The Airport Bar:

•November 8, 2014 • 1 Comment

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“Musicians, eh?” says the lady pushed into my elbow.
She nods at the stack of guitar cases propped against the bar wall. A collection of backpacks is piled into a pyramid nearby as if recently dropped from a Red Cross mercy mission, their meshed outer pockets betraying the scuffed headphones and tangled phone chargers of a band on the road.

“Yes ma’am,” I say, without making eye contact. I scan the crowded joint, trying to get the waiter’s attention.
It is 7am, Gladstones bar in terminal 3, LAX. I calculate enough time for one more large Sam Adams, (Maker’s sidecar, only 3 bucks more!), and still have enough time to attempt a fortunate bowel movement before boarding.

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“Oh, I can tell, you guys.” She takes another slug off her martini, 3 olives and dirty. (Make it Bombay Sapphire, only 4 more dollars!)
She’s had 3 since we’ve been here, and is now shaking an empty glass toward our bartender: international distress call of the thirsty.
She smiles to herself, and I know a confession is coming.

“I’ve had my wild days too, let me tell you.” but here she rolls her eyes as if to dismiss any chance of embellishment.
She looks to be in her 50’s like us, but wearing the sensible footwear and layered clothing of the experienced business traveler.

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We’re all packed in there, the airport bar, members of different tribes thrown together out of primal necessity.
Let’s get a few drinks in us after enduring the TSA rape, before another tedious flight.

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The business lady sits to my left so close I can feel a Blackberry vibrate from the purse in her lap.
To Alf’s starboard side a rotund insurance rep from Farmers is explaining Term life over shots of Fireball.
I look across the bar where Ant and Kimm are comforting a frail gray lady, on her way to Des Moines for her son’s funeral.
She sips at her sherry and sighs yet again: Him and that goddamn motorcycle!

But that’s how it is at the airport bar.

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Where else can you come at 6 am and find the room packed with drinkers, thirsty as the Friday night crowd on 4th street?
Strangers all, drawn to the oasis within the wilds of the airport, carry-on bags at their feet, laptops opened on sticky bar tops, asking strangers across the bar if they happen to know the WiFi code?

Where else would you come at this gray hour for a 22oz Pacifico, (Why not add a shooter of Patron? $5 !) and gladly pay the 14 bucks for the privilege.

Where else will you catch us in a goddamn TGIF, and happy about it?

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For airports have become not the sleek hubs of yesteryear, where you would relax in anticipation of a classy adventure.
No, they have become frightening places.
People roam the halls with a look of terror in their eyes, many shoeless and half dressed after the Security checkpoint trauma.
They clutch at their waistbands, lest their beltless trousers fall to the floor, completing their shame.

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But there is one place, brother, that the wounded can come in to lick their wounds, not to mention the salt rimmed glasses of 18 dollar bloodys (3 bucks extra, make it with premium vodka!)

We’ve been to a lot of these airport bars, the swanky champers and oyster bars of Heathrow, where the lemon wedge comes in its own fishnet stocking.
The zinc covered bar at Brussels International, where they still chop the head off of the foamy lagers with a wooden spatula.

The Redding airport houses its own charming Chinese restaurant and lounge up the rickety staircase.
There, you can put in an advance order for drinks and greasy appetizers to be waiting for you when you return for the flight home in 3 days time.
Mr. Chow: No problem, you guys crazy!
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Oh, we’ve scanned the internet for these flights, months before.
Sacrificing an extra hour of sleep or enduring a stopover in goddamned Atlanta for a fare just 35 dollars cheaper.

And yet here we are, playing that sucker bet of bars.
We’ll have the breakfast Nachos, double the size of the beers and of course take the side shot, who wouldn’t?

And when we get the bill, for now the plane requests our presence by name for final boarding, we don’t bat an eyelash at the bill, a neat 225 with tip!

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And for all their unique charms, it is the same travelers in each one:

Honeymooners, as drunk on romance as the prospect of 2 weeks off of work before returning to a life of ever-decreasing returns.

The rumpled outside sale rep, ordering another round of premium doubles and a to-go order of buffalo wings, old Hooper in the travel expense department be damned–I earned this!

You have the 6am drunks, thrilled to be out in public and sharing respectable space with other humans. They’d be downing vodka at this hour anyway, but usually in the solitary guilt of their bathrooms, so this is a fuckin party!

Here’s the rare bird, the guy who stops at the airport bar on the way home, just willing the journey to last a few minutes more over a ten dollar shot of Southern Comfort. (make it a double, 5 dollars, why not?)
He savors the delicious taste of solitude a few moments more, just one more drink before returning to a house filled with whining teenagers.

And then the truly terrified flyers, usually not regular drinkers here, that wash Jager shots down with Jameson buckets, praying for God to rob them of consciousness before the jet engines start their terrifying roar toward inevitable disaster.

