Sunday, December 13, 2009

Archer Record Pressing Master Numbers: A Number of Names versus Cybotron in the Ever-Confusing World of Record Chronology

Archer Record Pressing began in Detroit in 1965. The original location was 6552 East Davison and after a few years the operation moved to 7401 East Davison where they still press records today. The building is, without question, one of my top 3 favorite places in Detroit. The actual pressing of records is a holy process to me. So the feeling I get walking into Archer must be analogous to that my grandma got when she walked into St. Peter's Basilica.

(this folk art is my Michelangelo)

In it's forty-plus years of operation, Archer has been the go-to for local Detroit labels and musicians self-releasing music. The stuff pressed there dizzys the mind...Sonic Rendezvous Band, Death, Tribe Records, Von Records, Ollie McLaughlin stuff, Touch and Go, Blue Rose Records, Metroplex...I could go on, but I think you get the point. Such a repository of local music history, lore and juju does not exist outside of Hitsville.

Any recording brought into Archer without a catalog number (and occassionally those with one) will be assigned an AR number for internal reference. After seeing these over and over again and realizing that they are issued sequentially, it became evident that if one compiled a large enough list of these numbers, you could feasibly start to date records that were previously undated or in question. So here's my contribution to that process. Any years or dates come directly from Archer invoices of information listed on the label of the actual record itself.

AR 489 - Mandingo #1 (Four Tracks)
AR 493 - King Soul #493 (Gloria Taylor)
AR 665 – Gordoon Records #10011 (Crystal Myth)
AR 724 - Tru-Ba-Dor #724 (Soul Generation)
AR 857 - Demoristic #857 (The Ravins)
AR 884 - Leo #884 (Jay Rhythm)
AR 939 - Gatewood #939 (Alphonso Hamilton)
AR 953 - Magic City #007 (Mad Dog & Pups)(1969)
AR 1074 - Magic City #008 (Soul Tornadoes)
AR 1670 – Mutt Records no # (Detroit Night Riders)
AR 2501 – C.O.G.I.C. no # (Rev. Drayton) 1-24-1972 300 qty, repressed 500 qty 3-27-72
AR 2579 – C.O.G.I.C. no # (Rev. Drayton) 3-27-72 500 qty
AR 2590 – C.O.G.I.C. no # (Rev. Drayton) 4-10-72 1000 qty
AR 2657 – C.O.G.I.C. 1000 qty 5-26-72
AR 2691 – C.O.G.I.C. LP 500 qty 8-22-72, 300QTY 10-24-72
AR 2838 – C.O.G.I.C. LP 300 qty 10-17-72
AR 3271 – C.O.G.I.C. no # (Rev. Drayton) 500 qty 7-16-73 (AR-2657 side 2 re-used as b-side)
AR 3618 – Blackman Records no # (Quixotics)
AR 4132 – Lobo Records no # (Norm Wade and Detroit Gold) 500 qty 3-31-75
AR 4977 – V.F.H.L. Records no # (Herman Harris & Voices of Faith, Hope and Love) (1977)
AR 5726 – Get Down no # (Sahara)
AR 5930 – Big City Record Company no # (R.U.R.) (1980) 7"
AR 6180 – CLC Records no # (Chuck Cole) (1981)
AR 6212 – Capriccio Records P-928 (A Number of Names) (1981) (see#6374, 6344, 6312)
AR 6406 – God's City's Sounds no # (Highland Park Community Choir) (1981)
AR 6591 – Dazia Records no # (Somerset) (1982/83)
AR 7352 – VU Records no # (A-tack) (1986) 12"
AR 7357 – Tripple Star no # (Paul Garrison) (1983) 7"
AR 7390 – E.R.C INC no # (The Eveready Crew) (1986) 7"
AR 7481 – Sims Entertainment no # (Livewire) (1987) 12"
AR 7511 – J.F.I. Recordings no # (KC and Crew) (1987) 12"
AR 7583 – Mack Records no # (Klash) 12"
AR 7586 – Bassment Records no # (Worthy D and the Boys) 12"
AR 7689 – MBE no # (Frinz) 12"
AR 7830 – Ren Sin City Records (K-Stony Jamm) (1988) 12"
AR 7976 – 12th Precinct no # (MC King and DJ Boywonder)
AR 8063 – T.C. Real Records no # (Real'n'Smooth) (1989)
AR 8147 – Pretty City Records (Pretty City Boyz) 1989
AR 8150 – Midwest International no # (Curtis Gadson)
AR 8300 – Frontear no # (the Darkskin Cats) (1990)
AR 8347 – Motor City Records Inc. no # (Fresh Boys) (1990)
AR 8587 – ICUPP Records 001 (Gangster Fun) 7"
AR 8696 – Bass-X Records #0-16389 (A.U.T.H.O.R.I.T.Y.) (1992)
AR 8881 – Monokon Records no # (K.B. and the Fearless)(1992)
AR 8882/9992 – Psychopathic # 1004 (Insane Clown Posse "Carnival of Carnage")

AR-6212 is "Sharevari" by A Number of Names, widely considered to be the first Detroit techno release. Invoice #6212 only lists mastering, processing (plating) and test press charges. The second Detroit techno record, "Alleys of Your Mind" by Cybotron, is invoice # 6237 (invoices and AR numbers are interchangeable, but because "Alleys" had a customer-supplied catalog number of 107034 it fails to have an AR number on the label or its run-out grooves).

The "Alleys" invoice is dated 10-29-81 and gives a quantity of 1000 initial copies, making it literally twenty days after the "Sharevari" invoice. seems that actual PRESSING charges for "Sharevari" don't show up until AFTER the "Alleys" pressing charges.

I remember hearing stories about "Sharevari" debuting on-air during the Electrifyin' Mojo radio show and Mojo even giving the group their name. So it's possible (but not necessarily probable) that "Sharevari" was recorded first but languished for awhile before it was actually pressed. In that time it seems Cybotron flourished and recorded their own debut and POSSIBLY pressed it before A Number of Names pressed/released "Sharevari".

There were also numerous invoices (referenced above) that show "Sharevari" being repressed while I didn't notice any subsequent invoices/orders for "Alleys".

Either way, it's fascinating that both of these groups were germinating at the same time, seemingly unaware of each other and their releases being the initial salvo in the blast of Detroit techno. The mechanics of when the songs were recorded, compared to when they were test pressed and/or released is merely insight into a previously undocumented side of it all.

(please feel free to set the record straight, correct, critique or hurl eggs in the comments section)

Disclaimers: None of this information is definite. Most of it is gleaned from records in my personal collection, listings found on eBay, or time briefly spent combing through Archer's old invoices. Some numbers can prove difficult especially if they were repressed later with different label art/years (hence the A-tack VU Records seeming out-of-place that's causing me to pull out my hair). Please feel free to add any records you may have in your collection or have AR numbers for (found either on the label or etched in the run-out groove) in the comments and I will add it to the master list.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Outta My Wednesday Moanin' Mind...

I feel like I've got a lot of scattered thoughts but none significant enough to warrant enough bile-spew, so instead I figured I'd sorta employ the old Joe Falls ramblin' format. In writing that sentence I found myself troubled to recall if it was either Falls or Bob Talbert who made familiar-to-me that style. If you're reading this and know who both of those people are (and more importantly, who used that style) please forgive me as it's hard to accurately recall the specifics of newspaper columnists at the time I was ten years old.

Is it just me or are CD's increasingly looking a lot like cassette tapes right about now? At the record store yesterday I was torn between the CD and 2xLP formats of the remastered version on Nirvana's Bleach. I already own, by my estimation, four copies of this album on vinyl and one copy on CD. Both formats come coupled with a previously-unheard live show from the era. The CD was priced $9.99 while the LP was $26.99 and came with an mp3 download code. I legitimately felt like I really only wanted the mp3's, if only because a) I don't see myself listening to this release very much, b) if I want to indulge in a vinyl listen, I already have four different colors to choose from, c) having spent plenty of time with live Nirvana recordings, I don't find myself going back to them too often. In spite of all that, I STILL bought the LP.

Did you know Dutch Elm Disease did not originate from the Netherlands (ie, the Dutch) and was merely first identified in that country? The disease originated in Asia and the introduction into America can be traced to a single shipment of logs from the Netherlands, said to be slated for use in Ohio furniture production as veneer. Despite the claims of people my parent's age, I think the eventual diversification of Metro Detroit's tree stock was, in the long-term, worth having cut down a shit-ton of trees. See also The Virgin Suicides or anything else Eugenides has written as it is utterly phenomenal.

Being away from Detroit has made long for music from there in weird ways I could've never predicted. I'm buying the most random records on eBay for the stupidest reasons… like the labels share the same zip code as the house I grew up in (48224) or the mere fact that it's FROM Detroit. I am also legitimately looking for copies of 7"s by Friends of Dennis Wilson, Bang Bang and Child Bite. These are all bands I have never listened to and never saw perform live. I guess I'm merely overcompensating in trying to maintain a bit of Detroit musicologist cred. But seriously, if anyone has a lead/line on any of those singles (and let's not forget that Grayling 7" with the man fishing on the cover or the Ethos single with the pic of the girl in tight-fitting skirt from behind) I am legitimately interested.

I've lately been envisioning something bigger for the time I've dedicated to Detroit music and its history. If I had half a brain it would manifest itself into a weekly podcast dedicated to the topic and featuring NOTHING but music of the city from the past 100 years…but barring someone physically workshopping me through that process I don't see it happening. Maybe it has more life as an informative website…label scans, release years, other pertinent info. All of this I see as moreso dedicated to the unheralded music of Detroit (I have to fight the urge to refer to it as "this" town and keep reminding myself I don't live there anymore) as info about Motown or Hideout has already been exhausted. But what about Fiddler's Music Productions…one of those labels that shared my childhood zip code and also housed a music instrument store where I bought my first pair of drum sticks? Or Blue Rose Records, seemingly the earliest purveyor of rap on vinyl in Detroit? I can't be the only one thinking these things. Also, I am by no means making a claim on the merit of ANY of this. I'm not reticent to admit that a LOT of this music just does not speak to me, that it is downright BAD and is probably ignored for a reason. Regardless, it has, whether positively or negatively, contributed to the musical fabric of the city and the continuing narrative that runs throughout our history.

