Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Panic At The Clevelander

The view from the rooftop of the Clevelander set like a swank 80’s movie scene. Clientele mixed from dark skinned French bombshells to Caucasian broughams, you didn’t have to fit it- Miami did it for you. Blake, my host for the stay in South Beach, was nowhere to be found. I either had the choice of finding him and sticking tightly to him, or making the breathtaking base jump into a social oblivion of Spring Breakers from around the globe.

Retreating back to a sofa Blake and I were just at, with hopes I’d run into him, a group of guys & gals had already occupied it. Sitting at the edge of the couch, I made a small gesture I was just going to sit and text for a moment. A tall European woman from the group gestured back that it was ok. Turning before I could receive the "ok" from the European woman I flipped open my phone. Yes, I have a flip phone and love it. It draws more attention than polka dots on plaid and doesn't occupy every second of my livelihood with email alerts. Thought to say something to the group for entertainment, but couldn’t tell if they spoke English or not- my thoughts tunneled to my phone. When in doubt, text. I shot a sentence to Blake just to get a feel for where he was... if even near South Beach. This could be awhile.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing better than getting lost in a tropical climate filled with travelers from around the world, liquor flowing like KRS-ONE, and a dance floor the size of a gymnasium- it just never struck me that I'd be fending by myself throughout the duration of this trip. Meh, at worst I get chops for creating my own scenario- might as well start with Euro woman right behind me. 

I make a quick turn towards her to make sure I wasn't intruding on their sofa space, she again gave me the ok. "Excuse me, I'm curious, where are you all from?"- Horrible opener, please don't ever use this. It gets you nowhere unless you actually have something to follow it with. I was feeling venturous at the moment with really not a thing to lose but time until my flight departed at 6am in several hours, so what of it. "We're from Boston." answered the European woman... not so European. And all of a sudden it clicked. From the looks of her crew I had made a total sweeping judgement. Euro woman was sitting with 4 other people; an asian guy with quaffed hair and shades on looking like he was coasting off kind bud, 2 asian women dressed in threads that could qualify for a charity gala or vip section at a rock concert, and then the last woman who kinda gave it away- racially ambiguous and smiley sitting in the corner with no intention to speak much but just to simply wave and smile. 

"So you go to Harvard" I said. Euro woman went dumbstruck looking back to her friends. Shit, perhaps I had totally pigeon-holed this people, weirded them out and now they were going to seek retribution by- pause, the worst isn't close to the worst I can imagine. There is no such thing as failure in socializing, only learning moments. "Did you see us earlier, or over hear us talking?" she responded. "After you said Boston, it struck me that you all went to Harvard- or at least that's how you know each other"I said.

Still perplexed, "Ok , how did you know that?". I edged my position on the couch from back-turned to slightly turned toward the group to respond. It was too easy, so easy that explaining it to them would prove more a task than guessing their college. "Well, look at you all- this might sound crass, but there really aren't too many interracial circles of friends in Miami. Colombians hangout with Colombians, the French hangout with the French, etc. Whereas with your group, you look like you're only brought together by either a company or a college. You could be a group of friends from high school, but what're the chances you've stuck together 'til 21 and willing to meet each other in Miami for spring break?" Ahem, I've already said too much- but for good reason. The way Euro woman turned towards me was almost as if she'd never been contended in years, dawned the title like Jon Bones Jones, and wasn't willing to let this one slip by her. She looked as if she had to prove me wrong. 

"Ok... ok... But there're almost a dozen colleges we could've been from in Boston-" she retorted. I cut her off "Yeeeeaah, but where else are ya comin' from? BC? Nope. None of you have Boston accents- at least from what I've heard- and BC is mostly comprised of locals to the east coast. Also, their is an eire of confidence with your group. Less than half of you are drinking, you're not looking to jeopardize your future any worse than it looks at the moment, annnnd- well, that's it." I staved away from telling them that they're the only group of people at the Clevelander that look like they wouldn't ditch each other. Miami is comprised of individuals constantly breaking and reforming about- perfect for meeting people, exchanging numbers, and escaping your culture for a moment. These kids looked like the New X-Men, wouldn't break away from the circle even in the face of certain death or chaotic evil.

