful month of trickery, between sadness and ridicule. I feel like that crying Native American from those TV ads, except a truckload of frat boys and lawyers have started chucking the trash at me while they high five without spilling their Bud Lites and I'm naked, laden with snotcicles and it's snowing. It's so goddamn white outside that mother nature seems like a racist thug handing out pamphlets that turn into noreasters when you most expect it. As for Philly, there's more salt on potato chips here than there are on the fucking roads. I was doing a little math as the thermometer pulsed to overdrive on the side of my head...

In my home town of Rochester, there lives what, less than 250k people? The ratio of Snowplow to people is around 20 to 1. They are in the Northeast, they know it and they are prepared. We may have had to dog sled it to the bus stop a few times but we made it. If you could sled down a drift from your bedroom window to get to that dog sled, you were going to school. Those roads were clear. Here in Philadelphia, the ratio of snow plow to people is about 100k to 1 in a city of 1.5 MILLION. That means if there's snow to your ankle, the kids stay home and your summer gets shortened. For comparison, this is the city of Comcast. The ratio of Comcast Vans to people is about 20 to 1, because people need their 120 channels of nothing when they are stuck inside on a snow day, crippled without a playdate,cabin fevered up the yin yang with only walls to climb ahead of them. As far as I'm concerned Pennsylvania is in the goddamn Northeast. Less buying Networks, more plows. Less signing baseball players in their late 30s, more plows. Less scrapple, more salt. if I could wring out the salt from my pores and melt a path to my freaking job, I would.  Hell if I started now, I would get there faster than a plow got to me.

Monday, February 03, 2014


Phil Hoffman, thank you for your immersion into your art. You made me believe. You made me smile. You made me remember why we do what we do.


Here you are, the bully bridge between
the coughed out blue and the reborn green.
Eternal tease point of the year
a windy slap leaves nothing clear. the lingering doubt of your courtesy call.
you cackled while siphoning all of the color from fall
and covered our cars and stuttered our gait,
made every heavy dream find a blanket and wait.
you roll your cold tongue over this here northeast
encasing bad news in a freezable feast.

We've never seen eye to eye to eye
unless there's a storm that waits for a name nearby.
you slow down my mourning, yet I'm speeding in think.
cold cocked by memories and soaking in drink.
you muscle in nelsons, I'm driven to mat.
you exhale and white out entire habitats.
I've come up with, after provocation and persistence,
no goddamn good reason for your very existence.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lost in Austin

February...that cruddy balled fist of winter which swings and never almost upon us and I'm still shaking off the cursed crust of the New Year, whiting out my resolutions and taking refuge in a writing block. It takes courage to be a north- easter always dancing around the business end of a noreaster, dunked in the funk of the first two months. These are the days for the testaments of quietus and wrestling with what seem like form fitting four walls, wondering about what you're wondering about.  Walls that house frozen secrets, and reflect TV lights. These are the in between award show days, the hole up in the studio days for most artists, so many bands trying to recollect the steps taken from a past year spent panicking on a land-mined path between the double yellow, the red and the black. A mere existence made up of strange faces and sleep deprivation, shows without a show of souls, and using merch money for xmas gifts, petrol and pizza. They don't wanna come out in January...and who with half a chucked nut wants to tour anywhere where the road salt surplus is two story high. Just stay inside, stay south, stay west until March.

For some two thousand or so groups and artists, they're oil changing the church van and begging the label to get them on a showcase at SXSW in March. They long to play under the banner of a fading shoe company to throngs of men crowded together, caribiners clanking, looking like they belong at a Barbershopquartet- con, from the necks up. Load in is at 1130am for a 12-12:25 slot, so they'll be playing to the other bands on the bill, whom were hovering around their own rented U-Haul waiting for their own load ins. It's all good though. Extra exposure opportunities will knock at a smattering of off the 6th St. path parking lots, basements and back yards. These young turks will fill their itineraries up, making the magic last and the callouses cull for those four days in Austin.

As I look to the right from my window seat and see a slow parade of entrepreneurial men in puffy jackets, clutching worn shovels and knocking on doors, I lose myself for a moment...March seems such a long way away.
SXSW is my mecca, and I begin the oft-put off dream of cobbling together my sheckles and planning my crusade right around the same time every year. That time is now. For the past three years I have played dead in the water here in Philly during that week in Texas...This year I'm fixin' to huff it down there if I have to sell blood and sperm to do it. So hit me up if you need any. There's no Kickstarter for this sort of thing, and I'm not willing to get a Stubb's neck tattoo for a free Badge.