Blue Rose Records is indicative of a larger obsession for me of late…early Detroit rap and hip-hop. For the past few years I've gobbled up every last shred of info surrounding this seemingly forgotten area…Freddy Fresh's Rap Records Book is a good place to start for discographical information, but he's still missing A LOT of info. I've taken to buying any rap record I can find from pre-1991 Detroit. I've knocked on doors in Detroit neighborhoods I'd never imagined visiting in hopes of tracking down Darryl Nicholson. From what I can gather, Nicholson was EVERYTHING behind Blue Rose…the writer, the performer, the publisher, the label itself. I even had some help from a private investigator in tracking him, but still no luck.

(I understand that in the ultra-territorial world of record nerds tracking down old record makers that offering up this info is considered uncouth. But at this point, I honestly don't care. If anyone else can track find this guy, all the better. Hopefully they are as well-versed in his history as I've become and just ask him the right questions. And if they can find a spare copy of the Breeze 7" I would be glad to pay handsomely)

My interest in Detroit rap stems from the decidedly rich musical history of the city and the seemingly nonexistent information available about it. While my heart lies much closer to the world of Sixties Back From the Grave-style garage rock, that vein had been mined for a good twentysome years before I even knew what it was. For anyone to truly consider themselves a fan of music, they need to grow more accepting and less discerning with time. While I would just love to discover an unknown garage 7" from 1966 with a 48224 zip code, I know the chances are slim that will ever happen. But as the field of rap history is one still emerging into its own I stand a much larger chance of making an impact in that area.

Tip: next time ANY organization asks you for your zip code, offer up 48222 (commonly referred to as the "triple-two" amongst area postal enthusiasts) as it will routinely render useless their efforts of marketing. 48222 is the zip code for the JW Westcott, the mail boat that services passing freighters at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge.

If anyone has a copy of Nicola Kuperus' First Edition book (hardcover or softcover) I will gladly pay you TWICE the amount you paid for your copy. Can't believe I slept on this one and word is she does not plan to print any more any time soon. Viva Detroit photography.

Cass Records will have new releases available before 2010. Our first release in over a year (blame the fire and the move) will be a 7" by the Readies, followed up by a 7" from Nashville's own Turbo Fruits and then a 12" single from the Dirtbombs.

Last week the Dirtbombs became, by my estimation, the first band to play all four rooms of the Majestic Theater complex, with performances in both the Café and on the Garden Bowl Lanes in the same evening. I'm not sure if this is a feat to be praised or not, but the sheer incalculable number of hours I've spent on that block must be staggering. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I dare anyone to find a band that has played the Magic Stick stage more than us.

Making a want list is the best thing you can do as a record collector and I can't believe I've gone almost two years since I last published one. Look over at to see my original wants and clearly you will be as amazed as I am about how many of those I've obtained in such a seemingly short time. Let's see how quick we can cross these off the list…

Rodriguez "Inner City Blues" 7" on Sussex
-"To Whom It May Concern" 7" on Sussex
-"Sugar Man" 7" on Blue Goose
The Fourth Movement 7" Tryangle Records
Mudhoney Promotional Cake Mix Box for Piece of Cake album
The JuJus – Do You Understand Me? 7" (United Records)
The Birds – You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care) 7"
BMW – Chillin 12" (Blue Rose Records)
BMW – Rock the House12" (Blue Rose Records)
The Breeze - Breeze Rap 7" (Blue Rose Records)
The Coloured Balls "Ball Power" LP
Danny Dell and the Trends "Froggy Went a Courting" 7-inch
The Misfits "Bullet" 7-inch (Plan 9 records, black or red vinyl)
Spiritualized Ladies and Gentleman… LP
Paul Nichols- Run Shaker Life 7"
Fireworks – 10"
The Sloths – Makin' Love 7"
Tribal Sinfonia – Something Has You Turned Around 7"
the Lee VI's – Pictures on My Shelf 7"
Kack Klick - Lord My Cell is Cold b/w One More Day, One More Night 7"
Reverend Drayton - "By and By" b/w "On the Battlefield" Cogic Records
The Black Diamonds – I Want, Need, Love You 7"

I'm absolutely enamored with Bored to Death and am sad that the season finale is already upon us. When originally presented with the premise as "It's a modern take on the classic private eye story with some dark humor" I was extremely skeptical. But with a perfect trifecta of main cast (Jason Schwartzman, Zack Galifinakis, and the absolutely phenomenal Ted Danson) supported by exciting guest stars (Kristin Wiig, John Hodgeman, etc) and what emerges is clever but not ironic, funny but not pandering, relevant without being preachy and personally, the position of Schwartzman as the possibly-succesful novelist-turned-PI beholden to the whims of his eccentric mag editor boss (not so secretly modeled after Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair) doesn't seem the least bit far-fetched to me. Not since the debut of The Tom Green Show on MTV have I been so excited about a television program. Let's hope season two is timed to run at the same time as season two of Hung and thus make my Sunday nights complete.

I've recently come into possession of one of the coolest, most unique items of Stooges memorabilia I can fathom. I talk about it in-depth in Robert Matheu's illustrated official biography of the band so search out my exact words there (and enjoy the unreal photos he unearthed for the tome), but for now, absorb the absolute beauty that is the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services label for the Stooges Fun House album, side two.

(this is the first and most likely last LP I've ever wanted to frame)

I mean, I miss Detroit music so much I actually purchased a used CD copy of Deastro's Moondagger yesterday. It's as if the other bloggers have won some prize no one wants.

I've currently been engrossed in Chuck Klosterman's latest collection of essays Eating the Dinosaur If you haven't already indulged, do yourself a favor and search it out as CK is quite possibly the most incisive pop culture critic we will see in our time. He is also one of only two living people that I sincerely want to meet (the other being Dave Grohl). I feel like Chuck and I have enough in common that we could engage in mutually beneficial conversations and legitimately be friends.

Anyway, a few thoughts on issues CK brings up in Dinosaur:

-his comparison to David Koresh and In Utero-era Kurt Cobain is, while completely absurd, insanely captivating. I was especially dumfounded with the clarity of one particular line…

"Koresh decided he was literally God. Cobain was told he was figuratively God. Taken on balance, which would make a man crazier?"

-the insight into laugh-tracks and all things laughter is equally as compelling. His observation as to German people only laughing when they are legitimately amused seems peculiar, but when broken down to analyze that Americans have three laughs (real, fake real and filler) is especially interesting when he explains…

"People halfheartedly chuckle throughout most casual conversations…it's a modern extension of the verbalized pause, built by TV laugh tracks."

I'll be damned if that didn't open my eyes to a previously un-tackle-able line of thought.

-Klosterman waxes about the connection between Pepsi and its efforts to align itself with the hope-happy ideals of the Obama campaign and ties it all in with references to Mad Men and how the advertising world seemingly operates. My only beef with this argument is that he fails to raise the most obvious point. That is, did you not see that Pepsi re-jiggered their logo to almost completely ape that of the Obama campaign? I mean there were more than just a few articles on this on websites as significant as Slate. How did this fact manage to elude not only you, but your editor, your agent, your wife and seemingly anyone else who read your words before they went to print. To talk about Obama and Pepsi and to not even make a passing reference to the similarity of their logos is egregious. See below...

-CK's assessment of football is, to me, someone who really does not care for the sport, insightful to a point that I almost want to pay attention to it now. Almost. The breakdown of the implementation of different defensive and offensive strategies and how they can mostly be traced to individual progenitors within the past 50 years seems incredible to me. I also wholly dig that Klosterman unabashedly mixes writing about music and sports.
Again, please do search out any of his writings (I particularly like Dinosaur and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs) and you will not be disappointed.

Mick once told me he had a MS Word file that was nothing but an exhaustive listing of Detroit record labels of years past, complete with their addresses. He never gave it to me. Does anyone have it? Can some enterprising soul fabricate an easy-to-navigate map of this information, complete with color-coded pins according to genre and hyperlinked to available discographies? Or do I need to do it all by myself? Seriously, the things I'd do for Detroit…

A lot of records aren't expensive…they are just rare. But somehow, when I want a copy of a record that's "just rare" is soon becomes expensive.

Another Detroit music nugget I've stumbled onto lately is the Archer Record Pressing numbering system. When I first mentioned this to a local record store impresario he started with "Oh great, here we go…" as if I'd gone off the deep-end. When I'd discovered that records mastered through Archer have a sequential numbering, it became clear that once a significant amount of those records have been compiled, it makes it possible to date undated/mystery/unknown records.

In the grand scheme of things this isn't that big of a deal, but it can prove to be very helpful if trying to answer some music nerd questions.

In the above-pictured example, notice on the right side register of the label the AR8594 code. This is what I'm talking about. With seemingly no other relevant information pointing to an actual date of this release, based on what I've compiled, I can tell you that this record was mastered sometime after 1989.

The idea of all this excites me…I just wish I had more time to devote to it. Full-time jobs really limit the scope of geek-outs lately.

Did you know that Election Day warrants no mail delivery in Nashville? And in Pittsburgh you cannot purchase alcohol on Election Day. Is that not fucking weird?

Seriously, not only did I just buy a Deastro CD, but I went trolling around for rare, unheard, unreleased, whatever Detroit electro shit. Found this with help from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Dig it?

And I'm spent. Feel free to fill up the comments with critiques, likes, dislikes, leads on my want list, suggestions, bacon recipes, AR-XXXX catalog numbers and anything else of note.

Monday, October 05, 2009

West Coast Part Two: All You've Ever Wanted to Know About Playing a Decent-Sized Rock Festival But Were Too Bored To Ask...

Woke up early Saturday morning to properly facilitate smooth sailing with all things Outside Lands.

I must make an aside to let everyone here know what an absolute task it is to set-up all the necessary crap for playing a festival of this magnitude. There's a reason bands have tour managers and it's shit like this. It's not any one particular person's fault or error, but there's just soo much shit that comes into play…emailing a stage plot, sending a guestlist a week beforehand, figuring out how many meal tickets we need, giving advance notice that we need to be paid day-of-show in cash, sorting out our load-in time and parking permits for our vehicles, signing off on permission for Internet broadcasts, coordinating to have our credentials dropped off at our hotel the day before we arrive…as the one taking care of all of it, I was startled by how thorough it all was. I can only imagine the added difficulty if we had merch, needed transport from our hotels, rented gear or any other possible headaches.

