Monday, January 31, 2011

Couch Dive Floor Surf

I had made a vow to Milwaukee to return and give better than the last time.

At the bar, pulled up to a chair bred from the 70’s, grandmother approved wall paper, and an Old Style logo crowning the back shelf, the kid couldn’t stop talking about the show. He’s one of the 100 that attended the 1/3 filled Miramar Theatre that night and nabbed a mixtape off the merch table. They’re free, but better when someone actually takes it rather than me giving it to them. There’s motive, interest, pure curiosity to someone approaching the table and taking something from it… but it didn’t stop there for him.

“You. You’re doin’ what you love, what you’re passionate for. I fuckin’ hate my job. I don’t even know what my fuckin’ calling is man. Fuck it- wanna take a shot?” At that point, it’d be disrespectful and spit-in-the-face insulting to turn’em down. I take the shot, he continues, but a piece of me absolutely cringes and quivers at his quick disposal of a life calling. Kid’s got it somewhere in’em. Has to. There’s no way you showed up to this house party without a purpose. Maybe someone, or perhaps something told him different, blanked the idea of following his gut. He suggests another shot, I say I have to get going, he digs into his pocket. Christ, this is it, he’s gonna pull the knife that does me in. Fuck, I shouldn’t’ve turned down his proposal for a 2nd shot. Brandy is religion in this state, Toussaint. They’re God, Aaron Rodgers, is on a run and you’re turning down their offering to celebrate.

He pulls five dollars from his pocket, pushes the wad into my chest, “Here man, here, take this shit, dude”.

“I’m not gonna turn you down, but what’s this for?”, I ask.

“I’ve downloaded way too much of your shit to not be givin’ you something in return. I’m sorry, man”.

This is criminal. Not only does this guy think I’m cooler than I actually am, but he also thinks downloading our music off the net for free could somehow piss me off. Homie, the dough’s at the door, not in the disc. Selling music only profits when you’re pushin’ 10,000 units in a month or so. At that point, you’re making long doe… I still take his 5 bucks. That’s half a meal, a gallon and a half of gas, it’s something. Above all, that’s someone taking a genuine stake in your business. He didn’t need to give me anything, but he did. Perhaps out of guilt, but in the grand scheme: him and I have wound up at this old-time bar discussing underground hip-hop, business, and politics; exchanging an appreciation for each other’s time. We depart, I’ll see him at the after party at the Red Room. TJ says they serve 40’s… at the bar. I must attend just to see it.

Headed back to the green room, DJ Double Drop is cozied up to a gal. Model-build, blonde hair, one-piece skirt and tall boots, she’s visibly drunk. Everyone in the green room doles their attention to each intoxicated phrase she conjures. It’s entertaining- “Hey, I want that shirt”, she declares, leaning back eyeing me like a piece of meat (women can do it too, don't look surprised).

“Uh, sorry. I got it from New Orleans, it’s not for sale”, I grin back.

“I’ll give you my shirt, if you gimme yours”, she glamours.

“OOOOOOoooooooooooooohhhhhhhh”, the room erupts with a manly burst of vowels. I decline the offer. Not that I’m above it, it’s just that a few things are on my mind, and getting promiscuous in Wisconsin doesn’t entertain the shoes I’m trying to fill (key word: TRYING). F---n hell John- we got three days left in this state. I get lost now, we won’t make it to Oshkosh, the bread maker for this trip.

If I wasn’t moving to LA in several months, I’d move to Milwaukee. I love the town, musicians click for support, not out of competition. Radio stations are accessible, whereas 89.3 in Minneapolis is as elusive as street cred. Never had the knack for getting their attention, let alone Radio K’s. However, with Milwaukee, 88.9 and two other college radio stations got back to me in a jiff. Aside from all that, sitting back with old roomie Jon, soon-to-be doctor, TJ working the blue collar holler, and several other kids I keep frequent with, is a beautiful thing. Perhaps I like it because I’ve successfully tricked these people into thinking I’m cool… na, couldn’t be that, they would’ve caught on by now;)

Love the city, love my friends in the city…. perhaps a calling is as simple as that. Show posters, facebook events, cd’s go to the garbage, get lost in the shuffle, or decompose at some point. Bein’ able to show up to any city in the country and round up a crew and a conversation in a couple of days… I would like to think is my path. I’ve been down with these folks since we met on Mifflin St. back in ’04. I’m just happy to still be doing this… able to give them something in return for all the support and love… like any friendship.