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And it is here humanity is together, at last, at peace.
Like Lions and zebras lounging about the same watering hole in Zambia, each too sated with water-filled bellies to think of attack or flight.

We’re gathered to lap up the local waters and good-naturedly endure the soliloquies of fellow traveler.

And it isn’t long into martini number 4 when business lady leans in even closer and confesses to once “being” with Stephen Pearcy from Ratt one scandalous night.

She rolls her eyes and shakes her head slowly at the memory of a night at the Forum Club, 3 decades ago, when the world and its promise still lay before her, unspoiled.

And she will not go into further details, thank you.

She raises empty glass to the skies once again, the skies we will soon be hurtling through, each of us going in an opposite direction.

Photoblog: The Oregon Trail

•November 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Oregon, you’re always a welcome change.
It’s up there, wedged between 2 pretentious states, like the drunken but hilarious brother-in-law between your asshole Uncles at the Thanksgiving table.

Where the strip clubs serve a nutritious breakfast and the gas is pumped for you by smiling fools.
Outrageous color bursts from the Fall foliage, and it’s like a vital lesson to our sun-blasted cones and rods.

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It’s a quick flight up the burnt out backbone of California, where we recently celebrated 300 consecutive days of no rain–Yay team!

We touch down in Medford, and look up at the strange moisture falling from the sky.
God, is that you, weeping over our blasphemous insistence on Gay Marriage and legalized weed?
Our transplanted homeboy Chris assures us that is all perfectly normal, this water from the sky business, and we’re soon on our way back to Johnny B’s.

We’d heard ‘ol Johnny transferred the joint over to the old Woolworth’s building, and we were excited at the prosepect of playing behind the lunch counter or perhaps in the women’s hoisery aisle.
No such luck as it is a proper nightclub, but the place looks swell and we’re soon catching up with old chums.

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The Soothesayers get the night going and then local rockers The Hollowbodys storm the stage.
And as we get on stage, a van pulls up and the English Dogs drop in, passing through town on a night off!

And then the night dissolves into the usual hijinks:

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We toast the Fall weather and then go out and gulp at the exotic damp air, the smell of burning wood swimming in the breeze.
The rain doesn’t faze us in the least, not anymore.

We hold arms up to it, wanting only to be cleansed of our sins, baptized against future harm.
That doesn’t see like too much a stretch on a night like this.

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Friday comes to us, and we wake up amazed to be not tangled in filthy motel sheets.

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A rare treat to spend the night with an old friend.
We get to sip coffee and contemplate the green hills, unwind in the spacious and well lit man cave garage, all the while making snide remarks on social media to the suckers back home.

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All too soon, it’s back up the 5, for tonight’s show is way up yonder in Portland.
We reward ourselves for the early start with a lunch and stroll around Roseburg and make it into Portland just as the sun sets on that funky town.

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It all comes back to us now: Portland.
It’s as if Disney Imagineers took all our favorite things from all our favorite cities, and placed them all in one delicious town.
The food and booze, the good friends and beautiful buildings.

We don’t kid ourselves, as surely they turn out the lights when we leave and break down the sets, and those green mountains in the distance are undoubtedly made of fiberglass.
But call us suckers for a romp, we hit the rain polished sidewalks with glee and visit all the old haunts!

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It’s our first time playing the Ash Street Saloon, which we find right in the goddamned middle of it all, right by Voodoo Doughnuts and that Keep Portland Weird sign that all the locals are surely sick of by now.

I’m surprised Fred Arminsen doesn’t wander in, it is soooo Portland, ya hear me?

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Great to see Whiskey Dickers and then catch up with our old pals in Clackamass Baby Killers, and then we do the thing we came to do:

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It’s been a long day and we are tired.
Our luxurious Motel 6 glows like a beacon just on the other side of the Willamette River, the promise of sleep a wish made upon fallen star.
But no.
The locals insist on just one more drink, one more fatty snack served out of ubiquitous food truck.
They drag us along, shush our protests with promises of home made whiskeys and bacon.

Oh alright, twist our arms, we’ll come along!
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Saturday finds us in Eugene Oregon.
A new town for us, something we old fucks didn’t know existed.
Haven’t we been everywhere already??

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Our old pal Hippy Tim (or was that Tim the Hippy?) graciously picks us up in the
Tim-o-Sine and gives us a quick tour of this college town before tucking us into dinner at La Perla.
We stuff ourselves with fine pizzas and wash it down with jaunty blended reds, and now a nap would be good.

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Heh, not a chance. It is Saturday night in America after all, so we rouse ourselves with a van backseat makeover, down hideous energy drinks and hit Luckey’s for round 3.

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Not a Part of It are rocking the stage as we enter the joint and the sound and light in the club energizes us.
Tim’s band The Soothesayers are playing with us once again, so it feels all warm and fuzzy up in this bitch!
Smiling faces all around, new friends and old.

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We get up, get down, get off and wrap up another night.