Euro woman and I went on to guess each others names, spar with wit, and converse for the next half hour- too long, keep in mind, this is at the biggest nightclub on South Beach with clientele zooming in & out like central station. An hour at the Clevelander passes by like a montage from Rocky. Blake and I have been known to step into the club and walk out by the time the sun is coming up. Caution: enter the Clevelander on a Friday, dance with a beautiful woman and chat afterwards, next thing you know it's Thursday, you've missed your flight and lost your job. By the end of the conversation I though I had already missed my flight, we bid adieu and marched separate ways into the night. Blake and I would meet up later, I'd introduce ourselves to a group of Indian women from Tennessee who thought me to be Indian as well- just didn't have the heart to break it to them later on that I wasn't. Simple omission.

Back to LeBlanc's pad, phone now full of foreign area codes and texts that would vie for Texts-From-Last-Night's top ten, there was a mere 1 hour of rest to be had before I had to get on the road and catch my 6am flight back to Minneapolis. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

April Father's Day (2/3)


The flashback I took was to Wisconsin years ago... Farina and I had been friends off and on for several years- christ, I think it had been close to 5 or 6 years. When we first met is foggy, the time and place is easy to rememeber, the year however... not so easy. There was a time when The Blend and I had been traveling so much that whatever was going on in my life was ultimately trivial in comparison to the present moment. When you're on the road for weeks at a time things get blurry, time doesn't exist, liability becomes zero. We were a band traveling the country, but could've easily been mistaken for an outfit of documentarians seeing how far they could gas cross the country on as little money possible. My mentality didn't process the definition of accountability as much as it could factor in the morning after.

Getting to the point, whenever we traveled through Oshkosh, we would board at a house off of Algoma Ave. The house was huge, an upstairs as big as the 1st floor, and rooms big enough to throw several parties in by themselves. Aside from its titanic size and fragrant smell of a bar, the house was home to a notorious drug dealer, Nino. He sold from Minneapolis to Chicago, and housed new passerbys every week, weekend, and/or day. The place was a sinking ship on land, but always threw a riotous after party whenever we finished a show, and helped for me to get to know the locals to help support the next show in the area. It was one of those nights that I met Farina.

Guilty as sin, drunk, and way passed any means of sleeping for the night, the ship wrecked house on Algoma packed in with 50+ folks for the night. Pulling stupid human tricks, stupid drinking tricks, or simply conversing, everyone seemed to find their niche for the night and stuck with it. I'd been here one too many times, which meant only once, and could tell the evening was going to take a turn for anything but healthy. Too many drugs, too much alcohol for someone not get into a fight, too good to be true, I had to find a way out or a means to sleep somewhere before any major crime was committed. Pacing down the stairs, I ran into Farina being hit on by one of her friends in the stairway. Playing faux wingman for the next half-hour, I played safety net to Farina getting hit on guys wasted beyond belligerence. It worked, we became friends, and then I passed out on a couch with a death clutch onto my wallet and backpack making sure no one robbed me of more than I budgeted for.

Months later, Farina and I kept in touch as much a 21st century long-distance friendship could via the internet, and became good friends. When Farina moved to Minneapolis after having her fair share of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, we began to hang out what seemed like everyday.
And then it happened. on one faithful night of evening galavanting... we became friends with benefits. After several years of solid friendship, we trekked into a murky gray title and understanding that would leave the friendship in a floating time rift of the unknown.

to be continued...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Titles, Keys, & Our Master Plan To Rock Your Face

And so the day came- the day that Fifth Element turned me down to put up a poster in their window. As the staple hip-hop boutique, store, and music supplier of Minnesota, let alone the Midwest, shut down the poster offer I can’t say I was surprised let alone let down. The cashier asked me to email the event to him and they will post it on their online poster or tangible poster- he kind of lost me once he said there is no posting in the store. Not being the cashier’s or business’s fault it was still a little sad to embrace the reality of it.

I’d been handing posters over to Fifth Element since our first shows back in ’01!