We finish our 40’s at the bar (there I said it), and high tailed it back to Brady St. for pizza at Crisp. Like a traveling circus singing, yelling, laughing through the streets, we blended into the 3:30am traffic of pedestrians perfectly. Finally steered the turbulent voyage to nab the first couch at DJ Double Drop’s house. Slumber... for 3 hours. Wake up and do it all over again... in a different city.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brady St. Romance

Last time we were here, I woke up at a friend’s apartment on Prospect Ave. Took a wrong turn, and wound up trekking an hour long excursion to get back to our contact’s house. That’s how it works for us in Milwaukee, we all wake up in different corners of the city and convene back at Mike’s on Brady St. One morning after, I woke up on Prospect at my friend’s, skirted to Mike’s, picked up Linden, drove to Andrew and gave him directions to our next tour venue, and then rolled all the way to Wawautosa to pick up Pat and Todd at their friends house (totally misspelled that, but you’ll have to forgive me while I have no internet in this moving car). C’mon, let’s be adults for a second, when I say we “wind up in different corners of the city after the show”, it’s usually credited to an after-party, sleep deprivation, making new friends ("friends" I’ll let you figure that out), or an after party.

Homie… please… don’t get it twisted, absolutely nothing luxurious about life on the road, however it is humbling. You meet people you would’ve never met had you stayed in your bubble and kicked out the weekend within your usual parameters. Chattin’ with a gal last night about deal breakers in a relationship-

(Wow, just passed Tomah on this road trip. Totally told Lauren to stop when we get to Tomah, so I could get a hold of this badass cinnamon roll they make in Tomah. Just looked up from typing, “Hey Lauren, have we hit Tomah yet”? “Oh, yeah, we just passed it”, says Lauren. Again, wow, perhaps “stop when we get to Tomah” means something totally different to Lauren than it does to me. Perhaps she’s on selective listening mode, as if she completely screened what I said like a phone call from someone you have absolutely no inclination of talking to… nice, Lauren, nice.)

Anyways, chattin’ with this gal at the coffeeshop last night , we were talking about deal breakers. She slated a few, but one I’ve been thinking about for some time is a partner having a problem with me traveling, couch surfing, not showering for days in a row… and most of all having a problem with me not having a problem with toughing it out on tour. Something about being on your time, not having a day-job, providing for yourself without a boss to answer to, seems to freak people out… significant others included.

Last time we were headed in this direction, I was chunkin’ out 90 bucks-a-tank for gas, prayin’ the brakes wouldn’t give out, and an audience member to the addictive dice-rolling gamble game partook by the other bandmates. The short bus we used to drive around in, isn’t dead… yet, but it damn well can’t take the road like it used to.

Things are different now… to put it mildly. We’re working with different band members, long-term growth, and a goal. That’s not to say we weren’t dealing with some kind of long-term direction before, but it’s to say that things are different… for the better. Thought about contactin’ the old bass player. Shot a text “Hey, what’re you up to this weekend”, he hit me back, “Workin’ Friday, but if it’s something exciting then I’d be down”… meh, there’s your problem right there. Kid’s got hella talent, and doesn’t wanna tour unless it’s something within his standards of “exciting”. He’s totally justified and I don’t blame him, but in a group dynamic, that type of attitude is the kiss of death.

And here we are; Eli with camera in hand, Lauren dancing to Michael Jackson while driving, and my ass cramped in the back seat next to a box of t-shirts that’re ‘bout to sell like the dickens. There's only several places in the world I can step on the street and feel like dancing relative to a musical... one of those places is Brady St. When you walk down Humbolt Ave, take a right on Brady, the picture opens up like a pop-up book from 2nd grade. All of a sudden, I wanna grab the nearest dame by the hand and hip, begin fox trotting down the sidewalk and singing Jesus Christ Superstar (say "wow, he really is f----ng weird" here). While fox trotting the snow filled streets, folks enter from the side streets banging on garbage cans, break dancing, singing at the tops of their diaphragms, etc. Only New Orleans, Segovia, Sevilla, SanFran, and the city we're headed to have that affect on me. Beautious.

Yeah, just made that word up (beautious), and'll make plenty more by Sunday morning.