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It’s back to Medford on a drizzly Sunday, and we while the day away as the flight is delayed again and again.
With each chime of the cell, another apologetic text from the wonky airline, we crack open another last beer.

We take this time, then, to breathe in these cool winds a few more times.
We relax in front of a real wood fire and play fetch with a slobbering black lab among dewy grass and ochre fallen leaf.

Because we know what waits for us.
And sure enough in a few brief hours we stand upon LAX curb, 9pm, waiting for a parking lot shuttle in 88 degree heat.
The diesel exhaust perfumes an atmosphere filled with anxious light and noise, we are surrounded by people who do not wish to be where they are at the moment.

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But for now, sitting in another state, in another state, we only smile when the phone chirps yet again.
We let our open beer cans sit on the deck railing and let the raindrops enter and dilute, not minding the thought of bringing some of this holy water home with us.

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The Rickenbacker

•October 23, 2014 • 3 Comments

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Punk Rock, in all its charming snottiness, it’s launched a thousand ships.
Many un-seaworthy. Zing!

It’s the very nature of the goddamned thing to get out of the garage just as quickly as possible, am I right?

It seems impossible enough: To get a guitar, bass and drum to start the song on the same magical moment.

And God bless the neighbors that had to endure the count off yet again, instruments crashing into each other like drunken Shriners on an ice slicked parade route.
But one time, inevitably, it comes together for any group of kids flailing away in that suburban garage.
On that paused millisecond of breath, just after …Four! is yelled once again, the thing happens.

The instruments all play the same note, the drummer does not drop the stick.
And it is that shining moment, downbeat, that lets a band finally look beyond the tar paper and fluorescent hum of the garage.
It is onto the backyard party, night club and National tour, thank you very much!

Unfortunately, you’re still playing those shitty guitars (2 to a shared amp of course), the bass drum is actually an empty ice chest and the bass player is keeping the bottom playing a touch tone phone.

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Unlike the metalheads and your stoner big brothers, you didn’t take years perfecting your craft, upgrading your gear as the years went by and your fingertip callouses attained titanium-grade hardness.

Fuck that brother, leave it for the Rush cover bands! We’ll take our tubs and bullhorns, 5 stringed beaters and play the Cuckoos Nest anyway.
Hell, we got 4 originals, we’re ready to roll!

Ah, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t covet those shining swords like every other hack.

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Yeah, guitars, they are crazy things.
No matter how many you have, there’s always another one on the horizon, however distant.
Fragile, beautiful things, mass produced yet each as unique as evil twins with their individual preferred means of torture.

If you’ve ever wandered into a Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon, you know.
A dozen snotty teens, each playing guitars they will never have the money to buy until they are balding dentists.
Smoke on the Water, it’s plodding riff hangs in the air like, well, smoke.
It is a hellish fugue, circling back upon itself as another kid starts in.

They don’t care: They just want to hold that guitar.

And a Rickenbacker? Oh man, it’s over!
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On first sight, the Beatles rocking those beauties in black and white, then Townshend smashing them in technicolor.

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And into our world, who else could bring the class and style to a rawer generation?
The Jam!

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Hell, what kid didn’t think those mysterious guitars weren’t made in England, if not in some mythical land of elfish craftsmen.
To learn that these things were made in nearby Fullerton, of all places, did not diminish the mystique: They were not the easiest guitars to find.

Finally getting one:
A single pickup 420 model at a long gone pawn shop, North Hollywood.
All of 295 dollars, it had a cracked pickguard and was missing the tone knob.
This was a small guitar, thin and worn, not one of the fat beauties held by the Englishmen.

But still, there on the headstock sat that glorious sweep of white: like a ceramic dagger in a pool of blood, with a name pulled from a dogfight in the clouds:
I got a Rickenbacker!

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Plugging her in the first time, amp knobs all set for the usual ho-hum humbuckers, I was met with not with the jangle and chime, but a banshee squeal of feedback.
It was if the guitar was announcing its presence, demanding you pay attention.

And the chords didn’t bleed effortlessly from the speakers and hang there, no.
You had to play it a bit differently, set the amp to fit its temperment, not yours.
Let it sing in its own way.

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It became a pal, and we tracked those early CH3 songs with those funky wires coming though at least one of the channels.
I loved that fucking guitar.
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But any guitar player will tell you the same story.
Yeah, I wish I never got rid of that one!

The years rolled along, the shows got bigger and more frequent.
We had kind and generous artist reps give us some new flashy guitars to take on the road, amused to have a punk act on their roster of metal virtuosos.
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And then you notice the Ricky sits in the corner more often, left behind in favor of more reliable and common sounding guitars.
And that’s when you commit the sin and sell a guitar, justifying the loss with a pocket of crumpled bills that will be spent on simply nothing in a week.

Years later I try to locate it, for it’s stayed close, changing hands with friends and fiends.
But eventually it leaves the neighborhood, sold criminally cheap for amphetamine, taken on the road with some shoe gazer band or traded across state lines in a cold internet deal.

