Thursday, July 2, 2009

Possibly the greatest shirt of all time

It's hard to tell how good the embroidery is, but whoever came up with this shirt is a fucking genius.  That's right, a retro style western shirt with hops instead of roses, marigolds, etc. embroidered on the chest, cuffs and upper back.  I play around with a guitar just for fun, and I find there's nothing more heartfelt and satisfying than writing a three chord song about beer.  I'm a simple man with big dreams, but not a big bankroll at the moment, so I think the shirt is going to have to wait.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters

Dear Representative of Urban Outfitters,

I wish to begin this letter by congratulating you on the terrific feat of selling more "Ramones" shirts to non-Ramones fans than the band ever did to people who actually listen to their music. I'm not sure if this is what you set out to accomplish, but I know you made tremendous profits and probably had to pay out very little to the band for manufacturing shirts with their logo. I'm also aware that CBGB's had to close its doors because of financial troubles despite the sizable but somewhat peculiar popularity of your "CBGB's" shirt line. To me, this is an indicator that Urban Outfitters didn't have to pay much of a percentage on those shirts either, but found a way to ensure that the money made from your CBGB's shirts didn't accidentally fall into the hands of CBGB's, but went straight into the pockets of Urban Outfitters where it belongs.  But on to the reason for my letter.

You may be aware that portions of several U.S. cities are undergoing a significant shift in demographics due to young, middle class and upper middle class whites moving in. Many of these people are priveledged and have disposable incomes due to trust funds or just overly generous, wealthy parents, but Urban Outfitters can just forget about considering them as a target group: you all simply aren't "alt" enough.  But that doesn't concern me, and it shouldn't concern you.  After all, your target group is "mainstream, man" in comparison, and vastly outnumbers this self-marginalized group of hip, young city dwellers. 

What concerns me is that the gentrification that results from these new communities of urban bohemians (or just "hipsters") has left a large number of people--mostly of color--unable to afford the skyrocketing rent prices, forcing many families to pack up and leave the neighborhoods they've lived in for years or even generations, and cursing the plethora of new coffee shops, bike shops, boutiques and art galleries on their way out.

Something must be done.

I've cooked up a little idea that I'd like to pitch to your marketing department. It involves manufacturing shirts in a way that is not unlike your Ramones and CBGB's, um, "campaign", in that the shirts I'm going to propose possess signifiers that have absolutely nothing to do with the tastes and lifestyles of those people who will buy them.  

I propose that Urban Outfitters put out a line of shirts with the names of various neighborhoods spelled across them (i.e. "Lower Bottoms" in Oakland, CA), or, better yet, branding gentrified neighborhoods as they're commonly called by the hipster community  ("Billyburg" for Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the epicenter of hipster "culture").  

My prediction is that your faithful customers will buy up these shirts by the thousands for no reason other than the fact that they're sold at Urban Outfitters, which will send shock waves of hysteria through the neighborhoods these "artists" and "taste makers" have called home for three years(!).  Imagine how ordinary a transplant resident to Bushwick will feel when he sees an Urban Outfitters customer--who is decidedly non-urban, as I'm sure your marketing analyses will show--wearing a v-neck shirt that declares "Bushwick" with zero cultural or regional awareness.  What will the fixie bike riders say when they see Chad Suburbia pull up in his SUV dawning a "Mission, SF" shirt?  

What will happen is that the hipster will get angry, slurp down a PBR, light up a p-funk (that's a Parliament cigarette.  I feel another t-shirt design coming on.) and then think about finding a neighborhood that hasn't sold out.  

Everybody wins.  You all make lots of money and help poor people find affordable housing without having to spend a dime on them.  In an attempt to remain "alt", hipsters will have to change their Pitchfork subscriptions to an address in Fargo, North Dakota.  Hopefully, there will be enough guns and ammunition in a town like that so that nobody has to be misplaced.  Think it over.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

RIP Ron Asheton

Guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead this morning in his Ann Arbor home. He is best known for his work in the Stooges, making him a massively influential figure in the history of punk and rock 'n roll.

Don't expect to see another one of these. He broke the fucking mold.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Too Old for Best Of Lists

In blogs past, I've hoisted upon my readers "best of" lists for all the records I bought that came out during the passing year.  This year, I've purchased somewhere around 60 albums, only three of which came out in 2008 as original releases (that is, they're not re-issues; bought plenty of those!).  

This is an indicator that I'm simply getting old, and that I'm not cut out to count myself among the hordes of 30-something music bloggers who giddily and in most cases precariously sound the trumpets for the next Clash or the new Lou Reed or whatever.  I would never be so bold to make such statements, especially since I count the Velvet Underground and The Clash as inimitable, towering fixtures in the rock 'n roll canon that can never be touched.  

Do I sound like your dad yet?

All the shows I've attended this year except for two have been to see bands who have regrouped or have been around for at least ten years.  What are the kids listening to these days?  Definitely not Camper Van Beethoven or Will Oldham or Gang of Four.

However, I do want to praise a relatively new practice in record buying that is actually consumer friendly(!).  Over the past year and a half or so, record companies that produce vinyl have given those of us with our beloved turntables reasons to invest in mp3 players as well.  In the past, I've had to grapple with the option of either buying the vinyl or the CD.  I buy the vinyl because I have a decent stereo system that I take very good care of and in exchange, it continues to play kick ass music with the warmth and spaciousness that you can't get with a CD.  But, of course, you can't play a record in the car or on a walk around town.  

That's a big conundrum for someone who spends as much money on music as I do.  But 2008 has been a year with increasing access to both formats for the price of one.  Often, if you buy a new vinyl release, you get a download card so that you can have it in mp3 format as well.  