Kid please… I dare Milwaukee to be anything less than exciting.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How To: K. Raydio

If Shirani cried “wolf”, I’d get a shotgun. If Shirani said the sky was falling, I’d shoplift an umbrella. If Shirani said there were WMD’s in Iraq, I’d move to Canada. Her word is bond, and when she posts on my facebook wall to check out her friend from high school gone singer/songwriter… then yeah, I’m gonna check it out.

The evening I clicked a music reference from my long-time theatre accomplice, Shirani, I got jealous. The link lead me to a bandcamp site for a gal by the name of K. Raydio. The cover picture looked professional, happy, carefree, as if to say “I know what I’m doing, and if you happen to think differently… I’ll still be smiling.”

Sunlight bouncing from the arches of her curly hair, freckle-dotted cheeks, and again with that smile… Who is this woman? Her font’s cooler than mine, her picture looks edited, placed, and shot to perfection, and here I am already jealous without having heard a single decibel from the woman. So I listen… the feeling sinks deeper, gets worse, turns anxious. Who made her beats? I must have them. I need to call Jake, have him listen to this, and vow to make better. We need to up our game. Who is this K. Raydio, where the f did she come from, and why is everything on this page infinitely cooler than anything I’ve conducted in the past several years? I’m beat.

I listen more. Erykah Badu? Na, Erykah’s voice isn't as full as this. What about that one chick that sang with the all-star Moulin Rouge song… Pink, Christina, Lil Kim, and – damn, what was her name? Na, her voice is more innocent than this. It sounds like something I’ve heard before, and then again nothing I’ve heard before. Sounds like she’s just coming into her own, and yet been here long enough to emphasize a story within a simple phrase.

Say, would ya say, would ya say, would  ya say… Say, would ya say, would ya say, would ya say I’m the other… The significant other.

A break-up. Something happened (Duh, Toussaint). Something about a frayed relationship. Perhaps a relationship that never had a chance, paced in the gray for too long, never grew to it’s full potential and only ever had a chance in the hands of a songstress to write it out. Maybe the poor chap broke K’s heart- left her at the dance, at the dorm, at the bar, left her somewhere between a promise and first sight (Mind you, I’m listening to the first  20 seconds of her bandcamp, a track titled “Intro”).

My jealousy subsided. Pride back in check, per usual these days, and I listen again… and again… and again... and again…

Hmm, the recordings are great, kick ass, magnifique, but how would she hold up at a live performance. The thing with these songstresses are they make a killing in the studio (vocode, pitch shifted, 2nd 4th 8th take), but in concert they flake. Open mics, live exhibitions, SXSW even… I’ve watched more female vocalists choke in my lifetime than I’d ever want to go through in 10 lifetimes. It’s part of the job to watch acts go live and crash, or go live and fly, either way I always get nervous to watch.  I cringe, my eyes wince, like biting into lima beans for the first time or taking a pull of hard liquor for the 5th time… or both at the same time… in the end, I walk out on a perfectly shitty act clashing sharps and flats in a multitude of head-on collisions, or stick around for a talented artist that can wail on that SM58 microphone ‘til the cows come home.

The night came. Twas inevitable. I booked K. Raydio for a slot at the Prof show. This would serve as a potential night at the Apollo for her. The crowd of Prof devotees, hip-hop stressed heads, and music- aficionados would deem her unworthy of their attention and turn for the bar, or take the classic Minnesotan-audience action to any hot beat or danceable tune… and stand there. I’ve toured the country several times and back, and as much as I love my hometown, there’s no other state that gets down less than here… sadly. In Chicago, they move hips at the sigh t and sound of anything with a bass to it, in the south we don’t even need to make a sound for people to start shakin’ ass, and in the east coast, folks bob heads, raise hands, and top rock like they were given official orders to do so. K had a daunting task, and quite possibly I had put her between a rock and a shitty audience.

Upon introducing her to the sold-out Varsity crowd of 600+, twenty-something aged women pushed to the front of the mob, screaming at her stage entrance. Hmm, must be friends. None of’em look anything like K, then again K seemed to have the same genetic make-up as myself where folks can ethnicity guess ‘til they’re blue in the face and still not be near the dart board.

No lie, the beat dropped, and I thought of darting for the green room. What if she sounds horrible? The mob could turn towards me and demand their money back, crucify me on the stage-lights… or just give me a pissy look and discredit me from their list of cool-things-to-do. Na, I gotta see this.  

Say, would ya say, would ya say, would  ya say… Say, would ya say, would ya say, would ya say I’m the other… The significant other.

