Tag Archives: music

Drumstick

Not like chicken, but a disposable
plank to hit skins with, a giant wooden
downstage guitar pick, twirled and discarded
at the end of the night, but forever
cherished thereafter by the overjoyed
passerby lucky enough to snag such
a massive corporeal reminder of
his or her time in this venue, the sheer
pleasure extended over this one night,
even if it’s for the second or third
or 54th time. These are the moments
of poetry in our lives, when we can
see what we are, where we don’t want to be:
namely, anywhere that isn’t this stage.

CD

Compact disc as personal history,
signed and certified digital relic
sought for emotional pilgrimages,
bought after the show, opened on the spot,
held and doodled on with a black sharpie
by the artist, which no one will ever
know but me. There are hundreds of varied
perspectives interpreting any scene,
but none of those others mean much unless
they agree with what I see. I might not
visit cathedrals or Our Lady of
Perpetual Tourist Donations, but
I still travel every day, all my
music and me, sound and found objects we.

I’ll Fight A Whedon For You (Ode To Maurissa Tancharoen)

The first time I saw you in pony tails,
that Horrible Doctor’s fan,
I knew by your groove when you sang that tune
that I wanted to be your man.

But then your Commentary
made me Asian Aware-y
and I knew what I’d have to do:

I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
There’s more a chance
I’ll see DOLLHOUSE renewed
But it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

Echoes remain from that song that you sang
as Kilo the cutest Doll.
I’m too poor for STARZ or for SPARTACUS,
but you know that I’ll give you my all.

No, I’ll never yield; I’ll back AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
until Agent Coulson dies (I mean, again, like, for real this time)
You’re Pretty In Pink, I don’t care what they think
Then I saw you with another guy.

Even though you have lupus
I thought we could this
but then werewolves devoured my heart.

But I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
There’s more a chance
I’ll see DOLLHOUSE renewed
But it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

Did you know that our birthdays
are one day apart (except
plus or minus ten years)?
And sure, Jed is hot —
what’s he got that I’m not?
(I mean, other than a career)

So Mo, won’t you go
with me, baby, you know
we’d be cool (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

But I’ll fight a Whedon for you:
Zak, Jed, or Joss,
Yeah, you know that it’s true.
But I’ll still be here
after S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2
’cause it’s true:
I’ll fight a Whedon for you.

Album One, Track Five

The first time it interrupts the sustain
of droning half-step dissonance, filling
the aural space with a fuzzed out wall
of sound strummed heavily on the down
stroke that supports a single voice
layered in unison with itself. It lasts
for a mere eight bars before returning
to that strange talky ambience and
the unsettling vibrations of open strings
and one more flat than it should be.

But the second time it hits that barricade
grows bigger, becoming a mighty force
of distortion twice as long as it had been.
And this time when we hear that voice above
those thrashing tones we find that it is not
alone, instead accompanied by a third and
then given a response, an answer to
the speaker’s call that first presents itself
as a savage, meaningless, but ultimately
universal howl which then transforms into
an echo before overpowering the voice
and predicting its response before it has
the chance to finish what it started.

And finally, the third time, the cacophony keeps
on building as our two conflicting voices still
struggle to be heard through that endless
cavern full of overdriven shreds, the lead
voice once again repeating its confession,
when another third enters the conversation,
offering new points counter to the claims of
the first. Perhaps it’s a direct response
from one who has suffered just the same,
in a some similar story where only the details
changed, or perhaps it is the audience that
the first one had been calling to for all
this time, finally offering an answer or
at least an argument to the initial supposition.

But no resolution is found in the end and their
voices combine into a meaningless wails that are
no sooner swallowed up by the growing sounds
that surround them, feeding back upon themselves
and finally crumbling into discord and decay.

Set List For A Washed Up Rock N Roll Band

1. Open up with a deep cut from the first (successful) album. Let the crowd know that you know that your first album was totally fuckin’ awesome, even though you wrote all those songs when you were like 20 and now they’re kind of embarrassing.

2. Poorly received single that is still loved by diehard fans.

3. The 3rd best song on your 3rd album, which was a return to form for the band but an absolute critical failure that got you dropped from your major label deal.

