Seven 9s and 10s

Showing 16 posts tagged nb;cm

For those of you picking up guitars and laptops with the idea that this will be your job, I have some very real facts to lay down here. You are trying to create demand for a product that not only is currently devalued by its own consumer but in a completely over-saturated market to boot.

The Economy of Mediocrity: Music Edition 

Please, definitely click-through to read the whole piece. It’s a short post and it’s overflowing with hard truths. Hat-tip to Kelly, whose comments are well worth a read, too.

My favorite points are things about which I’ve been talking for well over a decade:

  • Live music simply cannot be profitable for anyone without the simultaneous sale of alcohol, and that’s just straight-up not fair to the musicians. Next time you go see one of your friends’ band play live, don’t be ashamed to ask how much they’re getting paid. If they play only original music I’d be willing to bet they’ll be playing for free at least 75% of the time. If they’re in a cover band then they’re probably being paid (but certainly not enough). Additionally, I bet you’d be shocked to hear how often a bar tries to pass off a few free drink tickets as an acceptable form of payment for the band’s services (that’s so very generous to the musicians who don’t even drink alcohol; thanks for the free stale Coke, asshole). The alcohol-requirement has the added bonus of turning the audience into a seething mass of impolite fuckheads who disrespect the musicians (and the fans who are actually there to listen) by being obnoxiously loud throughout the duration of every song, stopping to clap or hoot and holler when the music stops just because they want to believe they actually care about anything other than being the center of attention and the finding the quickest way to the bottom of their bottle.
  • There are too many bands. Realistically, there has always been too many bands, but it’s only in the digital age that we’ve been forced to endure them all. One band or artist breaks through with a hit and then the airwaves and fiber cables are flooded with clones upon clones upon clones of the same shitty song. I guess this isn’t really anything new - I wasn’t alive in 1975, but in hindsight the music that came out in 1976 wasn’t all that much different. Same for ‘88 and ‘87, ‘95 and ‘94, etc. The difference now is that every kid in a bedroom with a computer thinks he can be the next big thing and he has the means to try to prove it to the world simply by flooding the internet with his crappy dub-hop-rock; 999,999 out of 1,000,000 times he is wrong.

Our attention spans are growing shorter while there is an ever-increasing bombardment of music vying for the chance to monopolize our ears. This is a large reason why I tend to not listen to new bands and instead focus on new (and old) music from the bands that I’ve loved for decades. Maybe once a year, likely much less often, I’ll find a new band that I intend to keep around for a long time (Milk Carton Kids in 2012, Junip in 2010, Silversun Pickups in 2009, Manchester Orchestra in 2007), but usually I tend to ignore the trends and dive deeper into the catalogs of the tried-and-true bands of my youth.

April 15, 1995

First, some relevant family history: my brother is 13 years older than I am.  He is solely responsible for getting me into good music, inspiring and teaching me to play guitar, and taking me to my first concert.  I was 15 in 1995 and just a sophomore in high school.  By this point in my life he had already ignited my love for music and guitar; I was in a band and I was writing songs, but I had never been to a live music event.   On the other hand, my brother was 28, seven years removed from a Cornell education that saw him end up with a business degree.   After college he worked as a desk jockey for a few years at Chase before deciding that he had missed his calling in life to be a writer.  Eventually he quit Chase and moved to Boston to pursue a Masters in writing at Emerson College.

Periodically I’d receive packages from him in the mail that contained magazine clippings and guitar tabs, cassettes with demo songs he’d been writing, etc., all kinds of stuff that 15-year-old-me thought was fantastic.  At some point in late March I received one of these packages; one of the enclosed snips of paper was this:

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As a 15 year old with few friends and no social life, it wasn’t difficult to clear my schedule.

April 14th, 1995 was Good Friday.  He had driven home from Boston to celebrate the Easter holiday with the family.  I was always especially happy when he would visit.  He often came bearing musical inspiration and musical gifts (guitar strings, cassettes, picks, etc.).  But what  could possibly be so important that he made me reserve Holy Saturday?  Friday night arrived and I went to bed, still completely in the dark about the plans for the next day.   He woke me on Saturday around 10am and told me to get dressed and to meet him out front.  I hastily threw on some clothes and grabbed a slice of toast as I ran out the front door to an idling car.  “Get in!” he shouted through the drivers window, “We’ve got to get going!”  I opened the door to that old teal Ford Escort and slid into the seat.  Before I knew it we were on the road - destination: unknown, at least to me.