All band members met at the Hotel Phoenix and we made way to the fest in two vehicles. Z and I were in the minivan designated as the "equipment" vehicle with access to park directly behind the Twin Peaks stage where we'd be performing. Dorien's rental Prius with the rest of the band inside had "guest" parking which was basically just an unassigned spot on one of the public streets snaking thru the park. Confusingly though they'd failed to include a guest parking pass in our credential pack, so THAT vehicle had to phone the stage manager when they were approximately 5 minutes away from the entrance so that a runner could be summoned to meet them with a pass.

We waited ten minutes to get the minivan behind the stage because the doof manning the gate said the path was blocked. The stage manager finally waved us in and proved that said path was indeed not blocked. Loaders unloaded our shit, we set it up while the Mars Volta's gear was soundchecking (even thought ALL correspondence from the festival explicitly said NO band would receive a soundcheck, that was clearly false)

Once we'd all set-up our equipment a palpable serenity came over us. It was early and backstage was empty and we were just able to relax like a calm before the storm. We were permitted one "specialty" item on our rider and since I was the one doing the advancing that one item was a case of XXX Vitamin Water. I honestly wonder if anyone in the history of Vitamin Water has drank more than I did on that sunny San Franciscan day. I easily downed at least six full bottles and would not be surprised if the grand total was somewhere closer to eight or nine. I clearly achieved my goal of remaining hydrated.

Onstage doing a line-check and the Miracles' "You Really Got a Hold on Me" came over the PA and at that moment, it felt like everyone in the band was instantly assured, by mere presence of Smokey and company, that everything was going to work out just fine.

And work out fine it did. Despite the intense scrutiny we placed upon ourselves in trying to stay within the confines of a fifty-minute slot, our set felt natural. Hell, we ended ten minutes early. I was hoping for some sort of finale, but we ended respectfully without anyone jumping into the crowd or carelessly throwing equipment. Ultimately, it feels a bit anticlimactic. At the same time, I was just completely overjoyed to be playing Kelley Stoltz's drums. To think how man of my favorite songs were recorded with those very drums just left an enormous smile on my face.

As soon as we'd finished I began breaking down gear and loading it into the minivan, much to the dismay of the stage manager who had to politely, yet firmly, tell me that he was paying stagehands to do that work. Me, I just don't have the patience to wait for those guys, so I grab shit and load it myself, saving EVERYONE some time.

I was quickly given a DVD of our performance and immediately asked to list what songs we wanted featured on the official Outside Lands YouTube channel. You can go search that out to see what songs I picked.

Following that I walked a half-mile to the payment trailer. I'd arranged for us to be paid in cash and all I had to do was cross out the band name off a schedule with a highlighter and sign a sheet of paper, all while Raphael Saadiq rocked a version of "Search and Destroy" on the mainstage.

As I walked out of the trailer with an envelope overstuffed with cash, I wondered if I could have just as easily walked up and said "Ah yes, I'm here for Dave Matthews Band…can I get paid now?" I mean really…they had no idea who the hell I was and the fact that they were handing me a large amount of cash made me think they would have done SOMETHING to check my shit.

From there I met the rest of the band in catering. The main attraction seemed to be a construct your own Philly cheesesteak station. I said "hi" to Cedric from the Mars Volta. Zack said "hi" to Tom Morello.

At that point, we ventured to the promo area of the festival. As it works, a bunch of different companies pay a fee to be able to set-up a tent and have the opportunity to give artists free shit. We were promised one Altec-Lansing digital iPod/iPhone boombox for the band and I had my hands on the little post card that entitled the bearer to it. So when I happen upon the Altec tent and watch Zack being pitched hard, not saying a word, I didn't think much of it. As the lady finished her spiel to Z with "So do you want one?" I was completely caught off-guard. Apparently my possession of the post card meant nothing as Zack exhausted our alotted iPod dock.

I wasn't really mad at Zack, because he doesn’t really know any better. He's still the new guy. And if I was in his position I would've done the same thing. I guess it just means he feels comfortable to scam an iPod dock without consulting with his bandmates, (who've invested far more time and effort into the whole endeavor of the Dirtbombs). I didn't even know if he had an iPod either…I seem to remember him always asking to borrow mine because he lost the charger to some old Sony mp3 player he had.

The whole situation only worked to bring feelings of awkwardness to the surface for me. Personally, I love free shit. And the idea of having an area at the festival where performers, of which I am legitimately one, can get a bunch of free shit…it seems like a no-brainer.

But what comes into play is the interaction with the people giving the free shit. You see, some shit is truly free and free to everyone…like ice cream from the Ice Cream Man. He does not scrutinize. Ice cream to the masses. Other things are merely free to all artists without discrimination. Given my "artist" wristband for the festival, this presents no inherent problem. Where issues arise is when there's a booth where shit is free to certain artists, but not all artists. Granted, it's not like these people state that as their policy, but it's clear.

I've encountered this before at Bonnaroo. If you had to specifically define the practice, it would be something like "if you're an artist big enough to be able to pay for whatever is being offered, we'll give it to you for free." It just makes the whole fucking thing slimy and gross and has absolutely nothing to do with music or art or performing in front of a crowd and has everything to do with elitism. I feel like I gots to do a song-and-dance to get the goods. You folks already got my song, that shit was on stage, you ain't getting the dance too.

I can't remember what the name of the sorry company was, but there was a booth at Outside Lands with an impressive display of sunglasses. I perused the stock with mild interest and was surprised, yet not really surprised, to see a sign that said "Special Festival Artist Pricing: $69" Yet I'd bet our entire payment from the festival that if Dave Matthews or Eddie Vedder walked over the reps from Lame-Ass Sunglasses Inc. would be tripping over themselves to give them whatever they wanted for free.

We, as a band, then made way to the Onitsuka Tiger tent. The folks from Onitsuka had seen our set and personally asked us to come over so that they could outfit us with shoes. I was ecstatic because, at this point, I do not even own a pair of sneakers and could legitimately use them (zipper boots, despite their badass quality, aren't terribly versatile with a pair of shorts).

The dude asked everyone their size and quickly came back offering boxes to everyone. Ko, Zack and Mick all received, by my estimation, shoes that looked totally badass. I remember liking the brown and blue of their specific kicks. My 10 1/2's were not so fortunate. They fit and were comfortable, but the overwhelmingly white sneakers with accents of black, silver and red were just not my style.

So here's another awkward situation. I want, no NEED, a pair of these shoes. They will clearly be free. I sat there, internally struggling with whether or not I should ask for a pair in blue or brown (I mean seriously, white shoes? Do I look like I work in a hospital?) In my eyes, if the company wants me to wear something because there's some sort of inherent prominence placed in the absolute non-ability to play drums on-stage, I want to at least be completely in love with the shoes I am supposed to be wearing. I don't think that's too much to ask for on my side of the agreement.

Zack egged me on, saying I should lie and ask for a different size in hopes of getting a better color. Instead, I told the rep, in earnest, how the shoes fit great but that I just wasn't crazy about the colors and really just wanted a pair that I was in LOVE with.

He looked at me like he was a kindergarten teacher trying to explain to a pupil why they have to sleep at naptime. To paraphrase, he said something like this, totally condescending, "We REALLY don't have a lot of pairs of shoes with us, so I can't really do much on different colors. I can SEE if there's anything else back there in a ten and a half, but I won't make any promises."

Which I responded to with a sincere thanks and mention that I would be content with whatever they had but extremely happy to have a different color. He returned shortly thereafter to say they didn't have anything else available in my size. I thanked him and said the red/white/black/silvers would work fine. We were all then given free earbud headphones and posed in group photos excitedly holding our schwag.

Fast-forward a couple days later, I'm in Nashville and wanting to get away from the zip-boot footwear and pull out my Onitsukas. Imagine my dismay to find two silver/black/red/white monstrosities that are not only different sizes (10 1/2 and 7) but are also both left feet! I can never be sure, but I want to think that because I had the temerity to ask for a specific color that the guy handing out the shoes decided to fuck with me and if he did, I must say, well-played.

But in a pending deal with Onitsuka customer service, I should have a pair of Onitsukas arrive via post any day now and not only will they be of the same size and for opposing feet, but they will be a color of my choosing. If so, then I win.

Ran into Alex Minoff in the gifting area. He was there playing with Extra Golden and I think I'd only seen him once since we played together in Weird War back in 2004. It's the unexpected people you run into like Alex that make festivals an extra-special bit of surprising and fun. We talked for all of sixty-seconds (about what, I cannot even recall) but I definitely felt that much better because of it.

We made our way back to the stage just before Mastodon went on. For my thoughts on Mastodon, please check out my All Tomorrow's Parties post. Anyway, as I waited in line for the porto-john, a little toe-headed kid, no older than 4-years-old, walks up to me and hold his arms up. I can gather that he either 1) has been watching to many episodes of "COPS" or 2) wants me to grab his arms and swing him around. Being the fun-loving guy that I am, I grab his arms and start twirling around in a circle. I feel dizzy merely typing about it. After a few rounds of twirls I was able to convince him to climb up my legs while I held his arms and do a flip. His mother, who'd apparently been pre-occupied up until this point, came and kindly grabbed him saying "You don't even know this man" to which I without thinking replied "It's okay, I don't know him either."

I would later find out the kid's dad was one of the guys from Mastodon.

Feeling a bit tired, I decided that I wanted to leave. This was just as Mastodon was starting their set. Ko, Zack and Pat all wanted to stay and I didn't really have the patience to find/ask Mick his opinion, so I took the minivan filled with all the equipment and left the fest. Since James Kim's place was right around the corner I dropped off his drums in his garage.

On the drive to drop off gear back at Kelley's and Ink's I found Zack's iPod. Hoping for something good to listen to, I put my thumb on the clickwheel and tried to spin it, but something felt wrong. It barely moved. I was nervous because I thought I had broken it. I clicked over to the info setting to see how many songs are on there to be smacked in the face with a grand total of 70. That's not an iPod…that's two mix-cds. And you need a fucking dock for that!

I took solace in sending Zack a text message that read: "Just because you have it listed as Randal Chabot and not Deastro does not make having 'Tree Frog' on your iPod any less gay."