So, today marks somewhat the vital transition from tangible sign & signal to the era of the online obvious. Evading the satisfaction of plugging several dozen posters onto a campus corkboard, or handing out hundreds of fliers to a show’s exiting audience is long gone. This was all too evident about a year ago standing in -20 degrees outside of Epic Nightclub handing out fliers and demos to an exiting audience from the Wu-Tang Clan show. It sucked hard, but at the end of the day, somebody had to get rid of those 2000 fliers for the Cecil Otter & Maria Isa show, and lord willing it was going to be… the promoter.

Fast forward back to now, the game has changed. There’re too many shortcuts, too little knowledge, and so many artists that whatever you’re doing runs the potential of being lost in the shuffle. You damn near have to become a spectacle to get your name out. In the end, it’s my belief that talent, cause, and conviction prevail in the end. If there is no cause to an artist’s direction, it can unravel at any instant. Proceeding with conviction and cause are some of the most felt intangibles I’ve ever witnessed. You can watch a mad man pace the streets and pay him all the mind in the world simply because his stride is potent. Many times we push along with the wind instead of creating our own.

This came to be sitting by myself at Espresso Expose in Stadium Village listening to Phantom from Justice over my then-girlfriend’s laptop. “Christ, why has no one rapped over this!?!?” I thought to myself. Immediately writing for the beat, the writing became more and more until it spurred outside of the regularly scheduled band shows toward a weekly schedule meeting with producer, Dr. Wylie, to cut and arrange the beats to a mixtape liking.

Hesitant to make the first release, I had to question the hundreds of dollars I was spending just to have the graphic design put together along with a photo shoot. I can always justify spending money on art that is going to go monetary, but giving it away for free just seemed to be shooting myself in the foot. “Fuck it” I thought bull-rushing into the release and next. We threw release party after release party, from club appearance to full-on show, the mixtape thing became damn fun and still is.

The best part of it all has been report with the backers, the downloaders, the lyric questioners of lines that might’ve been misinterpreted for something completely different than what I was actually saying- it’s all a beautiful thing. In the end, Jake (Dr. Wylie) and I have been boiling the schedule down to a science of cutting and editing and arranging beats for 3 more mixtapes. This was publicized through our kickstarter, and successfully funded just over $5000.

Never has losing sleep been a more worthwhile sacrifice than for the kickstarter campaign as you have a constant clock ticking over your head. In the end, the gavel drops whether you’re ready or not. I’d love to say I was 100% sure the entire way thru that we’d get’er done and achieve our goal of 5000, but I wasn’t. Midway thru, as I’d read a blog on how to execute a Kickstarter Campaign successfully, the middle of your kickstarter’s timeline is the least when anyone will care. The knack was for me to not join the crowd of least interest. Bridling entire days devoted to emailing each bandcamp downloader individually, to inform them of the cause, was f’ng essential. Got to chat with folks from around the world, Wisconsin, and next door with thanks and praise moving toward the future releases.

So, with that said, here are the next release titles, but nothing more. As the campaigns proceed and unravel, their themes and character will become more apparent:

1st mixtape: Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Boyfriend
2nd mixtape: Fast Times At Trillmont High
3rd mixtape: Edo

Looking back to Fifth Element, again the evidence all points to the “adapt or die” pace of game being run in music and many other forms of art. I’d cross my fingers to hope we’re on the right track, but that’d elude to needing more than luck for this next chapter of our endeavors.

As for the first public showing of new t-shirts, new music giveaways, and more, we’ll be throwing a Kickstarter Party in celebration of reaching our goal and continuing on to bring 3 more mixtapes into the world.

Hope to see you there, here’re the stats:

I’ve also setup a weekly schedule of blog posts to keep you informed of what’s what, what’s cool, and what’s new.