My memories of the trip itself are vague, but I remember that as a 15 year old, I didn’t know much about the roads besides “I’ve been in this car long enough to know I’m not in Rochester anymore.”   I noticed signs indicating we were on the NYS Thruway, I-90, heading eastbound.   “Where are we going? Where are you taking me?”  I asked repeatedly.  It may as well have been “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”   Surely I was driving him insane, but he was a rock and gave me no indication of what was in store.  We continued driving east for quite a while.  Hours and mile markers passed by.  I was no travel buff, but I knew my geography, and I understood that heading east on I-90 would be sending us towards Albany, New York City, Boston, and other assorted points east.  Eventually I noticed a sign indicating a major split in the roadway: keep left to continue towards Boston, keep right to head towards NYC.  “This is it,” I thought to myself, “this should answer my questions.”   Sure enough, and not entirely surprisingly, he kept to the left, continuing on I-90 towards Boston.

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At this point it became pretty clear to me where we were headed.   I had never been to Boston so that prospect alone was totally awesome.  Soon though, my mind turned towards my mom, and home, and Easter, and “Holy shit!  Tonight is the Easter Vigil at church.  Mom’s gonna be so pissed if I’m not there!”  I continued to beg him to tell me what was happening, but still, informational silence… that is, until we stopped for dinner at a rest stop on the Mass Pike between Worcester and Boston.

After scarfing down some McDonald’s, we returned to the car to continue our trip.  We were close enough to Boston at this point that the car radio could pick up some FM stations.  He had tuned into WFNX and just as I was buckling my seatbelt, I heard the DJ say it.  “We’re gearing up for the big show tonight down at Axis; we’ll be on location.  Slash’s Snakepit is in town!  I hope you’ve got your tickets because this show is sold out!”  Did I hear that correctly?  My face must have lit up like a Christmas tree.  I turned to him: confused, excited, sheepishly grinning.

Slash stood tall above all other influences on my music and guitar training (still does).  My brother had weaned me on a steady diet of Guns N’ Roses as I was learning to play, and when that band imploded I discovered the first Slash’s Snakepit album after reading a review in Rolling Stone.  As far as I was concerned, Jesus had already returned to earth: he let his hair grow wild, smoked cigarettes, shaved his chest, drank heavily, wore assless chaps and a tophat, he could fucking shred, and now… now I was only miles from the savior himself.  As I begged my brother to tell me what was happening, he pulled two tickets out of his pocket.  We were going to the show.  I have no idea what happened between that moment and the moment we arrived on Lansdowne Street.  I only remember pulling onto the street - a long row of bars on my left and the towering walls of Fenway Park on my right - and seeing tour vans parked in front of Axis.  We parked somewhere nearby and made our way toward the club.

We were a bit early and had beaten the majority of the crowds; only a few people were standing outside the club waiting to get in.  We stood at the end of the line and I don’t think I uttered a single syllable for a few minutes while I stood there and took everything in.  This was all so new to me: my first time in a big city, my first time near a real baseball stadium, my first time standing outside a rock club, and ultimately, my first concert.  Then I felt him tugging on my shirt.  I looked over and he was pointing up the road… pointing at a group of people walking towards us.  At such a great distance it’d be nearly impossible to identify any mere mortal, but what I saw standing in the middle of that group was no mere mortal.  Rising above the head-line I saw a little black tower, a smokestack of sorts.  Before I knew it, we had sacrificed our place in line and were walking towards the group.  We met them half-way.  There before me stood Slash’s Snakepit, including ex-Gunner Gilby Clarke, and the messiah himself, Slash.