His response was "You were not supposed to see that."

I checked into me/Mal's and Ko's rooms at the Phoenix and then dropped off the rest of the gear by myself. I nap a bit before heading to soundcheck where I enjoyed the blonde Oreos that had been laid out for us. Introduced myself to Ty Segal and told him I couldn't walk five feet without seeing his name lately. Was amazed to see how young he is. He looks like a baby.

Went back to the hotel after soundcheck. Mal and I walked a block to some decent Thai place around the corner and had a late dinner there.

Made it to the Rickshaw shop while the Sermon was playing. Was bummed to miss Ty Segal but I really did need dinner.

The club was packed and it translated to intensity on-stage. I think Mick got popped in the mouth by the mic by rowdy fans. A few dudes from TV on the Radio showed up. I felt like I played as hard as I could, coming off-stage completely out-of-breath. Ty, watching right beside my drums, said he'd never seen us play before but that he was very impressed. I felt happy hearing that. I guess I usually just assume the "kids" don't understand us, so kind words from Ty, the next great garage genius, were that much more powerful.

Back to the Phoenix and we walked up the street for some so-bad-it's-still-bad pizza, tasting like someone just ran the whole thing underneath a grease faucet. We ate it with impunity and slept like kings.

I didn't want to do shit the next day. As the one who'd booked the flights I'd arranged for a Monday evening flight whereas everyone was leaving Sunday. This gave Malissa and I some much-needed chance to relax. She felt strongly about going back to the festival and while I initially didn't agree, there wasn't much else going on. My arm = far from twisted.

Took a cab to Golden Gate Park and breezed through security with our wristbands. What I had not anticipated was how nipple-twistingly cold San Fran can get in late August. I showed up in a jeans and t-shirt (because I didn't even bring anything like a coat or sweater for the trip) and insanely cold. I held my bare arms across my chest and rubbed both of them looking shaken-up like someone who'd just been pulled from a burning house, saved from drowning or tenuously extricated from a hostage situation.

We slipped backstage, said a quick' "hello" to the Dead Weather and then took a spot side-stage to watch them play. At the start of their set I looked out at the crowd and, feeling completely honest, said "there's not that many more people to watch the Dead Weather than were here to watch the Dirtbombs." After another two minutes or so I had to admit that there were a SHIT-TON more people watching the Dead Weather than the Dirtbombs.

Their performance was superb and personally, I loved the fact that they played so many new songs.

Backstage after DW 's set I met DangerMouse. He just happened to be hanging out in San Francisco and was just checking out bands at the festival. When it came up that I was in the Dirtbombs, he perked up and said "I really wanted to see you guys, but you just played way too early."

Zack was the only other Dbomb who'd show up at the festival on Sunday and he relayed a funny story about being backstage. There was an "exclusive" area of trailers that was meant only for those with artist wristbands. As he had one it wasn't a big deal. But Ween was the next band onstage and their crew was trying to clear out the area of anyone who wasn't in their crew.

Zack said, to whom I'm not exactly sure (and possibly just me) "Jack White's back there chilling, not asking people to clear out and you think anyone is going to give a shit about what Ween says?"

Ran into Sunny Kay from GSL backstage and again another welcome surprise encounter. We tried to figure out where the master tapes to the Lost Kids album were located and we didn't have a solid answer. I also geeked out in telling him how, for a summer or two, I bought every 7" GSL released regardless of whether or not I knew anything about it. I was pleasantly surprised more often than not.

Zack and I ran into the dude from Onitsuka again and he said he wanted to give us some ear buds. Having received a set each already we were slightly confused, but I honestly thought they might have newer models than the day before. He hands them to us and asks us to pose for a photo and then makes reference to some friends/colleagues as us being the band Cage the Elephant. We bit our tongues hard. I guess to the reps from Onitsuka, we all look the same.

We walked the long walk toward the main stage. Had the bright idea to stop by the Alternative Apparel tent and see if they had any free clothes I could wear to warm my ass up. Being the final day of the fest their pickins were slim, but I was ecstatic to score a Mr. Rogers Eco-Vertigrain Cardigan.

It wasn't particularly thick. When buttoned it made me look like a sausage. The "ash" color wasn't ideal for absorbing heat, but god-damn if that last trip to the gifting tents didn't totally save the day. Thank you Alternative Apparel for the $45 cardigan you gave to me for free in a time of personal climate crisis.

MIA started soon thereafter on the main stage. Her sound was absolute shit. The bass was completely overpowering and her vocals were almost non-existent. Seemed like she could've benefited from a soundcheck, or at least an engineer who knew what her songs sounded like.

Nevertheless I enjoyed hearing "Bamboo Banga" live. Most of her performers were wearing Michael Jackson t-shirts. She had twin pale-skinned, red-head dudes dancing for her and it was strikingly odd. Highlight, for me, was her new song that sampled the synth part from Suicide's "Ghostrider."

At this point in the show we'd met up with James Kim, managing something like VIP concessions and he hooked us up with a plate of free calamari. Fuck yeah.

After "Paper Planes" we decided to leave. On our way out of the park we were stopped by two kids asking for passes to get in. Always looking to help out, we slid the cloth wristbands delicately off our wrists, told them they were all-access artist's passes and to enjoy themselves to the fullest. The look of excitement/bewilderment on their faces was priceless and I hope they lived it up for the brief time remaining for the festival.

Cabride back to the Phoenix found the driver blowing through an intersection as the light turned from yellow to red. I commented "I didn't see it turn red" to which he replied "Neither did I" and Malissa followed with "We're from Detroit, red lights don't apply to us."

The driver, Eddie, perked up. "I'm from Detroit too."

"Whereabouts?" I ask.

"East Side" he offers.

"Where on the East Side?" I say, really just wishing he'd give me his address already.

"Kercheval and Philip" he says.

I'm amazed. That intersection is approximately a mile and a half from 3424 Bishop where I spent the first twenty-six years of my life.

He went to high school at Finney and worked at Joe Muer's restaurant on Gratiot, a class establishment that I'd only ever heard spoken about wistfully. He told stories of running a flower cart downtown and ultimately of his leaving the city in 1969. Although we grew up both knowing markedly different versions of the city, the camaraderie was undeniable. It goes without saying, but it truly is a small world.

We rested at the hotel before an evening birthday party for our booking agent Dave Kaplan. The party was swell and yet I can't remember anything of note happening worth repeating here.

Our final day in San Fran was pretty chill. Saw Robin Pecknold as I was checking out of the hotel and wondered if he'd spent the previous day listening to the Dirtbombs as I'd spent the previous day listening to Fleet Foxes. I should've said "hi" but got scared that it might not have actually been him. But it totally was.

Time spent in the Haight had me cross paths with Brock Galland (current guitarist with Kelley Stoltz) and upon asking him for any recommendations (he was on lunch break from Amoeba, where usually dispenses this wisdom) he spit out with Ty Segal, Fresh and Onlys and Oh Sees. I felt good telling him I was already on the ball for all of 'em.

Actually met up with Ty (accompanied by the Jeff the Brotherhood bros…seriously, those guys are everywhere I turn) at Amoeba and had a good once around the store with him. Is it weird to say that he seems like a little brother to me? Like I just want to protect him and lead him safely down the path? Anyway, on his recommendation I bought 7"s by Nodzzz, Sic Alps and the Baths. On my own recognizance I bought the RAKS, RAKS, RAKS compilation of 1960's Iranian garage/pop/psychedelic jams, the 3rd installment of Bo Diddley's 2xCD collections from Hip-o-Select Ride On, a prime collection of NorCal 60's garage called Up From the Grave and a collection put together by DJ Shadow called Schoolhouse Funk that fails to list any of the bands playing on the compilation of vintage high school and college marching or concert bands.

Malissa bought an amazing pair of Frye boots at a vintage store and I was more than happy to pay $100+ for them. They look hot. I love her.

Rest of the day would lazily linger. Mexican food and prime record time with Stoltz was really the cherry on top of a sundae of a tour.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dirtbombs Went to the West Coast for Four Shows...Part One

Flying to Atlanta to get to San Diego, from Nashville? Oh the beauty of airline hubs and the dregs of Hartfield International, a more-despised airport I cannot imagine. In my attempt to explain to Malissa how close the Casbah is to the San Diego airport, I was physically able to point out the window to the marquee of the club approximately 5 seconds before our plane landed. Yes dear, visible-from-the-airplane close.

We arrive to an oppressive, 94 degree heat. Pat’s hanging out with his sister, the rest of the band is running errands for/with Mick. They’ve rented a minivan. Mal’s cousin picks us up from the airport and we go to eat at the Yardhouse. I forgot what I ordered, but Malissa got an amazing mac’n’cheese dish while the rim of my lemonade glass was dusted in sugar. I appreciate the attention to detail.

Arrive at the Casbah just in time to sound check. The Sermon had offered up their gear in exchange for the opening spots on the shows and we couldn’t really say no to that. The day before their van started smoking and they too had to rent a minivan (coupled with a spare truck they were also traveling in) to make the tour possible. Together we felt like soccer moms-in-arms.

We hadn’t played together as the Dirtbombs in about five months. First song at sound check was “What You’ve Got” a song that the band had never played live and only two of us (Mick and I) played on the recording of. I felt comfortable with it but Ko and Zack clearly have trouble making sense of Mick’s complete lack of a follow-able guitar. We then did “Underdog” and leave the stage because the doors were about to open.

First band was the Death Eaters. They may spell that with one word, but if they do, I wonder if they ever improperly addressed as the Deat Heaters? Or kids I knew in St. Louis called the Overtones…did they ever get called the Overt Ones? Or ’76 Kansas City punk unknowns the Vomitones…could anyone have ever called them the Vomit Ones? Oh the needless way my brain chooses to reinterpret band names.

Deat Heaters were a three-piece with a black guy singing lead and playing guitar, an Asian guy on bass and a white dude drumming. Someone made the wise observation that if you added a Mexican and another white dude that they could give the Dirtbombs a run for their money. I sincerely liked how they sounded and I don’t say that often about local openers. I was vaguely reminded of the Reigning Sound. They didn’t have a record. I believe they said they were working on it. Eagerly I await.