Sunday: Blog Post
Monday: vid release
Tuesday: new music release
Wednesday: barista review post
Wednesday: Blog Post
Thursday: music post
Friday: barista review (coolest thing to do this weekend) post

Keep in touch…

Thursday, March 8, 2012

April Father's Day (1/3)

Nov. 2011

Certain Dunn Bros. have different feels, this one airs between plastic-machine-made coffee stop and rustic-aged-with-grace local coffee hideout. High hanging lights maintain a slight swing as if we were aboard a ship at sea- just the slightest swing though, we're not talking chandelier circa Super Castlevania IV. I sit across from Janet, good friend and fellow artist. We've known of each other for a year or so, but have just never met formally. Since getting to know one another in the past month, realizing how many mutual friends we share between us, and relating on little-known facts to quirky pop culture we've been running each other thru a gamut of random quick questioning while working on whatever we came to do here today at the coffee shop.

“In your songs, are you always speaking to- or writing about a real experience, or do you make that shit up?” Janet jots. “Umm, I'd say it all comes from a real experience I've had in the past directly or indirectly. If they're real stories or not- well, most of them are, but some of them are total slings of imagination... (writing break)... What's the craziest April Fool's you've ever pulled?” I question back. Janet ponders for a second, not tossing around the notion if she should tell me or not, just to think of something worth an answer. “I told this guy I was dating at the time I was pregnant. Held it for a few seconds and then told him GOTCHA!”

You see, there is no filter to Janet. She could personally care a f--- less if you passed judgment or not, as long you told the truth when you were on her time, that's all that mattered. In a passive state of forced smiles and faux welcomes, Janet's the little red spot on the stark white screen that toils only with the hard truth. She spares no time for niceties or eye-batting to flower a show, simply to the point she is. So, when hearing she pulled an April Fools as broad she did, I flinched none at all. I froze in place. The freeze you do without notice; a plastic half-smile and a 7 mile stare. Once Janet finished relishing in her past joke noticing I hadn't moved she gave me one of those "what the f--- is wrong with you" looks. I blinked myself out of the trance and bewitchment, smiled to myself, "Uhh, so what're you working on"? I changed the subject quickly. It was the best I could do to dismember the moment from me reminiscing the same April Fools Janet had pulled- the same April Fools I had seen before... although it wasn't for a few seconds of agony as Janet had it. The joke had lasted several days.

to be continued

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Epic Run of the Engine From '97 (1/2)

Jan. 2012

It's not starting. And usually I'd say it's better that way, but having a hankering for near-death circumstance, danger, and disaster I'm finding it irresistable to gamble the voyage vs. the tow bill. Honda's in a dark place, but if I'm able to drive it 30 miles outside of town it will be in the best hands it has ever been held in. So now, as I sit in Honda at the bottom of a hill looking out to farm upon farm, it is not starting... I am sitting in a street illegal vehicle, the temperature is dropping below zero, the sun is setting, and it's not starting. Check your watch as the clock spins backwards... to how this all started.

John from the Garage of God has been taking care of Honda for the past several days. However, what he doesn't understand is that he's been sitting a legendary piece of metal that is either going to change the game or become the final strike that sends me from riding the fence into a base-jump-plummiting free fall towards certain death & outlawed lifestyle. Bah, was already living an outlawed lifestyle before Honda wound up in John's Garage, but there was a more open chance- a more open chance towards surfacing out of all the circle running and cold weather towards a means of efficient progress in life- y'know? I've always been in the process of getting somewhere, and even in the worst moments when I've felt that I was absolutely getting nowhere somehow still turned out to be the most productive times ever. Just when you thought you were going backwards, you look up at the scoreboard and notice your ahead by several possessions. All the doubt and down-and-out thinking never bore a truth. But, and a very big "but", now is different. No mistake can be made that if Honda and I don't make it out of this one, we will both truely be (as they say) fucked.

There's no sugar-coating it, if Honda is able to start then it will have to make it from Minneapolis to Carver County... today. A piece of me wants Honda to die right here, never start again and wait for the $175 it'll take for a tow to move it to Carver County... but we both know that won't happen. At John's Garage of God, there is no such thing as death. John recissitates the mechanically failed to lives of miraculous maneuvering machines their owners never thought could exist again.