The intro dissolved, she nailed it, the beat fades… those talented chaps manning the light board at The Varsity, dimmed a cool blue upon the stage… I held my breath- BAM, “Make It Happen” the next track dropped like a bag of bricks- bricks that when dropped, spring to life and immediately start breakin’ it down like a James Brown b-side track his label wouldn’t let’em release, for if he did, it just might rupture the fabric of music and curse every artist to come in 2nd for the longevity of their career. The Varsity jumped, and as unpredicted, heads began to bob, hands began to rise, and the people moved to the sounds of K. Raydio.

The night after the show... directors, DJs, hipsters, musicians sent texts my way in interests of working with her again, and the frequent “who the hell was the gal that killed it at The Varsity???”.

To make a formal answer, for any questions I received about her after that capacity night at The Varsity, her name’s Krysta, but goes by K. Raydio, and she does it again this Friday, Jan. 21st at The Cabooze, 9:20pm Sharp. Don't miss it.

Show info link:

Adv Tix: 

Watch This: 

Monday, January 17, 2011

How To: Get To Know Mike Dreams

A month ago…
I received an odd email from the booking manager & owner of The Cabooze. Odd in the sense the email wasn’t meant for me. It was a forwarded message. These things are always hard to interpret… you have to cut through all the mumbo jumbo bullshit in the beginning of when/where/what time zone the email was sent, who it was sent from, who it was sent to, blah blah blah. Finally got down to the bottom of it… it was an email from Mike Dreams to the booking manager questioning why his name wasn’t on the online line up of acts for Jan. 21st. Good question, the guy’s opening the night, his name should be on the f’n website’s lineup.

The Cabooze’s booking manager replied that there’s only so much room on the website’s panel, as well as the tickets, that there wasn’t enough space to fit everyone’s name. “F----n hell John”, I thought. Kid’s got yarbles goin' behind my back (the promoter's back) to email the owner of the joint as to what the hell is going on with the line up.

Flashback one year ago…
A bundle of texts barreled my direction the night of a lack luster show at the Ugly Mug. I was promised we’d be playing the gynormous/f---ng awesome/Hollywood-esque upstairs room (aka the RocBar), however it was not to be. We were slated for the less than gynormous/slightly ok/Detroit-esque downstairs room. The show was a bust, who cared… sadly I did… and thought I was the only one.

The texts still came rolling in. Finally deciding to check them, I discovered it was Mike Dreams, who was also opening the night for us at the Ugly Mug. “Am I on the list?”, “Do they know that Mike Dreams is performing tonight?”, “Do they know my name?”… very basic, simple questions. “F---ng hell John, give me a moment to reply!”… I called him back. The phone rang that not so frequent ring (nowadays all real-time dialogue is held via text) thinking to myself “Shit, these people better know who the f*ck Mike Dreams is!”. How could they not??? Even better question: Do I know who Mike Dreams is? Apparently not.

I just dug the kid’s sound. He’d make a shitty PA sound like Madison Square, the tone of his voice declared & claimed attention like a bank robbery, like the Rock, like a gun. Sincerely, I understood him as a performer, but as a person… perhaps I’ve overlooked & underestimated.

Two months ago…
Mike Campbell, Prof’s manager, book keeper, boy genius, and gravity for all things Stophouse Music Group related, fought for every inch of merch table at The Varsity. He barely broke sweat, face, or confidence in running all over the city and piecing together everything for his poster-rapper and client, Prof. In those moments, jea, I’ll break sweat, I’ll crack, I’ll get downright vulnerable… not Mike Campbell. The man show’s no mercy, compliment, or fear in the eye of the storm. Him & I thrive on it, however I look like I’m going into labor when providing for my artists, whereas he looks cool & effortless as a Spyhouse barista.

The show began. Bass pushed from the stage to the distant merch table at the front door. That declarative, familiar voice struck the microphone once again (because I booked him;) Mike Campbell looked up, turned to me, “Hey, who is this playin’ right now?”. “Who?”, I replied, just wanting him to repeat it again (call me “asshole” here). “The opening act, who’s on right now?” I grinned, making the final markings on giveaway mixtapes, “Oh, him? Yeah, that’s Mike Dreams”. I pretended it was nothing, smiled and went back to merch work.

In the light of such grand talent, even the unimpressed have to pay homage.