The Sermon sounded better than they ever have before. This was peculiar because I only recognized one band member and knew that one of the guitar players was on-loan just for these shows. Nevertheless, it felt as if what before could get caught up in intensity without much intention, this show echoed with effort and exaction. The dirge-y, “Dirt”-like ending tune was a welcome departure as well.

We made the point to actually write out setlists but that action notwithstanding, there really is nothing like jumping onstage with no rehearsal behind you. No net, no take-backs…or as Tom Petty would say, free-ballin’.

The performance was surprisingly acceptable. Upon starting “Wreck My Flow” I felt that the disco boots-pants beat on the hi-hat didn’t seem right. I stared at Pants and for the life of me could not figure out what was wrong. Halfway through I finally realized that I don’t play this song on the hi-hat. I play it on the rim of the snare drum. This was my only “duh” moment of the night.

Encored with the borrowed blue Ludwig Vistalites on the floor in the middle of the crowd as Pants stood over me (on the stage) pouring water all over them for impressive water spouts upon impact. Hands got all wet and resulted in dropped sticks. That shit's funny when you're the only one playing.

Post-show I met up with pal Davey who played in Tall Birds and was in town drum tech-ing for Modest Mouse. Intro’d me to Joe Plummer (MM drummer) who said we’ve met before. I couldn’t specifically remember, but he reminded me that he was at the White Stripes show at Al’s Bar in LA back in 2000. He was with his then-girlfriend Janet Weiss. They bought “Hello Operator” picture discs, Sleater-Kinney asked Jack and Meg to open for them not two months later and it was all downhill for the White Stripes from there.

Nearby Mick was talking with someone and beckoned me over. He said “Ben, meet Alex Chilton.” I was supremely caught off-guard. Member of the Box Tops and Big Star, producer of the Cramps and the Gories(!) and all I could muster was some limp conversation about, shit, it wasn’t about ANYTHING! I was so flustered that I dragged Mal over and she proceeded to have a better conversation with him than I could. Smooth move Ben.

I manned the min-van for the nighttime drive back to San Diego. I was getting a bit sleepy but was too proud to say so. A stop in Orange County found us at one of the three best gas stations in the US (in my opinion). That stop also recharged my constitution and I was easily able to drop off Zack at his friend’s place (where a pack of raccoons were literally climbing 12-foot-tall chain link fences) before the rest of us set up camp at In the Red headquarters in Eagle Rock.

Larry Hardy’s residence on Avenue 45 is the vinyl Valhalla vision in the barren wasteland that is Los Angeles. Mal and I crash in the Dave Katznelson Memorial suite, making this one of only two times at the residence where I failed to sleep on the couch. After about a dozen visits, that couch is part of my DNA (or is my DNA part of that couch?) and to see Ko sleeping on it, I won’t lie, I felt slightly betrayed.

The ability to sleep in the next morning was delightful. Mick, Ko, Pat, Mal and I walked up the street to Auntie Em’s for delectable edibles from Terri Wahl, previously punk who spent time in the Red Aunts and the Screws. The special that day was a lasagna (I think) and me and two of my tablemates all ordered it. We enjoyed it.

Back to Casa de Hardy. Pat scooted off with Mick and they dropped Ko off at her hotel. They went to a gallery doing a show of Polaroid photos. They’d planned to go to the Third Man Records pop-up store too, but somehow got sidetracked and ended up at Amoeba.

Mal and I met up with Steve Macdonald and his son Alfie. We made way to a surf shop in Pasadena in search of rash guard for Alfie’s first-ever swimming excursion the next day. They had no guards. We walked to Urban Outfitters and realized THEY didn’t have rash guards either. From a freeway overpass we marveled at the smoke plume from the wildfires in the distance.

After our QT with Steve and Alfie we went back to Larry’s. Malissa went to hang out with her friend Alia while Larry and I cruised to Hollywood to hang out with Bob Matheu.

Bob has just written the authorized biography of the Stooges. He enlisted me to write a review of Funhouse for the book. I thought it would be just for him to quote from (as he said, he was sick of all the reviews of the album from the era and wanted new words) so imagine my surprise as he shows me the book with my review printed in its entirety.

If that were not enough, alongside my words are the most absolutely stunning photo outtakes from the Funhouse sessions where Steve Mackay looks so damn foxy I feel that my heterosexuality is now negotiable. Add to that a pristine label scan of an Armed Forces Radio and Television Services LP (proudly mentioned in my review) and the whole thing is quite possibly my most favorite thing I’ve ever written. Please do search out the book, officially titled “The Stooges Authorized and Illustrated Story” as it is truly a treasure trove. Pre-order on Amazon today and save!

And if THAT were not enough, he also hipped our ears to some sonic Stooge delight the likes of which have not been heard in 30+ years. That’s all I’m fit to spill here, but let’s just say that there’s still PLENTY of solid material languishing in the vaults that should (hopefully) see a release sometime soon.

I’ve never had the luxury of seeing Larry Hardy so giddy. The original plan was for Larry to drop me off at the Echo and then double-back to Hollywood where he had dinner plans. As we listened to more and more Larry’s eye was increasingly fixated on the time. In what was welcomed desperation, Larry gave me $60 and said “I’ll PAY for your carbide to the Echo if it means I get an extra 15 minutes of listening to this stuff.” I happily obliged and was gracious enough to give him $20 back as the ride was $30 and change and I tipped the driver up to $40.

Brief soundcheck at the Echo and then chill time with my buddy Josh. He has an apartment right around the corner from the club so we hung there a bit before returning to eat pizza slices next door to the club. Not sure if it’s always this way, but the 7” jukebox in there was offering free plays. Naturally I played the Stooges.

Downstairs that evening was Conor Oberest and His Mystic Valley Band. The confusing/interesting thing about it is that the entrance for that club (the Echoplex) is around the corner and down the street from the entrance for the Echo. So more than a few confused fans walked up to the door for our show only to be directed down the block, across the street, down some stairs and back across the street to see Conor. The VIP’s for that show were allowed into the entrance of the Echo and led down a secret set of stairs to the Echoplex. I saw Jenny Lewis and Chloe Sevigny (separate) and couldn’t help but think Chloe’s ensemble was terribly outrageous in the most uninteresting way. Then I wondered if people actually like Conor Oberest’s music.

(although Dungen was opening the show, I made no effort to see them…figured owning the record was good enough and for a band playing that kind of music, the only time I’d seen them live it seemed sterile and rehearsed. I was hoping for more…jamming? I can’t believe I’m actually typing those words. Watching them play felt like jazz to me and that’s not meant as a compliment)

I missed openers Jail Weddings and the Sermon too. Turned out that as de facto tour manager I made a pretty huge goof-up. After LA, we had a day off to drive to San Francisco. The following day, Saturday, we would be performing at the Outside Lands Festival in SF at 12:45pm.

At some point in organizing the tour, the Sermon asked if we wanted to play a show on that Friday and if not, would we be fine if they did themselves? We chose to relish in our day off and had no problem with them booking their own show. Turns out I failed to notify the Sermon that we would still need their gear with us in San Francisco for a 10am load-in at Golden Gate park. And that kind of thing just ain’t possible when they’ve got a late gig in Santa Barbara the night before.

I sat on the curb outside the Echo feeling pretty fucked. As is my usual first instinct on those feelings, I called Kelley Stoltz. He didn’t answer, but I left a detailed message. Before I could even seriously begin to worry, Kelley called back, said he had a drum set and guitar amp we could use. He’d already been in touch with James Kim (his drummer) who proffered up another drum kit and a quick call to Kevin Ink (Stoltz’s bassist/engineer) and we were sorted with another guitar amp and a bass amp. All told, it took maybe twenty-five minutes to sort all that out.

Not that I really needed the reminding, but it was at this moment when I realized how dear and irreplaceable true friends are. I know I would’ve done the same thing for those guys in a heartbeat, but just that feeling of people sincerely making the effort to help us out…there’s absolutely no beating that.

Our set at the Echo was alright. Mic stand started to slide far below Mick’s mouth-level early on and none-other than Har Mar Superstar jumps up and straightens it out mid-song. I scream “anything to get on stage!” while he does so. No one hears it. I still think it’s hilarious.

Crowd seemed a bit thin throughout the performance. It remotely peppered my thoughts and made me feel a bit down. As soon as we start “I Can’t Stop Thinking About It” in the encore Pantano up-and-leaves his drum assignment to bring his kit onto the floor to play in the middle of the crowd. Sonofabitch stole my line. To fight fire with metaphorical fire I pulled my drums onto the floor as well and we ended the entire thing in sloppy, fan-pleasing fashion.

I was exhausted after the show. It was officially Pat’s birthday by this point and he was officially drunk. It was funny, if only because it seems like no one drinks in the band anymore. Load out was slow and steady and we eventually ended up at the Cha-Cha and ate from the fantastic taco truck parked outside there.

We drop off Ko at her hotel, Zack at his buddy’s and the rest of us slumber soundly at In the Red HQ. As per Pat’s b-day request (and thankfully ignoring his bidet request) we awoke early Friday morn to get on the road to SF. I ate some Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t recommend it.

Upon arrival in the Bay Area we dropped off Mick “Where am I Staying?” Collins and Pantano in the Duboce Triangle and made way to the Fisherman’s Wharf Sheraton where the rest of us had paid for rooms that eve. We dropped off Ko and Malissa while Zack and I went to go procure our replacement gear.

First to Hotel Phoenix to meet up with sometime tour manager Dorien who was helping with the whole fiasco in exchange for a pass to Outside Lands. From there to Stoltz’s crib in the Mission. Kelley wasn’t around, so we helped ourselves to the gear he so lovingly laid out for us. I was stretching to find a reason in which we’d need an original German Polydor pressing of Black Monk Time as I know Kelley has one, but we decided against DJ Lethal’s proposition for a live collab.

From Stoltz’s to the Studio That Time Forgot where Kevin Ink calls home. Bass and guitar amps later we were on our way to within hearing distance of Pearl Jam at Golden Gate Park to pick up James Kim’s silver sparkle tubs. I won’t lie in saying that I was really tempted to load-up his Roland synth drums instead and have Pantano work with those, but I relented.

The process of gathering all this gear felt like it took forever. It was dark by the time we returned to the Sheraton. Zack hopped out and I took the minivan to the underground parking and following directions from the attendant, head towards the back where there were more available spaces.