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Some nights I wonder where the guitar is at that moment.
And if it is not quite my Rosebud, I knew it was something dear that I gave up foolishly, like a virginity lost to a cruel but beautiful stranger.

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Years become decades, and although I see the same model pop up on Ebay now and then, the slight little guitar is now listed in the thousands, victim to the collector society that makes all things priced to the fool.

But one night, on a Jameson soaked whim, I put in a low bid on a black 330.
Not my old buddy, but a modern Rickenbaker, full and beautiful, not a scratch visible on the zoomed-in photos.

I lose the bid, of course, and shrug it off before bed.
Perhaps I don’t deserve a second chance anyway.

But in the morning comes the email:
The high bidder turned out to be a flake, and the seller wonders if I’m still interested?
Original bid, and he’ll pick up the shipping?

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I bring it to our next practice, and when I open the case we all gather around and sigh at its timeless curve.
The cat-eye F hole, the funky split level pickguard.
On its head like a jauntily cocked crown, there sits that familiar swoosh of white and the Rickenbacker name.

And when I tune it up and finally plug it into the Marshall, I am blasted with the shrill alarm of feedback:
Pay attention!, it yells.
And this time I will.

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Thanks Alan Snodgrass and Martin Wong for photos!

Midwest

•May 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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8 am on the 405, the numeric code for running late to LAX.

We are all glued to our phone screens, as we hold image after terrifying image of savage wildfires in our paws.
The air is already a balmy 98 fucking degrees, combined with a Santa Ana blast that makes this smoldering town a natural blow dryer: 5000 watts baby!

The land is burning, people are pushed toward the edge by the unseasonable heat.
And like cowards, we’re gonna hoof it out of town and hope the city is not a pile of charcoal by the time we return.

It is so traumatic that Ant and Alf have a third Mimosa to calm their shattered nerves, the poor lambs!

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We hit the ground running, and after being bitched out for trying to carry guitars on board-late, natch, we are tucked into wee cabin seats and told to shut up.
And away, it seems, we go.

Touchdown: Coumbus

Touchdown: Coumbus

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Curbside in Columbus Ohio and it is a delightful 55 degrees at 6pm.
We take a moment to strip off shirts and do the Shawshank happy dance, finally cooled.

..my nipples!  I can feel them again!

……..my nipples! I can feel them again!

Our heartland handler Mr Beenie scoops us up in the minivan and we take in the sights of this storied college burg.

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Beenie preps for a full day of driving.

Beenie preps for a full day of driving.

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A weekend of snooty beers begins.

A weekend of snooty beers begins.

Our fist time to Columbus, don’t ya know, so we’re just navigating by Yelp reviews and Alf’s goddamn Untappd beer badge app to make our way around town.

Congratulations!  You've unlocked the Alcohol Related Renal Failure Badge!

Congratulations! You’ve unlocked the Alcohol Related Renal Failure Badge!

The gig is at Ace of Cups, a delightful club with high ceilings and crafty brews that are as cloudy as the eyes of a 15 year old Bichon Frise.
We seem to be onto our theme of the trip as Alf snorts and sniffs each ale, comparing them with the other beer maniacs at the rail.
We have to pull him away from the bar for set time, and he is still shouting things like hoppy, crispy and notes of chocolate!
Oh brother—one tall PBR for me thanks!

We play a quick set, though we apparently do not have any photographic proof–trust us for once, alright?
We did however get this shot of Alf’s nifty kit for the night!

Worth it, if just for the awesome waffle patterns on his ass for the next day!

Worth it, if just for the awesome waffle patterns on his ass for the next day!

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Up at a sensible time and it’s off toward that Windy slut of a town, Chicago!

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Lunch stop is at the charming Fat Cat Diner in Lima Ohio, where they serve up some quality chow without pretense.
It’s still a breezy 58 degrees out, but after a few calls home tell us about rising temps, power blackouts and looters lining up outside the Best Buy, we toast the chilly Spring day and sit on the patio.
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We get onto Lake Shore Drive just as Friday rush hour traffic congeals.
It takes a good 30 minutes to crawl into midtown, so we say fuck it and head to The Lodge to wait out the traffic.

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Artsy shot, no?

Artsy shot, no?

Over to the Northside now, and load into Red Line Tap.
Very cool club, attached to the Heartland Cafe, where we are comped down with some great comfort food and, yes, more of the beers with honest pedigree.

Alf taps away at his phone with each new beer, apparently he’s winning at something here.
Whatever.
It keeps him from fidgeting at the dinner table.

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Ant is thrilled to have a TV showing the Kings game, and it isn’t long until they inevitably come back from a down series and dispatch the Ducks.
Next up?
Yeah, you got it–Chicago Blackhawks!
We hit the stage and it isn’t 3 songs before Anthony is baiting the crowd with his hockey shit talk.

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Ant stares down a 'Hawks fan...scary!

Ant stares down a ‘Hawks fan…scary!