Passing over the recent email between Mike and The Cabooze.. I laughed. C’mon, don’t you people know who Mike Dreams is? The question is the simple reason I keep booking him. I think everyone should know who Mike Dreams is or at some point give themselves the opportunity to.

One of the few artists in the city that could take stage in NYC and not miss a beat. You’d be late for the show if you missed him as the opening gong to this Friday’s show at The Cabooze.

Mike’s on at 9pm Sharp, here:

Adv Tix: 

Watch This: 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Blend Finish Last

By the time you realize Minneapolis isn’t big enough, hopefully it’s not too late. You tour Chicago, Wisconsin, Iowa, Sioux Falls- all of a sudden it’s been awhile... and the promise of fiscal stability is more weary than ever, your gamble of hotel/gas/food money is up in the air higher than Cirque Du Soleil, and people keep asking you when you’re going to “make it”.

I’ve watched groups get “Picked to Cick” via CityPages, make the cover, get big buzz from press… and then disappear. You would’ve never thought they existed or made a sound, even. It’s not even a “laugh now, cry later” situation. When a group disappears from your attention, they vanish. You might hear of’em again, but it’s not the same. Unless they happen to conjure an orchestration of sound & song that shakes you to tears, euphoria, bad dancing, and/or emotion, consider’em donezo. More of a “sad, but true” sort-of-thing.

What we’re working with at the moment is something to last the apocalyptic and inevitable fate most artists fall to. We’re working with the construction of an empire… a liminal space where artists can catapult there work, voices, efforts, their everything. It’s difficult, but worth it. In constructing this “empire”, there’s a good amount of steps prologued to now, however, even more ahead. Nonetheless, the most important step is the one right in front of us… Friday, Jan. 21st. Sure, there’s enough steps ahead to choreograph two musicals, but for now (and in the name of patience), the most important lies on Friday.

Selling out the Varsity twice was… easy. Kinda. Ok, it was a bit tough, but the plan applied to it, made for an efficient process. Getting to the point, the next step, Friday, Jan. 21st, has been tough as f----ng nails. I wanted to work with a venue bigger than the varsity, but smaller than 1st Ave. I have no place trying to sell out 1st Ave… for now;) But the best candidate was, and is, The Cabooze. I wanted to put together a bill of artists that the Twin Cities have only encountered at summer festivals.

Saw her on the cover of the City Pages several times. The youth group I worked for over the summer had a Star Tribune article, about her, taped to the wall to inspire the kids. This woman was as good as tall tale, rumor, truth, and myth to me… might as well find out what the ruckus is all about. The quest to book Maria Isa began. Emailed back and forth with her manager for about a month, and finally nailed down the date. Next up, I went after my favorite rapper… Cecil Otter. Booking Cecil was quick as 1, 2, done. The folks at Doomtree, Kyle’s label, reply with a yes or no fairly fast.

I hate it when someone telling a story pivots with “when all of a sudden”, meh, f it. Things were going smoothly with the show, when all of a sudden… two problems reared an ugly truth. Perhaps I was in denial the entire time, but when I stopped by the Cabooze to drop off promo, I froze in my stance similar to Ryu standing on the cliff just before the last level of Ninja-Gaiden. Wind blowing, skyscraping castle in the distance, dark clouds sparked with frequent lightning… scary. My gaze widened and went into trance. There I stood, staring at the empty room, empty stage, spotlights darkened, bar stretching from one end to the other, and could only think “Sweet Jesus of Nazareth… this place is FUCKING HUGE”. The room stared back… and there we stood. If I didn’t know any better, I could’ve swore the room whispered “Yeah, I am fucking huge, and I will make your concert look like a cheap-neighborhood-night-out carnival unless you do your fucking job and fill me with people.” Needless to say, I was intimidated by the spaciousness of the Cabooze.

Here’s the deal with the deceptive shape of the Cabooze.

100 people looks like 20.
300 looks like it’s packed.
700 looks like Jimi Hendrix raised from the grave and decided to tweet everyone “Was up here playin’ cards. Jesus lost. I get one more solo before 2012… at The Cabooze;)”

However, what we’re aiming for is above the Hendrix Reincarnation status. We’re aiming for sold out. In efforts towards this goal (Problem #2) I bit off a lot (say “that’s what she said” here). Called Botzy from Culture Cry, Mike Dreams, the bull-headed/stubborn Ryan K, and pieced it like Voltron. Krysta jumped on last minute after she devastated the Varsity, upstaged nearly everyone after her, and had ladies talking about her performance for the next month. I was also curious what she’d sound like with her live band from Madison. Fresh out of UW-Madison, I’m sure she made a killing out there… but like all good things in Wisconsin, they must leave. Everyone I know that still lives in Madison is just a shadow of the glory days. Gotta go at some point, and why not get to Minneapolis where you can actually garner 3 different crowds over the course of three different shows.