I happened upon a completely empty row of parking spots and with even though it seemed to be a secure underground parking structure, I surmised it was always best to back in when given the chance. What I hadn’t noticed was that these spots were actually underneath a ledge. So as I slowly inch my way back, waiting for the tires to hit the parking block or the bumper to hit the wall, I’m totally fucked.

Because of the ledge, the parking block is placed underneath, somewhere my back tires will never touch but makes absolute sense when parking the sensible front-first way. The back window spider web shattered quietly with a "pop" and remained mostly intact, surprisingly so as what I’d backed into was solid concrete.

For once I had to call Zack without some smart-assed quip. He said he could tell instantly, by the tone of my voice, that I wasn’t joking. So instead of meeting up with Pantano for his birthday, we pulled most of the gear out of the van (the rental place had some clause about not using it for moving cargo) and then drove the 25 minutes to the rental car place at San Francisco International airport, switching spots with Zack before we arrived because naturally he was the only one who was supposed to be driving.

(I’m sure had we followed those rules in the first place we wouldn’t be in this situation)

I sat in the van while Zack dealt with paperwork and crap inside. Just when I thought busting the window out was the clever way to get out of having to refill the gas tank he hops back in and says we need to fill up or pay the $4/gallon charge for them to do it.

We make a wrong turn and soon remembered that they make rental car lots so that you can’t leave without having to pass a security guard. We found ourselves at the mechanic’s station and they stared at us like we had penises on our foreheads.

After doubling-back and finally getting to the security guard we somewhat easily found the gas station we were directed to and filled up. Once back to the rental agency, we carefully switched the gear left inside to our new, identical minivan. After once-overing and double-checking that everything was out, Zack smart-assedly slammed the trunk HARD so as to rain fragments of tempered glass on the black concrete of the parking lot. This was WAY more punk than him breaking that Coca-Cola bottle in Germany.

Finally back at the hotel and looking back I wish we’d have parked in the same spot we busted the window in. Anygay, it seemed like the whole window replacement excursion took us 2 hours start-to-finish on our day off. Ko and Malissa were at some bar and soon arrived back with Mexican food for Zack and I. Passed out watching Fox News. Had nightmares.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sommet to Springwater, Green Day to Davila 666: A Comparative Study...

Some of the guys from Green Day were backstage at the Dead Weather show on Thursday. They were affable and conversational. This somehow translated into me and Swank finding ourselves at their sold-out Sommet Center gig the next evening.

Swank said he'd never been to a proper arena show (he did see Guns 'n' Roses at the Toledo Speedway on the Use Your Illusion tour, but that was outdoors) and was generally excited. I was intrigued and wondered if they could possibly keep my attention as occupied as New Kids on the Block did back in March.

First observation, before even entering the arena I had to acknowledge how many radio hits Green Day has had. Coupled with Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers, that magic trifecta is any brain dead modern rock radio programmer's go-to list. Seriously, any single released by any of those bands is a surefire playlist staple. With their ascent to acclaim coinciding with the emergence of modern rock as a viable format, all three acts have essentially been bankrolled by the massive publicity, quality of the work notwithstanding.

Openers were the Kaiser Chiefs. While performances in their home country find them headlining comparable-sized rooms and selling them out, the sensibility of US concertgoers has yet to have fallen to that level. I seriously cannot understand the fuss about them. I did find out that a line in their biggest single – "A friend of a friend got beaten" from "I Predict a Riot" – is actually written about Ben Swank. First the Von Bondies, then the Kaiser Chiefs…I'm wondering what else I can start blaming on him.

Missed Green Day's grand entrance while killing time backstage. Made way to the VIP riser behind the soundboard and staked my claim there.

What instantly became clear was that this concert, to me, seemed to have very little to do with the music. The performance leaned toward un-ironic spectacle. Whether it be Billie Joe Armstrong hopping offstage and running half-way up the lower bowl of the Sommet Center, the liberal use of pyrotechnics and subsonic charges, the extended drawn-out jamming of seemingly every song to facilitate preaching what felt like a canned message, bringing a fan onstage what seemed like every-other damned song…it was more of a lowest common denominator circus for those with undiscerning taste in rock and roll. There was no art…just artifice.

I took biggest offense at the "props" portion of the set where, in rapid succession, Armstrong:

1) used a Super Soaker-like weapon to douse the crowd with water
2) manned a redneck rigged device that unfurled two extra-length rolls of toilet paper into the audience
3) armed himself with a t-shirt cannon and began to launch tees to the farthest reaches of the Sommet Center

At this point, what had maintained mainly as a bad rock show had delved into pure pageant. The event had ceased to be about music. I could, surprisingly look past their addition of three additional musicians for the live show. I can, somehow, ignore the fact that they unrepentantly rip-off so much, from song titles ("Know Your Enemy" was originally Rage Against the Machine, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" was at least half a dozen other songs) to actual songs ("Warning" is the Kinks "Picture Book", "Hitchin' a Ride" is the Stray Cats' "Stray Cat Strut", "Brain Stew" is "25 or 6 to 4"). I could pay no attention to the outright pandering of bringing no less than five different members of the audience onstage (not at once, but all at different points) to stage dive, take over vocals, operate Super Soakers, et al. But dammit, if I wanted shit tossed incessantly into the audience I'd go to a fucking Gallagher show.

(Swank, on the other hand, seemed to think this was the part of the performance that elevated the night from "bad show" into "so-bad-it's-good-show")

Equally as inexcusable was the demands coming from the stage. EVERY-FUCKING-SONG required a clap-along, a coordinated waving of the arms over the head, a call-and-response vocal desperately trying to ape those of European football chants (or in one case, just chanting the classic "Ole' Ole'" tune itself) that more often than not sounded like limp renditions of "The Banana Boat Song."

In their defense, the songs off Dookie still resonate. "Longview" to "Basket Case" to "She" to "When I Come Around" all had me singing along, the words forever stuck in my brain. I remember first hearing about the band on a short-lived MTV show hosted by Kurt Loder called "Daily Dose" where they showed the vid for "Longview" and a clip of them touring in a bookmobile. I went out the next day and bought a cassette of Dookie. It seemed that the album didn't hit until a few months later, at which point I was already claiming to be a fan from "way back." Even at age 12 I was a snob.

I had a 24"x33" poster of the Dookie album cover in my bedroom back then. I strategically placed it at eye-level right next to my bed. While my interest in the band was nowhere near Nirvana-levels of fervor, that album cover provided countless hours of staring, laughing, dissecting and rapt attention where a poster of the In Utero album cover was on the wall as a matter of principle rather than entertainment. Fifteen years later you could say my intentions of attending a Green Day concert were the same as placing that poster next to my bed…I wanted to be entertained and despite their all-out attempt to do so, I think I would've just preferred something less flashy and a bit deeper. Like Nirvana.

I even remember girls in middle school prank calling my house while I wasn't there. When I asked my brother what they said, he replied "They asked 'is the fritter fat boy there?' and then immediately hung up." The "fritter frat boy" is in reference to a cop depicted on the cover of the album. Why do I remember these things?

I remember because in a time where MTV was my only significant exposure to new music Green Day stuck out as something different. The shenanigans of a mud fight at Woodstock '94 were like crack to a 12-year-old by trying to be benignly deviant. Seeing Armstrong play his baby blue Fernandes "BJ" Strat (the same one used at the Woodstock gig) put a smile on my face. I respect those who stick with a specific model for ages…Willie Nelson and his 40 years with Trigger, Mick Collins and twentysome years with his Kent Videocaster…I guess I just never expected a performer of Billy Joe's ilk to hold on to something very long. It's refreshing to see otherwise.
We went backstage without watching the end of the set or either of the two encores. Why was I not surprised to see that they ended it all with "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)?"

Instead Swank and I rolled over to the Springwater. The room was packed and we arrived just in time to see Jeff the Brotherhood take the stage. It seems like these guys just keep getting better. I love the three-stringed guitar that actually sounds MORE full than a six-string one. I like it that Jake seems to be singing more. I adore the fact that they remind me of a more tune-driven version of the Melvins (which is by no means a slight on the Melvins) and I can wholeheartedly endorse their upcoming Heavy Damage album as riff after totally-bitching riff of must-hear quality.

Next up was Davila 666 from Puerto Rico. I had the album but had yet to listen to it. There was an instant feeling of kinship with them as we are label-mates. For people who aren't on labels or don't have the benefit of being on one they love as much as I love In the Red, I guess I'd compare it to being an older brother. You want to look after the younger bands on the label. You want to go to their shows and support them, buy their 7"s, pay the cover and make sure they're taken-care-of on the road. The fact that I'd never met them made no difference. Once you are part of the In the Red family, there's an unspoken bond I feel that, while difficult to explain, definitely exists.

These six guys, all looking like characters I knew from my days of baseball in Southwest Detroit, utterly smoked the place. Sure there were long pauses between songs. Sure the feedback was squeal-y and unrelenting. Sure they were mostly out-of-tune. But the all-around solid performance coupled with a downright explosive crowd reaction and all I could do was be excited for the band.

I can't imagine what kind of notions one has of the States coming from Puerto Rico. As I stood there, watching the mayhem and interaction, the CLOSENESS of it all, I wished to be in Davila 666's position. I can't imagine they pegged Nashville for being an exciting place to play, because, for most bands, it's not. Instead, they're greeted with what arguably has to be the best response they've received in this country. I was excited FOR them, just imagining the happiness and joy (and drugs and girls probably) swirling around their heads. Collective calls of "uno mas!" were met with an encore. The whole thing felt special.

Turbo Fruits had the unenviable task of following that blast and they did so with poise. While the new rhythm section still doesn't have tons of miles backing Jonas Stein, they're already on their way to becoming his best assortment of players yet. Barring any disastrous mistakes, I can't see how the newest Fruits material could be denied by anyone whether it be live, on record or in theory. The Turbo Fruits are scary good.

The evening's two shows were oddly similar. Davila and Green Day were clearly both intent on having fun but that manifested itself in different ways. Every band wanted a connection with the audience, but a dank bar and massive arena don't facilitate those connections in the same way. As much as I disliked it, I cannot blame Green Day for their actions. They are merely filling a need. They're not evil…they're just not for me. I'll take the smoky bar over the arena any day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Two Weeks of Thoughts on Sonic Youth...