4. Lead track off the 4th album. Not that anyone gives two shits about your creative output past the first album, but now that you’re in your 40s and married you might as well play that song you wrote that one time when you were actually sober about the woman who would later be your wife, right? Which totally won’t alienate your crowd at all, I swear.

5. Third track from the 2nd album which was a miserable failure as you tried too hard to capitalize on the success of your first album by releasing some contrived over-produced pop bullshit, but the third track still stands out as being a half-way decent effort despite how terribly Disney-fied it sounds on the record.

6. Bring it old school with an updated version of a song from your debut EP, or other slightly obscure work that pre-dates your mainstream success. Make sure you mention that “We’re gonna bring it old school right now” in the introduction to the song.

7. Drop in a live favorite, something that’s enhanced by the crowd, preferably with a sing-along or clap-along section. You know your fans love the clap.

8. Lead single from the 3rd album. Dammit, that really was a good record, looking back on it. Too bad it didn’t take off the way you wanted it to.

9. Now is a good time to play that new song you guys just wrote that no one in the audience has heard yet. They’re in a good mood, so they’re more willing to forgive the miserable ennui they’re about to experience for the next 4 minutes.

10. Ease the crowd out of their nap with either a re-worked version of an acoustic song that builds in dynamics, or a quiet version of one of your more rockin’ hits that doesn’t actually get rockin’ again until the very end. They’ll be that much more excited once the good part finally happens.

11. First track off the first successful album. This is an abusive relationship between you and your fans, and it’s time to remind them why they love you.

12. That Other Good Song From The 4th Album

13. A cover song, but not one that you’ve previously performed. Try an ironic cover of a presently popular song, or a real old school throwback to your influences’ influences that you used to lie about being influenced by but now that you’re older you actually listen to them.

14. A fan-favorite B-Side, or maybe a song that was only released on a soundtrack or something.

15. That Other Good Song From The 2nd Album

16. One more gem from the 3rd album

17. Just play the god damn single already, that’s all they wanted to hear in the first place and by now they’ve put up with enough of your narcissistic bullshit that you may as well give in.

Why I Hate Journey (the band)

I get asked this question all the time, so I think it’s important for me to finally come clean and set the record straight: why do I hate the band Journey so much?

‘Cause they fuckin’ suck, dude.

Okay no but seriously, there’s actually a number of legitimate reasons for this. And it’s not their entire catalog (that lick from “Anyway You Want It” is pretty good, even if the song goes on too long), so I don’t hate the band themselves per se. It’s mostly “Don’t Stop Believin’.” And it’s not just because I’m trying to be contrary or anything — there are plenty of other equally popular pop songs that I do enjoy with no shame at all. In my mind, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is the most hackneyed, cliched, and derivative anthemic pop/rock song of all time, like someone mashed the parts of every other rock anthem into a calculator, stripped out the emotions, found the mathematical mean, and then put it on the radio. It doesn’t help that people ascribe way too much personal meaning (in my humble opinion) to the song when they’re shitfaced at last call and screaming out nonsense about “Streetlight People,” whatever the hell that means. The lyrics are generic meaningless drivel disguised (very poorly, I might add) as poetry, when in fact, they say nothing at all. Nothing but, “Don’t Stop Believin'” which sure, okay, fine, that’s a good message. I guess. But does it actually mean anything?

My good friend Layne was also a huge Journey fan, and this served as a major point of contention throughout the entire tenure of our friendship. Still, as a friend, I was always willing to overlook her shortcomings. We all have flaws, we all make mistakes. Hers was Journey (to say nothing of her N*SYNC obsession, which I was totally okay with).

Layne passed away a few days after her birthday in April, 2011. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday and I had just finished speaking at an event at Emerson College, our alma mater, so I slipped into Sweetwater Tavern for a beer with a few other alumni friends. I received a phone call from our friend Eric, who was always particularly close to Layne. I stepped outside so I could hear him better, and that’s when he delivered the news.