Recreation of Kiss Alive cover.

Recreation of Kiss Alive cover.

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And then we while away the night with our Chi town chums.

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Brooks and Kimm do the old switcheroo trick once again.  Never gets old.

Brooks and Kimm do the old switcheroo trick once again. Never gets old.

It’s not long before beds at the swanky Heart o Chicago fleabag are calling, but not before a sensible late night stop at, you guessed it-White Castle!

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Saturday breaks all too early, and we consider the leftover chicken rings littering the soiled carpet of the motel.
Yes, I said chicken rings, as the clever crew at White Castle has apparently discovered a new part of the chicken for us to eat.

...well, there's the anus and trachea, but where do they get all the other rings?

…well, there’s the anus and trachea, but where do they get all the other rings?

Heh. We need to rinse the foul fast foodness off palate, so it’s over to Fat Willy’s for a light morning snack.
On the advice of vodka-and-tomato juice expert Jeff, we order up the best Bloody Mary’s in town.
He’s right, they are damn good, and we can’t control ourselves with this menu and these smells.
Bring on the meat!

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There’s time for a quick pulled pint over at Owen & Engine, as Alf hasn’t had his handcrafted Ale for the day yet! The horror!

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It’s an easy drive into Cleveland, and we have just enough time to check into Beenie’s pad and say hello to Mackie:

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The Mackie and Beenie show!

The Mackie and Beenie show!

And then it’s into that den of wickedness, Cleveland’s own Now That’s Class!
Refreshingly, we don’t see any craft beers on tap, so while Alf goes and pouts in the basement we dig into a literal rainbow of fine fortified wines.

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The mighty The Plain Dealers are letting loose on stage now, and they bring it as they always do!
Rawkin!

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Great to catch up with all our Cleveland pals, but it’s back to the basement for us to tune, for there’s still one show left on this little jaunt.

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And then we hit that stage and it’s all we expect from this crazy town:
A beer soaked, sweaty night, the stage sticky from a dozen spilled drinks, the crowd loud and loose: perfect.

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The night ends with the tables turned, as they put us to work behind the bar and the staff sits down at the rail.
The bartenders, they yell at us to hurry up and call us baby.
Someone actually snaps their fingers, just to give us a taste of our own medicine.

We hold back the tears as we count our meager tips at the end of our shift.

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This guy here, 86'd!

This guy here, 86’d!

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And just like that, we’re waking up on Sunday morning and hustled back to the airport.

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We finally touchdown in LA.
We load out to the curb and find the fever has broken, the temperatures have dropped to a comfy 79 degrees at 8pm.

And as we make our way back down the 405, each of us silent with our own calculations of calories consumed over this whirlwind weekend, Alf’s phone chimes yet one more time:
We won.

RSD 2014

•April 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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And so the day finally arrived, after weeks of nauseating self promotion.
New vinyl on Hostage Records? Check.
A reissue of Fear of Life on Drastic Plastic? Naturally.

Post after shameless post on social media, complete with darling new photos? You got it.

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There is even the new Indian Summer IPA in the bottle, and it seems as though our appetite for cross promotion knows no limits.

We do, however, walk away from negotiations to lease the new CH3 Hydraulic Horizontal Drill to the fracking concerns in Eastern Ohio.
Hey, we still have souls ya know!

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I don't always drink beer, but...ah, fuck it.  Yes I do.

I don’t always drink beer, but…ah, fuck it. Yes I do.

We even ventured back to Cortner Ave in Cerritos, scene of so many charming youthful crimes, to compete with all the Cat and Dog videos already clogging up YouTube:

And for what, all of this smoke and noise? For Record Store Day?
Hell yeah man, and why not?

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Oh I hear the bitching alright.
How it’s become such a thing.

How the very heart of this day has been ripped out and stomped by the vultures who would commit these one-off treasures to Ebay!
Such a young holiday, already mourned for losing its mission, and a million breathless voices cannot agree on just what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Oh come on man!
It’s like the local drunks bemoaning St. Patrick’s Day, the one goddamned day of the year the bar finally gets some real business!

And like writing letters to Auntie, (you know, the one who just will not trust this new email fad) it’s something we neglect far too long: a visit to our local shops.
And if it takes a kooky day that celebrates vinyl measured in grams, like any other precious drug, then so be it.

Let’s do this!

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It’s gonna be a long one, so we fill up on franchise Bánh Mì and icy cold Belgian style IPA (ahem) at the well lit CH3 offices.

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We have a full crew onboard, and the we chatter happily along the 5 freeway to our first stop:
Left of the Dial Records in Santana.

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We’re guilty of not visiting the new location of LOTD until now, and we are well impressed.
And though it was awfully nice to have a true Record Store in our sleepy little town, the store seems to fit well in the funky arts district here.
Besides, I’m betting you’ll find a better goat birria out here than in Seal Beach, am I right?