Was I starstruck?  You have no idea.  I’m fairly certain I didn’t say a thing.  I probably didn’t even look him in the eye.  I mean, what are you supposed to do for royalty of this sort?  Bow?  Genuflect?  All I know is that my brother slyly had pulled an index card and a sharpie from his pocket and handed it to Slash for an autograph.  He signed the card, kept the sharpie, and continued walking towards the club.  I stood there dumbfounded as my brother handed me the autograph.  “What do I do with this?” I wondered.  This belongs behind glass, perhaps behind an altar somewhere.  He took it back from me and carefully put it in his back pocket.  We ran back to the club and got back in line.

Eventually they opened the doors and let us in.  I remember entering and being completely baffled by the whole scene.  I’d never been inside a bar like this.  If you’ve never seen Axis - it’s a truly tiny club.  To think that just a few years prior Slash was performing for hundreds of thousands of people at festivals internationally, and now I was going to see him in a bar barely bigger than my garage - it was simply overwhelming.  We pushed our way towards stage left, where Slash always stood, and took up a defensive position right at the front of the stage.  I couldn’t believe this was really happening.  If you had told me it was all a dream, I might have believed you.  In fact, it WAS a dream; it was a dream come true.

The band came out, and they fucking rocked, and they rolled, and they grooved… but mostly they rocked.  I distinctly remember them performing a cover of Magic Carpet Ride.  Eric Dover (who I would also love a few years later as the singer for Imperial Drag) had a true rock voice and enough charisma to stand on stage and not be completely dwarfed by Slash.  The band was clicking on all cylinders, but most of all, it was Slash.  It was Slash standing right in front of me.  It was Slash flinging sweat on me while he furiously strummed his Les Paul.  It was Slash redefining, in an instant, what I defined to be cool.  It was Slash setting the tone for the goals of the rest of my life.

After the show, we went back to my brothers apartment and I called home.  Repentantly… “Mom, I’m in Boston.  Sam took me to Boston to see a concert.  It was amazing… sorry we missed the Mass.  We’re driving home tomorrow, but I don’t think we’ll be back in time for dinner… I’m sorry.” (To this day I struggle with overcoming my Catholic Guilt. My mom is so dedicated to the church that I joke to people about how she is next in line to be the Pope.)  It wasn’t until many years later that my mom confessed that she knew about the trip the whole time.  The next morning, Easter, we drove back to Rochester.  Along the way we heard the news about the Oklahoma City bombing.  We got back to Rochester late Sunday afternoon, in time for Easter dinner, and the next day my brother packed his things and drove all the way back to Boston - ultimately he made two round trips to between Boston and Rochester in 4 days.

In 2008 I read Slash’s autobiography.  He talks about how that first tour with Snakepit was an almost therapeutic experience for him.  After dealing with the stresses of touring arenas and stadiums while a member of GN’R, and putting up with Axl’s bullshit night after night, he described the Snakepit tour as a return to what he loved most about being a musician: the experience of standing on stage and performing for a roomful of people that genuinely care about the music itself, rather than all the pomp and excess associated with major tours.  I couldn’t stop smiling while reading that chapter of the book.  To know that Slash himself enjoyed my first concert just as much as I did is undoubtedly among the most satisfying emotions I’ve ever experienced.

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Perspective Just a flesh wound Battle scars From the front From the rear

So… on May 31, 2012, this happened on the way down to STPR.

Charles and I traditionally make the ~2 hour drive by taking the back roads through the southern tier of NY down into northern PA. It’s far more interesting than the mindless trip down the highway. The accident occurred on the roads between the towns of Prattsburgh and Bath, NY.

This is a link to a google map of the accident site.

We were heading southbound on Dineharts Crossing Road. While driving through a somewhat large patch of forest, there was a sign warning of an upcoming right hand turn with a speed recommendation of 15mph. I slowed and proceeded through the turn. The road then straightened out a bit and I increased my speed back towards the 30mph limit. The turn where the accident occurred was preceded by a gentle chicane of sorts that prevented us from seeing that we were approaching a nearly 90° left hander where Dineharts Crossing Road transitions into Murlatt Road. Unlike a few moments earlier, at no point between the forest and that intersection was there a sign that warned of the impending turn. Unaware of what lay ahead, I continued on at normal speed. Before we knew it, I had steered left to turn the corner but the car soon lost control as the back end swung towards our right. I applied the appropriate technique of steering into the skid and easing off the gas, but by that point the weight of the vehicle was carrying us off the road.