What does one hipster who was too cool to scam tix to a Sonic Youth show say to the still-die-hard fan who attended with ducats purchased from an online presale via Ticketmaster the instant they went on-sale?

"What old songs did they play?"

Having attended Sonic Youth concerts for over a decade now, I hate to admit it, but this is generally how I'd rate any Sonic Youth show I've ever been to.

On the Thousand Leaves tour I was excited because they ended the set with "Death Valley '69." Everything else was from A Thousand Leaves or the relevant SYR releases of the period.

I should have known better and learned my lesson then.

Every subsequent show has been judged solely on the back-catalog tunes they played. Murray Street tour was alright because they ended the show with "Making the Nature Scene" and Sonic Nurse was cool because they jammed on "Inhuman" with a bunch of Detroit noise dudes.

As a musician, I can understand their position. Anytime you have new songs, those almost instantly become your most favorite to perform live. But as seems to be common-knowledge now, Kim Gordon has declared herself all but finished with playing bass on new Sonic Youth recordings.

So with Mark Ibold (and prior to him, Jim O'Rourke) taking the majority of the bass duty, that leaves fewer and fewer instances where Kim plays bass, ie, does old songs. I actually think that such a bold artistic statement, 20+ years into her musical career, is exciting. It's as if Picasso, at age 65, would have said "I am completely done with paint."

Part of you would think "Well, his other mediums may become even better" while you could just as easily counter with "But you're such a damn good painter!"

The show in Detroit was a let-down, but only because I couldn't get into the old songs they played. I've been listening to The Eternal intently and I'm into it, but I know exactly what to expect from those songs live. There seems to be no experimentation or spontaneity to them. So when their set completely ignores 19 years of their career (1989-2008) I feel that I have ample reason to complain.

Nothing off of Goo, Dirty, Jet-Set, Washing Machine, A Thousand Leaves, NYC Ghosts and Flowers, Murray Street, Sonic Nurse or Rather Ripped. To me, that was appalling. They leaned too heavily on Daydream Nation tracks, unsurprisingly so as it was an album they toured playing in its entirety last year, augmented by "PCH" and "Catholic Block" from Sister and "World Looks Red" from Confusion.

The entire show felt like Sonic Youth cruise control.

But such is the problem when you're an artist with such an enviable back-catalog. SY could easily tour and play nothing but the "hits" and the fans would eat it up. To play the new material still cultivates new fans (and young fans) while old-timers like myself sit here and gripe.

The discouraging part is that it feels like it's eliminated some of the mystique. Sonic Youth is still sacred to me. I still place a lot of faith in them. So when it feels like I've solved a bit of the mystery (ie, we go on tour, play the new album and a handful of old songs) it hurts. I wish it felt a bit more spontaneous, more experimental, more boundary-pushing. The more I dwell on it, the more The Eternal feels completely predictable. It feels like any of that truly wild vibe of the band now finds it outlet in Thurston's noise endeavors.

It's frustrating to feel like I've figured them out, able to predicted their moves, their plans telegraphed….like seeing a magician a few too many times to the point of where you know how he pulls it off. You'll still go to see him every time he comes to town, but you will only leave the show with disappointment that he doesn't wow you like he used to.

But what a difference two weeks makes.

While being clearly bummed about the SY Detroit show, I'd still held out hope for Nashville. I'd managed to finish their "Goodbye 20th Century" biography the day of the show and that felt like some cosmic connection and gave me good vibes.

Even though we arrived 3-4 songs into the set, the vibe was immediately liberating. And as if they'd read my mind, they really did destroy it with the old songs they pulled out. "White Kross", "Shadow of a Doubt", " PCH" (again) and decidedly little off of Daydream, an overrated album if there ever was one.

To top it all off, they ended the set with "Death Valley '69" and it was, dare I say, heavenly. The way the breakdown slowly builds up, rumbles along with the vocals errantly yelping "hit it" and culminates back into the undeniable chorus…it was all teenaged blissful passion bursting through a song about cult murders.

What become more apparent was that while again their set excluded everything from Goo through Rather Ripped (as most of their sets have this year) it finally clicked that all of those albums were released by big, corporate, major labels. Kim's bass disinterest/tendonitis notwithstanding, I think this is a subtle message. Maybe they're saying fuck major labels. Maybe they're saying "free at last, free at last…" Maybe they're not saying anything. That's the beauty of a band who's been around forever…it's so easy to discriminate every last bit of minutiae and foist some self-determined importance to it. It gives hacks like me something to write about at the very least.

Each proper Sonic Youth set was followed by a hush-hush after-show appearance by Thurston at a separate location. In Detroit, the show was in a sweaty basement filled with smelly noise dudes. You had to know the password to get in (for us it was "John Olson") and it was just as much a bummer as the SY gig.

The room was 90% dudes. Thurston would yell something at the opening band, for example "Dudes" and then EVERYONE would start chanting "DUDES! DUDES! DUDES! DUDES!" coupled with a scary raucous banging on the heating/cooling ducts overhead. The few girls in the room were yelling "Kiss him!" but could not be heard over the din.

It was frustrating because, just like the Sonic Youth show, I really wanted to like it. But it was completely formless. Noise music can be so mercurial. I personally LOVE so much of what comes hand-in-hand with that scene… the artwork, the writing/reviews/label copy, frequency/randomness/locations of shows, catering to collectors, hand-made copies…all that stuff is completely up my alley.

But the music is so hit-or-miss. A friend came up to me in the middle of it all and said "There's no way you can possibly like this" and I had no counter to his statement. The curious thing about it all was that with certain people, saying you saw an unannounced Thurston noise performance would carry some sort of bragging rights. .But the people who would be impressed by such a claim are the exact same people who would not be able to stomach 5 minutes of his performance that night, an uninspiring coupling with Greh of Hive Mind.

It was quite funny seeing the tour bus on 11 Mile at 2am, unable to make the turn down the quiet, Royal Oak street where the performance went down. Apparently the tour manager literally had to run down the street to grab Moore and Ibold and get them on the bus.

But the hush-hush noise gig in Nashville was so fucking exciting. Thurston and Leslie Keffer squealed unholy feedback in the sports bar confines of Betty's Bar. It was exactly what noise music needs to be…scary, loud, unpredictable and confrontational. At one point the sole power strip connecting all the amps/pedals/electronics got switched off. Both Thurston and Leslie stopped sheepishly and slowly made moves to get things going again.

I took a breather outside and when I came back in both of them were on the floor in the middle of the crowd, Thurston with a long-haired bandana-wearing bumpkin on his back and Keffer with her evening gown almost over her head, exposing her "not cute" (her words) underwear. They were quick, they were engaging and they left everyone in the room entertained.

Afterwards I approached Thurston and said "That was way better than your show in Detroit."

He responded simply, "Yeah…it definitely was."

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Gories: Still the Same After Sixteen Years...

The Gories were sublime.

I'd formed a little thought in my head on the drive from Nashville to Memphis. I was hoping the Gories (who were supposedly going into the show with only one rehearsal under their belts) wouldn't be too bad. Everyone's heard the stories of their inability to play in tune, play in time or just simply start and finish songs at the same moment. Going into their two shows this past weekend I couldn't help but hope that I would at least recognize the songs through the caterwaul.

At the same time, there were grumblings among the super-snooty of not wanting to attend the show because "Mick knows how to play guitar now." Having a vague understanding of that statement myself I could understand where it comes from. The guy generally has his shit under control in the Dirtbombs and it'd be easy to ascribe that ease to the Gories.

So when Dan Kroha came up to me after the show and asked, as the utmost Gories super-fan (as big a highlight as any for me on that particular eve) what I thought, I felt happy and confident in saying "You weren't worse than you needed to be and you weren't better than you were supposed to be." To make the statement a little more clear, I say the Gories were perfect.

From the opening primitive three-chord rumble of "Nautiloid Reef" I was agog in disbelief. I'd been waiting at least ten years to witness Dan, Mick and Peg onstage together, most of the time believing full-well that there wasn't a chance in hell for it to happen. Others had waited longer…Larry Hardy who started In the Red Records with the sole intention of putting out a Gories 7" back in 1991 had never seen the band perform. Others had come farther…there were whispers of some dedicated soul who'd flown all the way from Brisbane, Australia for the performance. And I don't think he was disappointed.

Sure Mick's voice was totally blown out to Blacktop proportions and Dan sang a few of the tunes his pipes couldn't handle. There was significant downtime between songs with repeated requests for duct tape for Peg's hands and drums. There were definitely fuck-ups and the laughing and attempts to correct them were endearing. All of this was necessary and almost fail-safe.

With such roadblocks all those uninitiated to the Gories live experience (ie, most everyone there) got exactly what they would have back in 1988. That is, a balancing act, a band completely capable of being transcendent and terrible within the context of the same song.

Mick played Jack Yarber's Fender Jaguar. I missed the classic Kent Videocaster, but his sound is his sound regardless of axe and it was cute seeing him and Kroha play matching guitars. Dan did the blown-out harmonica on "You Don't Love Me" and surfed into the crowd like a rock star. They bungled the intro to "View From Here" while Mick's vocals took on a never-before-detected sense of "me against the world" that imbued the song with so much fist-in-the-air rah-rah that I just smiled as I, along with the rest of the crowd, ended the couplet "One of these days, I'm gonna shout, won't somebody open the world up" with a gutteral "AND LET ME OUT!"

I was in the middle of the crowd, dancing like a fool, sweating my ass off, happy as a clam.

Missed the first three songs on Saturday night. The Gories went on at least a half-hour earlier than they had on Friday. They played a fairly different set too…tossing in their cover of the Iguanas "Again and Again" and adding "Detroit Breakdown" and "Ghostrider" which I was secretly longing for. As Friday was a long time coming and a long night living, Saturday experienced a noticeable downturn in crowd enthusiasm, save for the crowd's rapturous replies to Mick's call in "Thunderbird ESQ."

The fifteen-year-old in me favored the debut performance Friday while the record collector in me preferred Saturday's performance. But with Mick pledging to have his voice in full-form for the show at the Majestic this week, coupled with a sold-out crowd of 1000+ and the Gories going on last and it's the Detroit show that I'm near-certain will be the tops of the US gigs.