Going over the line up, it hit me- If Maria, per request, goes on at midnight... then there’s absolutely no means of fitting the entire line up before her. Shit… shit, shit, shitty, shit, shit! What do I do now? Call a group, “Sorry, about that show I booked you for- Yeah, it’s still happening, but you won’t be playing it. By the way, want to buy an advanced ticket?” Gotta honor the agreement I gave everyone from the start. I hate when promoters change-up the show at the last minute. Fuckin’ makes me furious. I will drag a promoter into an alley and make certain they know where they went wrong, and why it’s not going to happen again. Sleezy bastards- ahem, but I digress. I don’t want to be that guy… and came to an understanding that only one move could be played. The Blend would have to finish the show. Lazlo Supreme, The Blend, and myself would have to take the rough edge of the night.

In the plot and scheme of booking a show, most groups prefer to go on in the middle. When discussing the show with Botzy from Culture Cry Wolf, the only stipulation he gave me was, “Yeah, we’ll do the concert- we just can’t go on in the beginning or at the end.” 11pm to 1am is usually the sweet spot in Minneapolis, but after touring the country a few times, seeing shit hit the fan, wall, and floor, you get used to the short end of the stick. Matter of fact, I prefer it. Going on last is humbling, challenging, and a damn good fit. After calling all the opening acts and asking if they wanted to take the late slot, and receiving a unanimous “no thanks”, I figured it’s the only way it could go down. The Blend hasn’t been billed for a Minneapolis show for several months… maybe a year even. The comeback is only suited for a 1am entrance on stage. Here's to the next step…

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How To: The Mallory

Bobby and his pal we’re sitting at the Saloon, when a drunk on-looker decided to interrupt their conversation… on second thought, “interrupt” may not totally honor the on-looker’s actions. The conversation was more bombarded than interrupted. Drunk slurs, inaudible questions, all tones, all vowels, no consonants, the on-looker continued to badger Bobby, until Bobby decided to take matters into his own hands.

You see, Bobby knew there would be no end or conclusive means to ignoring the on-looker. You’ve been in this situation, have you not? You’re speaking with a PYT, or important person, and an outside mouth interjects themselves “all up in yo sh*t”, as they say. It’s tough, and because these interactions begin rudely, sometimes they rarely end civil. Bobby knew there was only one thing that could stop the on-looker from continuing to word vomit all over his once clean discussion with an old pal. Bobby knew it was time for The Mallory.

“Are you from Minnesota?”, Bobby asked the on-looker. The on-looker, befuddled by Bobby’s sudden genuine interest in him apart from the conversation, answered. Bobby then inquired, “Really, what are your plans for travel in the next few months? The on-looker, no longer befuddled, but enamored by the real attention directed his way, answered. Bobby wrapped, “You’ll have to excuse me. My friend and I haven’t seen each other in a long time, and we’re going to continue our conversation between the two of us. It was nice to meet you though.”

The on-looker, unoffended, simply awe-struck, and somewhat glowing from the bit of attention given him, kindly backed away. Bobby had pulled off a successful Mallory at the saloon that night.

There you are, dear reader. Life lesson in a jiff, handed down from the wisdom of a wise woman who wisely passed it along to Bobby, who passed it on to me, and I am now passing on to you. The catch is the honesty given the on-looker/interrupter/conversation-bombardier. Give someone your honest attention and then an honest withdrawal… and my friend, you have victoriously applied The Mallory.

Good luck and stay thirsty, my friends.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Born Into This

I look homeless, he looks neo-biblical.