Not Del Taco

Not Del Taco

It’s a cheerful crowd we wade through, amps and drums in hand, and we’re soon set up amongst the racks and bins, mere inches from our pals—cozy!

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We go through a few of the oldies before attempting the new songs, and we somehow pull them off.
Who knows, we may even commit the ultimate crime and include some new songs in the set!

Wait, don’t go! We were just joking!

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Shameless product placement #3

Shameless product placement #3

And then we unplug the guitars and work the crowd like corrupt politicians, kissing every baby and signing anything that is within a yard of our reach.

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It was just a grand afternoon, and we could stay here all day, loitering outside and drinking beer on the sidewalk, chatting up our chums, but we have more work to do.

We say our goodbyes to Geoff and crew.
Promises are made to not make it a whole year before meeting again!

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...not even gonna try to compete with those choppers!

…not even gonna try to compete with those choppers!

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Back in the van now, and we venture South for stop # 2:
McGreat Records in San Clemente.

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The drive is fine on a Spring afternoon, and our spirits soar as the hills finally give way to the glowing Pacific.
The van conversations meander, as van conversations tend to do, especially when fueled by char siu pork and smooth, hoppy ales. (#4)

Alf searches the van for open power ports, Ant calls someone out on a bogus Facebook status.
Everyone is online, logged in, checked in, and talking all at once.

Someone chimes in with the 2 finest phone apps, the true reason smartphones should exist: TouchTunes jukebox and BofA digital check deposit.

It turns out Dell has never heard of Grindr, so we immediately install it on his phone and tell him to start looking for good places to eat in the area.

SWM!

SWM!

We get to the store well before sundown and find a cheerful little shop nestled in this wacky little beach community.
The front of the store is well stocked with your CH3 essentials, and there’s an actual performing space in the back.

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It’s a younger crowd in here, and it’s heartening that Ian and his crew have really nurtured a good place for the kiddos.
Seems they actually have music lessons in-store, as well as schooling the groms on proper music out front, so this place walks with light in our book.

Now, if they could only produce a refreshing but bold Indian Pale Ale (#5) they’d have all the bases covered, am I right?

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We set up and kick it off, and things go all wonky!
The PA cuts off in the middle of each song, a midget pit breaks out and a can of Sprite (Sprite!) goes sailing into the walls.
Dell disappears into the night, as his phone has been beeping out some sort of alerts like a horny squirrel.

In other words, it is perfect!

We play our second set of the day with renewed energy for the kids, and when the PA cuts out yet again, we just scream the lyrics into the night, baptizing the crowd with saliva and the bitter words of a man who’s seen too much—hooohah!

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Our pals in No More Saints come in to bat cleanup, leaving us to shill on.
We sign more records, bomb more selfies, chat the night away.

No Mo Saints!

No Mo Saints!

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And once more, we load out and pack the van, get ready for the ride home.
And it’s almost wistful, seeing the day end.
Like pushing a broom through spent confetti on a bleak New Year’s Day, you get the feeling like it’s all gone too quick.

But we’re satisfied, ultimately, with what has been done here.
Sure, some T shirts have been sold, some platters signed and sent to their new adoptive homes with our blessings.
All in the name of Record Store Day, though this should be done any old Saturday of the year, shouldn’t it?

If we can’t gather at these jewel-like hearths of music, then what have we become?
Will we get our music with a swipe of thumb across a touchscreen and have music delivered to us in zeroes and ones through the ether?

Or would you go into a store, and talk to someone who knows, and feel these songs in your very hands?
And then you can take something home with you, something with weight and presence, and then you can sit.
And listen.

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Additonal photos: Martin Wong, By The Barricade and ripped off from Facebook!

Fear and Life in Las Vegas….

•April 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Hofbrauhaus Bavarian restaurant Las Vegas

I’m in the bathroom now, and lean my full weight back against the swinging door.
Still it’s no use.

The incessant chug of the oom pa pa, the drunken melodies of the Fatherland odes, these come at me still through the steel and wood.
A bathroom attendant is there and he gives me a quick smile, he’s seen this before.

“You get used to it man,” he says with a wave of paper towel. “Hell, I don’t even notice that shit anymore, not any more.”

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Just a light snack pre -game....

Just a light snack pre -game….

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I’m aware of the absurdity at play.
We’re in town, after all, to play a gig at a club appropriately named The Dive Bar.
In a couple hours we will be on a moist stage and setting the Marshall JCM900’s to a lethal 7 on the main volume, and then shouting ourselves hoarse for lack of proper monitor.

All the while, a sound man gives us the universal mating call of his species: Turn it down please!

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But for now I’m huddled in the bathroom of a faux-German tourist trap, a noise induced headache working its way to the temporal lobes.
I can hear the noise ratcheted up yet another notch, as some group sing along starts again, all beery tears and hugs out there.

What am I afraid of?
Being forced to suffer the humiliation of the goddamned Chicken Dance?
The inevitable shouts of Kill the Jews! that will come right after Komman Mein Herz ??