Just before the edge of the road, the skidding had bled off enough speed that the tires regained their grip. However, we were too close to the edge so I hadn’t enough time to steer the car back southbound, so they pulled us off the road. The grass was high and uncut along the edges of Murlatt Road, obscuring its hidden treasure: a 3’ deep drainage ditch. The front passenger’s wheel went over first, followed almost immediately by the rear passenger’s wheel. Within seconds the car had slid into the ditch and rolled itself onto the passenger’s side.

Charles and I confirmed that neither of us were injured and I immediately put the car into park and turned off the engine. I carefully removed my seatbelt, so as not to drop myself onto Charles’ head, and gingerly stepped around him into the back seat where I proceeded to open the rear driver’s side door and climb up and out. You don’t realize how heavy a car door is until gravity is working against you and you have to lift it up above your head. Once out, I ran to the back and opened the rear hatch from where Charles would soon exit.

There was a small farm on that corner where a man named Tex (seriously) lived with his wife. I’m unclear as to whether he actually witnessed the accident, but soon after I was out of the car, he was walking toward me. After confirming that we were uninjured, he returned to his house to call “the wrecker truck.” It turns out that he must’ve called 911, because before you knew it there were two fire trucks, an ambulance, and about three million pickup trucks on scene, soon followed by two NY State Troopers, and then finally the tow truck. A quick trip into the ambulance confirmed that we were neither intoxicated nor injured. Once the firemen realized there was no fire or major fuel spills, they stopped standing around chatting with each other and got back into their vehicles to return back to whatever it is they do in their podunk little towns on a Thursday night. All that remained were the tow truck and the troopers, the latter of which proceeded to give me two traffic tickets:

  1. Speed not reasonable & prudent
  2. Failure to use designated lane

I take issue with both of those charges.

In the first case, the trooper was not there to witness my speed, and when I asked him if he had taken any witness statements he told me that he had not. He performed no investigation on the scene. He did not measure the length of my skidmarks. He simply saw my car in the ditch - the car belonging to a couple guys from the big city up north who had the misfortune of having an accident on his turf. Additionally, if the speed limit is not considered reasonable & prudent for that turn on a perfectly clear and dry day, then there should be a warning sign that advises a slower speed, just like there is 1/2 mile up the road in the forest. As for the second charge: this dirt road has no lane markings. I have several photos that show that the only point where I ever crossed over the imaginary center line was briefly after the car began to skid and I was taking action to regain control. It’s hardly what I would consider to be driving on the wrong side of the road.

I will be driving back down there for my court appearance on June 28th. I’ll be bringing my photos in the hopes that they will simply dismiss the charges or, at the very least, reduce them. I do not plan to plead not guilty because I really don’t want to have to waste vacation days at work just to drive 90 minutes to deal with this trooper in court.

The car itself survived remarkably well. I’m convinced it’s durability and toughness saved us, Charles especially, from any significant injury. I’m still astonished that none of the glass shattered. If the mirror hadn’t gotten squashed and broken off, the car would be entirely legal to drive. Because it was on its side for about 45 minutes and had lost a bit of oil, I decided that rather than risk damaging the engine I would have it towed back to my dealer (~90 miles of towing - completely free: AAA Plus finally pays for itself). The next night they started it up and gave it a once over and a clean bill of mechanical health. No damage to anything other than the exterior panels. Fully drivable. Surprisingly, insurance did not total the car. They gave me a check and now I have to make the difficult decision of whether to use that money to have an 11 year old car repaired, or use that money as down payment on a replacement Subaru. I’m having a very difficult time with this decision.

So, we survived unharmed. We never made it down to STPR - my heart just wasn’t in it after the accident and there will be plenty more chances to enjoy rally in the future. A week later, I’m most angry that I let that road get the best of me.

Photos:

  • Top left gives you some perspective on the turn.
  • Top right is a quick snap of the car immediately after being winched out.
  • Center is the car in my driveway a few days later.
  • Bottom left and right are the car in the ditch.