That's love.  That says, "Thanks for holding the vinyl torch high.  We take a hit because it's expensive to make, but we dig it too and we like that you're spinning our wax at home.  Here's a little something for buying our LP.  Now you can listen to our tunes on your fucking ipod or whatever.  Traitor.  I mean, half-traitor.  Gah!"  

Fact or fiction?: the first band to have a download code with their LP release was Against Me!'s "New Wave."  There's a bit of pop music trivia.  I'd put it on the wikipedia page, but I don't know if it's true.

Anyway, I wholly endorse this practice and I hope to see more of it in 2009 and beyond.  I'll be 40 in less than ten years.  That's horrifying.  

P.S.  Check out Hayes Carll's "Trouble in Mind", Deer Tick's "War Elephant", Vampire Weekend's "Vampire Weekend" and The Courteeners' "St. Jude" for 2008.  That's all I got.  Really.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Murder City Devils Regrouping

I'm not sure what constitutes a "reunion" tour, but the Murder City Devils have regrouped for a string of West Coast dates after only being broken up for about six years.  For those of you who aren't familiar with MCD, they were a stand out rock 'n roll group from the 90's and the first couple years of the 00's that played really well crafted songs about broken hearts, truckers, cowboys and painful devotions to hard drinking, mostly backed by a creepy organ that gives them a very effective, unmistakable sound.  If Bela Lugosi were to get into a bar fight, this is likely to be the band up on stage.  

The most recognizable member, I guess, is frontman Spencer Moody.  He looks kind of like some tech support guy or maybe that kid you pantsed in grade school after pwning him in tetherball.  But he's a pure showman with a voice that sounds like broken glass under a dusty boot, and he sings like a man who's just had a terrifying revelation.  I like MCD a lot, but at the moment, they're making me feel pretty old with their "reunion" tour.

I hereby declare a new rule: no "reunions" can occur unless the band has been broken up for a minimum of ten years.  Going to a "reunion" show of a band that I was gaga about the first time around makes me feel like I should be scrambling for a sitter and digging deep into the back of my closet for the clothes of my youth, long since traded in for fleece, khaki pants and Tevas that I insist on wearing with socks.  

Anyway, I'll be at the Great American Music Halll show for the 4:00 matinee on February 15 if any of my peeps want to get tickets and join me.  I'd go to the evening show but it's sold out and besides, if these folks still drink like they used to, they're liable to not even make it onstage for the second set.  

Oh, and the tour coincides with the a reissue of the band's entire catalog on scrumptious Sub Pop vinyl.  Word.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Yelp East Bay Review of the Day

So I woke up this morning to find my inbox filled with "new compliments" from fellow yelpers. I couldn't understand why until I visited the site. To my surprise, my review of Berkeley Bowl has won the auspicious "Review of the Day" award for the East Bay.

I really like Yelp. I find Yelp to be a valuable asset, and is in large part a reason I think the Internet can be used for good. I'm all for a site that promotes "amateur journalism" or media egalitarianism or whatever you want to call it. The truth is that I've found some paid columnists who write on food in the Bay Area to be full of shit, while I've found some Yelp reviews to be honest, balanced and accurate, touching on things that major media publications either can't or won't touch on. Yelp has provided some make or break information when I'm considering patronizing a business, or not. When three Yelpers who don't seem to know each other all give accounts of how they found a dirty sock in their split pea soup or whatever, I'm probably going to pass on it.

My own reviews on yelp aren't without some amount of flippancy (see my review of Hot Topic), but that's how I roll. Some peeps give me props, some peeps give me grief.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beer I Like (Entry the 1st)

Here's another entry whereby I thrust upon you good people some of the highest achievements of mankind (if you missed the one on Leonard Nimoy's LP, do yourself and all your friends a favor by buying ten copies of it and giving nine of them away).

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I drink quite a bit of beer.  I don't drink it to get drunk, but I confess that's a "happy accident" if I'm in no mood to be reasonable and deal with the travails or even minor setbacks of life in a sober mindset.  Here's the part where I quote some genius of times past who all but credited beer for enabling them to trail blaze some new mode of human thought or invent something really functional that changed the world without fucking up the environment, but I'll spare you all the intellectual gymnastics because it's overkill when talking about something as awesome as beer.  Beer doesn't need it.  Beer--at least good beer--is a thing of variable complexity but the reason for its value couldn't be more simple: it tastes good and in the best cases, makes you feel good.  

So here's the first of what I hope will be many entries of beer I like.  And the winner is....

I was only recently turned on to Shiner Bock.  I went down to visit a friend in Austin, Texas where Shiner beers are kind of everywhere the way Sierra Nevada is here in California.  Only the company has been around much longer and though they don't seem to have major distribution, they seem to be popular in other states besides Texas.

According to the bottle, bock was brewed in Germany "to celebrate the arrival of spring," but I seem to remember reading that it was also brewed during winter solstice and Christmas.  I can see the reason for the seasonal versatility.  Though I haven't tasted a whole lot of bocks, Shiner's just as good on the cold nights here in the Bay Area as it was on the scorching days and nights in Texas over the summer.  

So here's the rundown:

The carbonation is pretty moderate and it has a really dry feel to it, making it kind of crisp.  If complexity is your thing, Shiner will probably bore you.  It's about a medium dark beer with a medium body, which is probably why it's so good on a cold night, but hints of caramel give it a sweetness that's damn good during the summer.  This is balanced out with some a delicious roasted malt flavor and a pretty sharp aftertaste. 

The biggest problem I've found with Shiner Bock is that though it doesn't contain a ton of alcohol (4.40% abv), it's so easily drinkable that a hangover is the next logical step, so watch it.  
It's not the best stuff in the world.  I like Shiner Bock a lot because of its quality for the price (around $6-$7) and because it doesn't give me that "beer coma" if I have one after work but before dinner.

Get some.