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But this peace is artificial and not to be possessed for long, like a stack of twenties dispensed from a strip club ATM.

The bathroom chap gives my hands a squirt of soap and holds out a paper towel as I wash my hands and check for gray nose hairs in the mirror, then sends me back out to the beerhall with an encouraging smile.
I toss a couple bucks into his tip bucket and take a mint from the counter, one kind human engagement fulfilled in a town known for cruelty.

We brave another round and a bite of sausage more, and then we load into the cars.
It’s a Saturday night after all, an easy one nighter, but perhaps Vegas has lost some of its charm for us grumpy fucks.

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I used to love that initial descent into the valley after a 4 hour drag along the 15, that magic moment when the lights of the Strip would come into view, amplified by the blackness of desert sky.

But now it seems as though Vegas is expanding like a toxic spill toward the State line.
The city grows larger and brighter, and those thrilling casino lights that used to shine like jewels now seem as just more dots among the millions.

To walk through the outrageous casino lobbies now, it’s harder to recognize the thrill and chance of treasure.
And now those green and black chips illustrate a different value, tanks of gas and groceries for a week.
Is this what they call growing up?

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Turns out the Dive is a proper bar, with a lively crowd come out to play.
We are immediately cheered to find some friendly faces inside, and the night is off!

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We get ready to set up when I see Joe and his crew roll in.
Now, I’ve known this kid since he was a teen, when he would only come to see us at the rare all-ager or stand out in the parking lot of Alex’s.

Now he’s a card carrying adult, of course, and a familiar and welcome face at a lot of the gigs.

Still, it’s strange to see the homeboys from East LA here in Vegas, especially on a weekend that doesn’t involve bowling or an appearance by The Adicts!

The birthday boy and crew.

L-R: The birthday boy and crew.

Turns out it’s Joe’s birthday–his 23rd!—and the gang has decided on a classic Vegas road trip to celebrate!

Ah 23.
Let’s look at the immortal lyrics that will forever earn us shit.
Oh, I imagine Roger Daltry cringing each night he has to sing, I hope I die before I get old.
But we had to go one further and get all specific, motherfucker!

Fear of Life

I’ve grown so fond of this weekend life, no responsibilities
I’m not ready for the real world, wake me up when I’m twenty-three
Eat mom’s pills, drink dad’s beer
Anything to forget my fear
Got no job, got no girl, got nothing at all
Sounds like a life of misery, still I’m having a ball
I live in my own little fantasy, I won’t listen to you
You tell me to act more seriously, hey man, fuck you

Hah.

So it’s only fitting, mid set, that we bring Joe up onstage and have him spit out the song himself–Fear of Life!

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The kid nails it, breathing a new life into a song that has been perhaps missing a spark.

You've learned well, grasshopper!

You’ve learned well, grasshopper!

And with that we are energized.
We finish out the set strong, play all the old hard fast ones for good measure.

When we finally get outside to gulp down some cool air and let the sweat dry, the lights of the city look new.
Joe and the kids are full of fire.
I hear them chatting and plans are made for a night that is a still young at 3am, for this town, for people 23 years old.

Us? We call it a night.

We get back to the hotel and pause before heading to the elevators and ending the night.
There’s still time, it seems, to sit down at the bar and feed the video poker a twenty, order up one more drink.

There’s always the chance, isn’t there? to win.

Our Last Gig: Redwood Bar

•March 28, 2014 • 3 Comments

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We drive back down Grand Avenue yet again, slow now, creeping along city block like chickenhawks scanning the talent for that telltale bulge beneath mini skirt and fishnet.

The night’s warm, and the lights above stare down on shabby city sidewalks: casting halos of promise and hope, ultimately outnumbered by the expanses of darkness.

But it’s in those deep pockets of blackness that any proper city holds its nighttime treasures.
We’ve seen pharmaceuticals, outlawed since 1979, on sale by the dozen.
Albino Capuchin monkeys on leash?
A rusted tincture of chloroform, along with expired Girl Scout Cookies (Tagalongs!)?
Anything for a price!

Ah, but we’re not in the market, not yet anyway, for the hidden sweets of the city.

Tonight, we seek the ultimate prize: cheap curbside parking!

It’s no fucking use, and we resign ourselves to handing over fifteen bucks for the honor of parking in downtown LA on a Saturday night.

What the hell have they done to this town?

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Was it really that long ago when Los Angeles was a scary fun ghost town on the weekends or any night after 8?
When the streets were wide open, shadowy playgrounds for the punks and bums,
the true princes of L.A.!

We could park on the goddamned sidewalk in front of Al’s Bar, and while the night away.
And only then, after a night of after-hours drinking and stumbling back to the car, would we feel that sweet tinge of danger.
The city would be even more quiet in the early morning hours, and long shadows would suddenly appear across our path.
And that tingle on the back of the neck, someone behind you now, only added to the excitement of the night.