Sitting down with Zach (aka Big Zach, aka New MC, aka White Jesus) makes the discomfort refreshing. The discomfort of not having a day job, and relying on… well, fiscally no one but yourself. You produce your own paychecks, you book and manage yourself, you either fail or succeed at your own hands. Lovely, fun, peachy keen? Always, but being at the mercy of your own work falls equivalent to breathing in a choke hold. Audience members scream to keep on keepin’ on, folks that care for you urge to tap out and give up, and your brain begins to believe you just might never escape. Meh, I don’t need to ask Zach to know he’s escaped a hold or two… or fifty. At this point, tapping out will never be an option. Perhaps it never was, and we were destined to meet at this coffeeshop to discuss the strategy and tact of selling out the Cabooze. Perhaps we were meant for music as much as music was meant for us.

A little background on Zach, to my knowledge: He’s from the Southside of Minneapolis (yes I capitalized “Southside” like any novel or film title, eat it), runs with one of the longest standing hip-hop crews in the Midwest, Kanser, and kills the capacity at venues with his live band More Than Lights. He also has a solo act under the monikers we mentioned previously. To get specific, Zach is responsible for facebook status updates such as…

“Played the Marriot w/Brother Ali, cops gave MTL a $250 fine for having a party in our hotel room. Raged face so hard I ask a girl if she would be my girl friend she said- I dont understand are you asking me out? I said- No dates no getting to know each other we just go straight to love. She said- I'm on acid and your confusing me. Tried to talk her into it for 3hours till she finally said no. NYE is the best holiday!”


“10 yrs ago un-named Heiruspecs member told me he lost his V-card while a Kanser tape was playing in the background. This past weekend I went home with a rand-O in S.Dakota n b4 I broke the 3 month drought i was on she threw on Heiruspecs A Tiger Dancing. Weird hearing homies in the background but I knew the song "Fives" was song 5 on the CD witch meant that I rounded the 20 minute mark... I didn't make it to track 7.”

Jea, that last one made my top quotes. Zach has achieved feats and a reputable consistency in music more than myself, so we sit to talk about it. How do I do it Zach? 1000 people stacked into the Cabooze? Word of mouth, fliers, posters, faceook, online game?... all of the above. When it comes down to it, my team’s plan of attack hasn’t really been any different than his. Again, it’s the consistency. Standing outside of 1st Ave on the coldest winter night to hand out fliers to exiting guests. “Cold as fuck” comes to mind, but keep your eyes on the prize and you just might be able to trick your body into believing it isn’t so bad… and it isn’t. People that grab fliers from you in winter are more likely to show up to a show than the summer-goers.

Think about it, if you’re willing to take a piece of paper from someone’s hand in a deadly frozen tundra, colder than the cryogenic freezer that put Snipes and Stallone under in Demolition Man, then that person is most likely going to carry that flier home. It’s too cold to unveil your hand again and throw it away, so chances are, the fliers serve their purpose in winter more than summer. At worst they wind up in a garbage, serve as a coaster, ass wipe, note pad… whatever it becomes, it’s there in someone’s presence, right where it needs to be.

Departing the conversation, I pick up my bright red Trader Joe’s Bag full of promo to mail to Milwaukee, toss on my backpack, and make way on my bicycle. Stopped at the print shop downtown to pick up a giant white garbage bag of posters and fliers for Milwaukee and Mpls, and somehow balance on my bike to the mechanic to pick up my car. Biking down Nicollet, passing by the barbershop, ganj in the cold air, one of the barbers yells, “Full load, huh!?” Bursts into laughter with the other barber next to him, I nod and smile. What else can you say in an intersection of immigrants, dealers, folks on the blue collar grind while biking with two large bags of paper and a backpack barely stitched together?

At this point, I don’t look homeless anymore. I look like I just robbed Aldi and made off with a bike in the process… to the unnerving, na├»ve eye, this may seem out of step. However,  Zach understands… I understand… as well as Nicollet Ave.

Again, the discomfort is refreshing… (grin creeping my face) I prefer it.

What're you sitting there for? Let’s sell out the Cabooze.
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1.       Post this vid to your facebook wall, or click “share”.
2.       Go to the facebook event
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Monday, January 3, 2011

Nelson Van Aldin

A few weeks ago…

A balmy eve makes no hurry to twist the key to the door. I can ease my backpack to the stairs, open the screen, gather my belongings off the step and then unlock the main door. It’s quiet. Aside from the television, it’s quiet. Henry doesn’t bark, Mama J doesn’t declare a chore to be done, neither of the cats flock for food, attention, an exit outside the house, etc. Cats always got some s--- to complain about.

Odd, nothing. Absolutely nothing minds me entering the house freshly from work at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Usually a grand welcome committee of woofing, tail-wagging, “See those dishes, I want’em done”, vacuum shrieking, Annie reminding me I can always do better, blah blah blah… Nothing, this time.