I went back into the bar and sat at the table with my other friends, the color drained from my face. They asked what was wrong and I told them, insisting that we keep drinking and not really talk about it right now, because I was still processing it. I slammed back the rest of my beer, and I realized that “Don’t Stop Believin'” was playing over the speakers in the bar. For a brief moment, I swear I could have seen Layne’s ghostly visage sticking her tongue out at me and waving her fingers, teasing and taunting as if to say “Gotcha, motherfucker! I win!” (which, to be fair, is something she would totally do, especially in a posthumous state).

So that’s why I don’t like Journey. Plus, you know, they suck.

“That”

We begin, as all things do, with building: ambient noise and the revving of a motorcycle engine, before ascending piano notes come up, repeatedly rising up the scale without ever truly resolving. Soon the feedback begins, and the heavy, distorted guitars follow in suit, guided by the steady crash of cymbals and booming snare drum snap. The lead guitar comes in wailing, spilling feedback and harmonics all across the soundscape.

And finally, nearly two minutes later, everything stops. A moment of calm, accompanied by a gentle piano, tapping out a loose and airy I-IV-V progression, as our hero makes the first of his anthemic refrains: “I would do anything for love.” And so he proceeds to describe in detail those very things that he would, to the harmonious twinkle of ivory. “But I won’t do that,” he finally concludes as the electric guitars come ripping back into the song, ringing out their reverb in steady whole notes while the snare drum sets the pace with on every 2nd and 4th beat. The louder instruments temporarily pull back as the song drops down to the relative minor, suggesting a darkness within as our hero articulates the struggles he has faced, the constant challenges he has been forced to overcome in order to do those things — any thing — for love that he claims that he would do.

But then it returns, ever so briefly, to a soft, piano-led plea, returning to a major key, before returning violently once again to the Ionian mode, battling cacophonous feedback as our hero casts aside his hardships and howls out a solemn vow against a painful diminished chord that as long as he lives, he will always make good on that aforementioned:

“I would do anything for love,” he reminds us, returning to the soft lilt of the piano, this time with a slightly more rhythmic weight behind each note and a gentle chorus of angels lifting up his voice. And each phrase is punctuated by a bombastic burst of guitars as the chorus turns around and resolves once more to his oath: “I would do anything for love — but I won’t do that” and we don’t even care what “that” is because we’re him, we believe him, we believe in him. He repeats his mantra more and more as the soft tap of the hi-hat cymbal continues picking up velocity, until the chorus of raucous returns to carry him through that declarative refrain, accompanied by the glowing harmonies of seraphim.

The phrase repeats, and repeats again, until you’ve almost had enough — when suddenly the song returns to the unresolved Ionian buildup that we heard at the beginning, only driven this time by a steady rock n roll pulse. And again, the song pulls back to a quiet accompaniment as our hero returns to the darkened thoughts of his own internal struggles. But his voice carries on, the snare drum gets louder, and louder still, each hit positing an exclamation mark upon his words. Once again we progressive through the familiar patterns of the song, heaping greater and greater upon the reverb of every word, until finally, that diminished chord returns, its dissonant vibrations sending sickening waves through our skin as the drums pull back to slow down the reveal that yes, he would do anything for love! And the chorus cries along, their rich harmonies ripping through the heavy wall of raucous sounds, bursting through the air in halftime as if thrust into a climactic slow-motion moment, a frozen frame against all odds, against the violent volume of sonic chaos shunted into some melodic order, and for just one moment, the world stops spinning and we see true love in its finest form.

As the dust clears away, our hero finds his mate, and she sings along with him, taking in his melody as if her own breathe and returns it, finding affirmation in the sound. Until finally, as the song and the world fall apart around them, he makes it abundantly clear, through all her hesitations, uncertainties and exceptions: No, I will not cheat on you for love.

And that’s the one fucking thing he won’t. He won’t fucking cheat on her love. Which is such a fucking cop-out, because of course you’re not going to cheat on someone. That’s like the basic fucking rule of being in love. You went through 12 minutes of some of the most glorious fucking operatic rock n roll music ever written — just to tell her that you wouldn’t cheat on her to make her love you? How would that even work?

I’ll take the words right out of your fucking mouth: fuck you, Meat Loaf.