But there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between punkers and homeless crackheads on those streets.
And they shuffled along at a respectful distance in our wake, slow and grumpy as any proper Hollywood zombies.

But now, oh brother, have things changed.
Downtown LA is a wonderland of restaurants and clubs now, lighting up the night with cheerful abandon.

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Tonight the streets are alive with light and sound–the sound of young people

As we herd into Casey’s Pub we’re assaulted by the whoo! and Har! of a dozen freshly minted adults.
Their youthful enthusiasm and cheerfulness grates on us immediately.
I can now appreciate the Grinch casting a disgusted glance down at the cheerful fucking carolers of Whooville…bah!

...is that a goddamned beer pong game I hear?!

…is that a goddamned beer pong game I hear?!

I hate to do it, to fall back on the dreaded H word-hipsters!— when bitch-moaning over another memory shattered.
After all, weren’t we just as guilty of crashing some grumpy old drunks’ soaked reverie on some night 3 decades ago?
Were we any less happy and loud, just to be drinking ironically in the shadows of darkened office buildings?

A few Guinness and snacks put us back in a proper mood, and we even start to enjoy the company of these noisy children drunk off their asses.
Perhaps it was just low blood sugar that had us in a bad mood.
Gotta watch the diet, gramps!

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On the way out, we walk the cool gray slabs of sidewalk toward the Redwood.
But this time, I can see the packs of youngsters giving an occasional glance back, up and away from the smartphones they use to plead with any Uber driver to come rescue them: They’re looking back at us.
They pull skirts down a few millimeters and pick up their pace, and it hits us then:
We are the zombies now!

Now we’re the creepy old men wandering the city streets, our punker casual outfits resembling nothing less than the glad rags that usually come with a hot meal and a bus voucher on Thanksgiving Day.

And as we round Hill Street and walk up to the welcoming buzz of the club, we congratulate each other on graduating to the other side of the cage bars:
Animals all, after all, of the zoo.

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The ship is a-rocking tonight at the Redwood, we’ve got a full crew on hand, the sails are full and the barrels are full of grog and…..
ah fuck it, that’s about all the nautical crap left in the tank, alright?

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Let’s just say it is a grand time aboard!

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After catcing killer sets by The Ex-Gentlemen and The Plexikill, we wander up to the tiny bandstand and set up.

There is a confused lull as we try to sort out amps and tangled cords, for tonight is gonna be a crowded one up yonder.

But downbeat comes and off we go, 3 rival guitar amps joined in sonic sheet, not one man onstage willing to turn down!

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It’s a rare treat to bring up some gentlemen from our past:
Mike Eldred’s up there now, along with Larry Kelley in fine form.

Maria comes up for Cheap, and we begin to look even more like a Southern Rock band: Go Jim Dandy! indeed!

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And of course, our Euro-man Jay Lansford has been hogging the right side of the stage all night, adding outrageous harmonic riffs to anything that comes across his path!

Guitar overload!

Guitar overload!

We’re having a great time now, playing loud and sloppy.

But it is a bittersweet tour that has Jay here with us tonight.
Just a week before we said farewell to Jay’s lovely mother Sharon.

Sharon who always loved to come to the gigs and cheer her son on, and us as well when we were lucky enough to be in one of Jay’s countless acts.
And it wasn’t just a rare field trip out for her to see the band as it was, honestly, for most of our Mom’s.

Sharon really knew the music, and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you when you were a little flat or a guitar was out of tune.

She’d seen us do the song before after all, and do it better!
So we would always try just a little harder, stand up straighter and play a little better when Sharon was on the barstool, watching.

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And as with any funeral, any news of a Mom leaving us, we all can’t help but take that moment to reflect upon our own losses.
Our own Moms’ absence.

It hits me that we’ve all lost those dear creatures that loved us, and that love we often took for granted if even earned undeservedly.

What else is it we share, beside the years of laughs and music?
We’re Dads ourselves now, and that parenthood bonds us even closer than the years in van and club.

We’re going into the last song of the night now.
I look over to my right and then my left, and see us all up there:
Holding guitars, lost in a shared moment: Motherless.

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It’s well after 2:30 am when we finally get out of the bar.
All the last call drinks have been downed, the amps and guitars have been hustled out to the sidewalk.

And it seems, finally, the city is ours once again.
It’s quiet and cool, the sidewalks free of the high heeled hordes.
There are no lines of people within their red velvet corrals, no more towncars prowling downtown for drunken sorority sisters on their way to Canters.

It’s 2 shades darker now, and that much more calm, just as we’d have it.

We say low goodbyes to each other there on the sidewalk, and go our separate ways for the night.

Walking alone now to the parking lot, guitar case in hand, the old thrill comes back.
Fine hairs on the neck stiffen as shadows appear on the sidewalk.

But tonight, we’re not scared. Not in the least.
We have, each of us, someone watching over us.


Thanks for photos: Martin Wong @ http://www.giantrobot.com