Below is a list of all the songs, by album, I recall the Gories playing over the two nights. Also included is a probably never heard-before live version of the Motown classic "Leavin Here" as done by the Gories in Paris, France back on June 5th, 1992. Enjoy.

I Think I've Had It
Charm Bag
Boogie Chillin
I'll Go
Hidden Charms
Sovereignty Flight

Detroit Breakdown
Thunderbird ESQ
Let Your Daddy Ride
View From Here

To Find Out
You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)
Again and Again
Baby Say Unh!

Nautiloid Reef
Train Kept a Rollin'

Gimme Some Money

The Gories "Leavin Here" Live in Paris 6-5-1992

Monday, June 01, 2009

DJ Set for the Turbo Fruits Shindig...

With Swank by my side, here's the shit I played (vinyl-style) with only one working turntable. That made song-to-song transitions an exercise in dexterity. An original Checker pressing of Bill and Will's "Goin' to the River" was the only record completely snapped in half and left unplayable.

Sides one and two of "Wild Things" compilation LP
Mountains and Rainbows – Knock You Out
The Jesters of Newport – Stormy
The Orange Wedge – From the Womb to the Tomb
Link Wray - Hidden Charms
Roy Head – Just a Little Bit
The Dead Weather – I Cut Like a Buffalo
The Horrors - Shadazz
A Number of Names – Sharevari
Viva L'American Death Ray Music – Dub SS
The Fabs – That's the Bag I'm In
The Glass Sun – Stick Over Me
The Black Lips – Born to Be a Man
Gardens – All is School, All are Teachers
Jay Reatard – Gamma Ray
Randy and the Radiants – My Way of Thinking
Dick Rabbit – Love
The Treniers – Poon Tang
Death – Politicians in My Eyes
Detroit Grand Pubahs – Sandwiches (Bloated Evil Bread Dub)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From a White Stripes Book Proposal That *Almost* Got Accepted...

Below is my just-missed-it proposal for Continuum's 33 1/3rd series. Out of 527 proposals, I made it to the final 27 and they ended up selecting only 10 titles. If anyone runs a publishing company and is looking to hand out a royalty advance, I'm listening.

No other band from the turn of the century has been more mythologized or misunderstood than the White Stripes. The red and white-clad duo from Detroit was thrust to the forefront of the nascent "garage rock" revival of 2001 with the likes of such bands as the Strokes, the Hives and the Vines. In the name of a "return to rock" the White Stripes right-place-at-the-right-time 3rd album White Blood Cells was critically acclaimed the world over and introduced the band to an overly receptive international audience that would only grow exponentially in the years to come.

The Michel Gondry Lego-fied clip for "Fell in Love with a Girl", John Peel's exulting praise on the BBC and the subsequent blistering live sessions recorded at Maida Vale, the band's turning down of a cover shoot for almighty NME magazine (only to have a live shot used without their approval)…these are just a myriad of the well-tread, good copy stories that are frequently and without thought repeated ad nauseam in the telling of the tale explaining the success of White Blood Cells.

To that I say, you've not even scratched the surface.

What really gets me excited is that there's so much more about White Blood Cells that's never been told, never been dug up and exposed to the ripe air of peering eyes and inquisitive minds. Information (hardcore facts…pure provable FACTS) that only add a complex back-story to the narrative being told by the lyrics and melodies we're all familiar with. Stories about its creation (the band crashing on the couches and floor of a cluttered Memphis apartment during recording), the touring (a near-riot in Missoula, $15,000 cash locked in a hotel safe in LA with no way to retrieve it) and the drama (being kicked out of the actual Hotel Yorba by a hammer-wielding employee while trying to shoot a music video there) are all, whether you're familiar with the band or not, intriguing to the point of enjoyment regardless and unattached to one's opinions on the actual music.

I'm amazed no one ever brings up the fact that HALF the songs on this album originated in various musical outfits Jack White inhabited through the late-Nineties in Detroit, mutating and adapting with each different group that tackled them. Whether it was as a sideman in Two Star Tabernacle, a country-gospel-rock band (think the Gun Club meets Hank Williams' "Luke the Drifter") that debuted the album's first single "Hotel Yorba" and stellar "Now Mary" a good four years before they'd ever see release - OR - his very own take on Dylan with the Band (Jack White and the Bricks) that debuted "I Can't Wait" and "Offend in Every Way" in their brief, six-show existence in Detroit in the summer months of 1999.

And no one even seems to know that a song like "I Can Learn" had been performed at the White Stripes' first live performance in 1997 or that "Dead Leaves…" had been kicking around in their arsenal since 1998. In short, I hope to portray how White Blood Cells is the brilliant fusion of the musical detritus that'd been collecting in Jack White's brain for years equally coupled with his ever-expanding and expressive brand new compositions.

People gloss over the fact that such White Stripes touchstones as cover songs, guest musicians, blues music and guitar solos are all literally non-existent on this album. This may seem small, petty or insignificant, but when only one other White Stripes album is lacking only ONE of these components (Get Behind Me Satan has no covers), it makes it all the bit more peculiar and intriguing. White Blood Cells, while being most people's introduction to the band, is seemingly the least "White Stripes" White Stripes album.

And no one outside a small circle of those closest to the band are even aware of the absolute legal shit-storm that resulted with their record label, Sympathy for the Record Industry, upon the severe non-payment of royalties on sales for and the band's resultant leap to major labels XL and V2.

I've interviewed both Jack White solo (for an in-depth feature in Plan B magazine in 2003) and the band together (as part of an upcoming, feature-length documentary) as well as having penned the track-by-track liner-notes to their Under Blackpool Lights concert DVD. I have an established rapport with both band members that already has them committed to speak with me at great length about anything and everything in regards to White Blood Cells and the surrounding hysteria.

While band involvement is by no means anything unheard of in 33 1/3rd territory, let it be known that of the no less than seven books written about the White Stripes, neither Jack nor Meg have participated in any aspect of any of them. With their involvement it's painfully clear that this book will contain heretofore unimagined insight, musings and involvement the likes of which White Stripes fans (whether they be die-hard or casual) will salivate at the hope of. Conversely, even readers completely uninitiated to the band will simply be better informed because of it.

With their pledged participation, I've also been granted access into Jack White's personal archive of the band. From the daunting MOUNDS of press clippings (White Blood Cells was the first time the band would employ a publicist) from the era to unreleased live recordings, personal photographs and everything else imaginable, the availability of this trove will not only help to strengthen my own knowledge of the band, but it will help cut my time spent on research considerably.

Of most supreme historical importance is hours upon hours of video footage shot of the band in-studio while recording White Blood Cells. While previously only rumored to exist, the availability of said tapes will open a virtually untapped portrait of the band…that is, how they operate, interact and get along in the ever-mystifying studio setting.

As if their help were not enough, I've established strong connections with many others involved in the making of this record. David Swanson (filmographer of the sessions), Patrick Pantano (album cover photographer) Jack Yarber and Nick Ray (friends who's floor the band crashed on while recording), Chloe Walsh (the band's publicist), Ian Montone (the band's lawyer and subsequent manager) John Baker (tour manager) and no less than fifteen others.

As it stands, White Blood Cells is a quirk in the band's catalog that is deserving of deeper critical analysis and exposure. While access to the trove of above-mentioned raw information to the band is crucial, the ability to synthesize and present that information without boring, confusing or pandering to the reader will be a paramount goal of the utmost importance. It is my intention to cut through the rampant mythology and misunderstanding of everything surrounding them and this record and simply portray what a truly outstanding piece of modern musical achievement it really is.

The best way to do so is to simply let this smattering of 16 seemingly disparate songs guide the story. Each song's genesis, whether it be in 1997 with Two Star Tabernacle, the White Stripes in 2001 or whatever, will be its starting point and it will all be chronologically pieced together with the main focus being each composition's studio completion. From there, due attention will be paid to the resultant touring, press mania, video shoots, legal wrangling and surrounding hubbub that helps complete the picture of how this album (and more so this band) truly connected to its audience.

I've been following the White Stripes since 1997 and have dedicated more time, energy and manpower hours to the band than any sane person should to ANY endeavor that doesn't result in marriage or birth.

I completed three years of journalism studies at Wayne State University before leaving to tour in the Dirtbombs. Because of my journalistic training, I tend to focus on facts, anecdotes, and first-hand quotes in my writing rather than observations, stream-of-consciousness, feelings or any of that other flowery hippie bunk that behooved Lester Bangs but has severely hampered any subsequent rock writers.

Since leaving college, I've had my writing featured in publications as varied as Ugly Things, SF Weekly, Plan B, NME, Chunklet, Creem Online, the Stranger and Careless Talk Costs Lives. I also won Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 college journalism award for a tour diary I wrote about the Dirtbombs' trip to South-By-Southwest that year.

The reason I think I'm most qualified to write a book about the White Stripes is that I've always intended on doing so. From the early days sneaking into dank Detroit bars, collecting set lists and photocopied flyers off the wall on school nights all the way through worldwide tours, platinum records and TV appearances, I've stood by. Studiously keeping my own archive and mentally filing away every last bit of informational flotsam and jetsam, this band is my life.

The problem is…I've never known quite how to best frame my own personal experiences with the band in terms of writing. It's always felt too massive or too complex for me to even begin to digest or tackle.

The possibility of a 33 1/3rd book was like a beacon from heaven. I don't need to worry about or focus on the band's early years or any tabloid fodder. That's a different story for a different time. The story that I can tell is that of a band caught right on the precipice of decent indie rock notoriety teetering onto outright worldwide recognition…roughly, from the time of recording White Blood Cells in February 2001 until touring of the record ceased in October of 2002, with two triumphant gigs opening for the Rolling Stones and a performance on Saturday Night Live.

I think most famous artists will agree that the most exciting period of their careers was that precipice…when things just started to pick-up, where each day held a fresh, new and usually surreal experience that, after awhile, could (or would) easily become rote and commonplace. And that is why although I think Icky Thump is their best record, Elephant the fan-favorite and Get Behind Me Satan the most shrouded in mystery, White Blood Cells is the exciting record, the one most-deserving to be fleshed-out into a cohesive, well-informed book.