"So I tell'em you can't put beams up there, you gotta put pillars in the got damn building to keep that ceilling up! The beams are gonna destroy the got damn cement! So, two lawyers, one contractor, and three latinos later they figure out what I'd been tellin'em from the start and they- Oh hey, be with you in a sec", John turns to me to interrupt his phone call. It smells of oil, gas, and dirt in the Garage. I step outside to view Honda in the lot where a gentlemen, one of John's mechanics, meets me with the key. He speaks very little English, but enough to guide me through what needs to be done to get it going.

I turn the key...
"REEEE REEEEEEEE REEEEEeeeeeeoooouuu...", it doesn't start.

"Ok ok ok, wate wate". John's mechanic removes a filter, grabs a spray can of some kind of chemical engine starter, and sprays it down the tube that held the filter. "Ok ok, goe!" he says.
"REEEEEEEEOOOOoooo REEEEEEEAAAAAOOOoooo...", still no start from the engine with 1 of 4 cylinders pumping.

"Shit!", he shouted. "Ok ok, wate". He sprays the can again, and reaches deep into the left side of the hood as if to massage the heart of the beast back to life. I presumed the spray can to be some sort of last ditch effort to revive the undead, a final stand like shocking yourself back to life in Left 4 Dead. There's no long term future in it for anyone, but you reach as hard and high as you can for just a handful of short-lived seconds on earth before unveiling the mystery of the hereafter. This mechanic is reaching for it, reaching somewhere in the underbelly of the failing Honda- "OK GO!"

"REEEEEEEeeeeooooo PAH PAH PAH PAH PAH PAH VROOOOOOM!", she starts. Honda slows to a putter, that of a ticking death clock that's just begun it's course. There is no stopping it, there is no turning back, the run must begin... however there's one catch... "Don't tern et off!", yells the mechanic. To communicate my understanding to him, I nod my head with a nervous look as if taking off into a WWII dog fight via fighter plane.

"Don't tern et off!"... echoes in my head as I barrel down Nicollet Ave. Glancing in the rearview mirror I search for any nearby police cars. My heart is beating like a prison escapist- overjoyed at the basics of mobility having been caged for God knows how long, but petrified to near cardiac arrest suffocating in paranoia of being caged again. This time, the cage will be different... very different. Honda's registration was revoked a week ago for an overdue ticket I received several months ago. Having called the Dept. of Public Safety in St. Paul to resolve the matter, I was told to fax them my car insurance information. After faxing them the information and paying the ticket, I called them again to make sure they received everything. No dice, no dial tone, no nothing. Before arriving to work, during my lunch break, during work I've tried calling the Dept. of Public Safety back and haven't gotten anything more than a busy tone. Phone's off the hook or the damn building shut down the day after I was able to get a hold of them. So, for the moment I hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Luck in relation to cars has never swung my way so assuming the vehicle's illegal is the safest bet I can make. The first time I was pulled over by a cop, I was taken out of the car, frisked up & down, my car was searched, and I sat in the back of a squad car for 30 minutes. I was 17 years old at the time. When the officer returned, after finding nothing but my mother's belongings in the vehicle, he wrote me a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Hell, I thought it was standard procedure to seat someone in the back of a squad car, but after tellling my mother, she became outraged... at the cops. Since then, I've never really gotten into a bond of solid trust for the motives and intent of police officers, would have that trust broken down the road, and in the end would lead to now: animosity, a fear of being arrested for nothing more than an officer's personal hang-ups, and a wanting to spit on the hood of every cop car for the ever widening gap of disparity between people of color and white people in the eyes of the law (Minneapolis is #2 in country for racial disparity, and in short: black people are pulled over 3.5 times more than white people, and are also pulled over 250% more than expected in Minnesota.) Whatever the case may be, Honda and I are more than worthy of being pulled over; Honda being towed to the scrap heap, and me being fined 'til 2020.

Now, with the tank on a tenth of gas left, me having to get to the bathroom (say "TMI" here) before making a 30 minute voyage, and the sunlight quickly fading I was beginning to get nervous. I'd never filled a tank of gas while the car was running, but I couldn't shut it down. The only chance I had of making it to Carver County was with the engine running without break... and evading the cops.

to be continued...