“Hello!”. .. nothing. Maybe this is it. One of my worst fears: to walk in on my family gagged and tied down in front of the television whilst an eager intruder waits to ambush me. Always anticipated this, but feel dumb when I actually begin to tip toe like it’s about to go down in the worst way. Still quiet, nothing. I turn the corner- BAM!

There it is, Mama J, Henry (the dog), both cats, no Annie, all glued to the television set. Must not be the usual programming, maybe the president’s making a national announcement that we’re leaving code orange and going into code hot fucsia, maybe 2012 decided to show up early and the end of the world is being broadcasted, or maybe Bristol Palin’s ousted another more talented celebrity on Dancing With The Stars… all equally important. None of the above… just HBO.

Upon the precipice of prohibition, Nookie’s reign amidst Atlantic City comes only in heavy doses of headshots, torture, throat-cuts bribery, family death threats, and fear. Enter Boardwalk Empire, where everything’s short lived, and a good day is one that doesn’t involved being shot, stabbed, or left to die a gruesome death you could only nightmare of.

Jews, African-Americans, Irish, English, Italians, all fending for pride, turf and women. It gets downright dark and nasty. Dracula dark, hard goodbye nasty. Nookie, played by Steve Buscemi, is the H.M.F.I.C. of the story (shame on you if you have to consult urban dictionary for H.M.F.I.C.).

Between the lines, bullet trails, blood swimming the floors, there’s one that stands out. Should win a f’n Emmy for it, but I don’t even know if he’s acting or not. Dude’s out of his mind. Reminds me of a friend of mine, Pistol Pete. Pete was so dangerous and fresh out of the work house, I made it clear to all my roommates that he drinks for free if ever he shows up to a party of ours. Kid went through hell, and made it out with half-a-smile. To get to the point, Pete could look you in the eye and say “I don’t give a f---“… without saying a word. Similar to this guy in Boardwalk Empire, Nelson Van Aldin.

Van Aldin works for the law. Seems his main goal is to thwart alcohol sales, Nookie, and prostitution. Blindly, he’s the protagonist… but with a catch. Ugly catch. He never commits to a single thing he’s doing. Van Aldin will covet other women while thinking about his wife, drink liquor while wearing a badge, sleep with prostitutes while praying to Jesus for salvation... and on.

Nelson Van Aldin is the epitome of one of my greatest fears: to live only with good intent.

Dan Millman wrote “Never be the priest that has sex with his wife and thinks about praying for forgiveness. Then, while praying for forgiveness, thinks about having sex with his wife”. All intent, no action, Nelson Van Aldin seems to have a gorilla on his back that drives him to madness, murdering co-workers, coercing information out of witnesses by torture, and breaking the law while representing it at the same time. Another catch, Mr. Van Aldin constantly mentions “following the path of Christ”, in his moments of twisted frustration and backwards antics.

At this point, sitting next to a hypnotized dog, two cats, and my mother watching Boardwalk Empire, I made the decision to root for Nookie. This isn’t to applaud murder, death, and destruction, but more so to pose the question: where would you rather your ambition lie? In the body of Van Aldin, or Nookie.

Whenever a super-villain turned the corner in Marvel, and decided to do good, instead of setting flames to New York City, and holding the world in contempt with his, or her, finger on the button… the result was damn impressive. Reformed villains always made better heroes than already heroes that were half-assin’ it in the first place.

Ok ok, you’re thinkin’ “Toussaint, your delusional, closet-geek status philosophy on comic book characters and HBO personas makes me wonder why I haven’t deleted you from my phone yet”, but how about reformed skin heads? Brett Favre? Addiction recovery? Community service? All situations or people committed to a destructive, evil, or f----d up means of living, and turned it around to harness their ambition towards something good.

“Good” is relative, however, I believe we all have some kind of moral compass that can deflate us to feeling like shit when we wrong someone else, bring us to tears in witness of someone else’s pain, or put our ass on the line for somebody we love. For Van Aldin, after partaking in the full advantage of a speak easy, getting drunk, and waking up with another woman other than his wife… he makes it easy to root for the villain. Committing to something that may fall outside of the law, or half-heartedly intending to do “good”… which will it be...

In the meantime, while you decide whether to take on the life of a super-villain or crooked cop, watch this: