Category Archives: Personal

Commentaries of a personal nature – could be about family, myself, friends, the blog itself, etc

Hammer In Our Hearts … a night to remember

Ever go to a show and a celebration breaks out?   If you spent one particular Saturday night in June with The Thrillhammers, you have now.

A concert? A swansong? A tribute?  Yeah, all of those words could work.   None of them alone really quite cover “Hammer In Our Hearts: A Tribute To Chris Chandler” though.   With that thought in mind, I’m going to dispense with my usual post-show review format here, I’d really rather just talk about the experience.  I mean, how do you “review” a family reunion?

That was really my first take on the night, the deep connections between the audience and the performers.  A devoted smoker like me can pick up pieces of a lot of conversations while nicotine loading and watching the rain come down before the show.   This person went to high school with that member, and those two went to school with another fan’s sister, and we used to shop in this center every week, and I know his mama from church, and … well, maybe you get the idea. Everybody may not have known everybody but you probably didn’t have more than two degrees of separation among hardly anybody.  I may well have been among the least “connected” people on the property and even I saw over a half-dozen folks I hadn’t seen in three decades.

Sadly, there’s really no getting around the circumstances that set the event in motion.  The tribute aspect of the evening honored the late Chris Chandler, whose death last year after a battle with cancer shook his family, his friends, his community, and his fans.  Proceeds after expenses from the show will go toward the development of a memorial fund that will direct itself toward helping with some of the guitarist’s favorite causes.   His wife Pam, a gracious and beloved presence throughout the night, spoke of her husband’s concern for youth and his love of the arts and I’m confident that the fund will help continue his legacy under her stewardship.

Tributes in another form were in evidence throughout the night.  Special guests making their way on stage for a song or two were consistently woven into the entire evening.  I won’t try to name them all, purely out of fear of omitting a name inadvertently and I’m very uncomfortable even risking such an unintended slight.  To a person the contributions were solid and appropriate.   Among the more memorable moments were guests’ participation in a couple of highlights of the night, the chill-inducing “Seven Bridges Road” and the downright magical rendition of a Pink Floyd classic.

I do want to single out one “guest” performance of sorts, that of Billy Trippe handling lead guitar chores for most of the night.   Now I’ve probably known him since before he started shaving his face, much less his head, so it’s not like I don’t have some idea of who he is or what he can do. That said, his performance in a difficult role truly impressed me as one of the most professional things I’ve ever seen on a stage.  I’m not generally what you’d call good at blowing sunshine up anybody’s skirt so believe me when I say that you can pick any musical name you want — and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the biggest and best of my lifetime — none has ever earned more respect from me than he captured here.

I also want to …  well, can you “collectively” single out people?  I’m not quite sure how that phrase works but I’ll give it a go here.  The backing vocal contingent and the keyboard contributions from the side of the stage were one of those things that caught my attention throughout the night.   Again, I’m avoiding naming everyone individually because I’d surely screw up at least once but I was really conscious of the amount of effort that was taking place just outside the spotlight.  The work added to the performance and warrants a mention here, however awkwardly I manage to do it.

And then there’s those other three guys.

What’n the hell do you say about the culmination of three decades?  About a marathon performance that explored two albums, a considerable amount of the width and breadth of their musical influences, about an ability to span genres and defy precise labels?   About talent, about dedication, about determination?  About heart, courage, conviction?  About passion … or about love?

I never know exactly what’s going to really go home with me from a show.   Some nights it’s a t-shirt and ticket stub.  Once in a blue moon it’s checkmark on the bucket list.  Most nights, I guess, it’s a few standout moments that I just hope manage stay on deposit in the memory bank.   Sometimes though it takes me a little while to figure out how to describe it.   I’m still not sure I have it exactly right but I’m gonna take a crack at it.

Greg, Shannon, Wayne … you brought it.

Individually and collectively.   You lugged it allllll up there on stage and then you did that thing. That thing that Bob Seger described as “every ounce of energy, you try to give away”.   The passion for the music, the love for one another — the three AND the four — the desire to share all of that with every willing ear.  You gave it all.

“Thank you” seems pretty inadequate in response but hopefully sincerity can make good on the simplicity.

In closing, just one other thought, one I shared with some of the members afterwards.   With the effort and emotion of the evening, I imagine it’s kind of hard to really step back and take everything in.   My hope for you all is that, at some point, you do allow yourselves a moment to appreciate just how well this went, how all of it came together, how it simply … worked.   Your audience most assuredly knows.

You done good boys. You done REAL good.

 

 

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Three cents about … “Ten bands”

And yet again I see a little hate directed toward the whole “10 bands” viral thing. Hey, that’s cool, most of us get irritated with one viral / meme or another now & then.  But I’m a little bumfuzzled about this particular one.
 
Here’s the part I don’t get: the high percentage of those who are worked up enough to bitch about it that seem to be connected to the music business in some way.  Let me be clear though: not all musicians were snarking about it, only a few really.  And not every mealy-mouther has a connection to music.  But there was a noticeable overlap between music-related workers & complainers, at least in what I saw.  Well over half the gripes came from people — often tertiary types — that have some relationship to music
 
I can’t imagine an actor complaining because people were talking about movies or plays. I can’t imagine a preacher complaining because people listed their favorite scriptures. I can’t imagine a grocery clerk getting bent because people were talking about food.  And yet …

Now let me also try to make something completely crystal clear before I go any farther.  If you happen to be a musician that got annoyed simply by the viral repetition or whatever, you’re not the subject of my rant here.   See above, about how we all get tired of one thing or another. No, what follows here is about those folks who seemed to take some sort of bizarre offense at the very existence of the topic.

 
Since I happen to actually like a fair number of musical folks, let me try to help out their kindred who seem to have missed both the point of the whole exercise and any understanding of why it caught on so well:  I thought AdWeek hit on a big part of it as they analyzed the sudden success really,  it wasn’t about what bands you’ve seen, it’s about using your understanding of how people perceive you & playing around with it.

It was about conversations.  I saw a LOT of these across my FB wall in the past 2-3 days.  Virtually all of them not only talked about the bands mentioned but also about how they fit into the timelines of their lives.  Not the bands but rather, how the concert experience came to occur.  Where you sat, where you saw it, why you went.   You know, actual conversations rather than the same ol’ picture shares, meme shares, hoaxes, and fake news links.

It was about nostalgia.   A growing portion of the population doesn’t remember when “camping out for tickets” was a thing.  If you DO remember, odds are you have some fond recollections to go with the uncomfortable attempts to sleep and freezing your butt off.

It was about shared experiences.  “You were there too?  We didn’t even know each other then, how funny is that?” and “do you remember that one guy, down toward the front, who kept trying to …”.
I was there, you were there, that’s a connection.

I’m looking back through the things I saw and find myself even more perplexed by the angst they seemed to generate for some people.   I don’t see anything that does another musician any harm.  I don’t see anything that diminishes anybody in any way.  I don’t see anything that requires any more effort to ignore or avoid than any of dozens of things that must surely upset the equilibrium of these hyper-sensitive souls every single day of their glaringly unhappy existence.

Well buttercup, if you think those lists yanked your chain, let me show you what a REAL tug on it feels like:  take your pitiful little complaints, shine ’em up reaaaaal nice, and shove them up your tightly puckered ass.   You’re either so pathetically self-centered that you can’t fathom not being the center of attention for fifteen (more) minutes and you’re just pissed that everyone isn’t kissing your feet & posting about youyouyou OR you’re so out of touch with how actual humans connect with each other that you’re unlikely to contribute much, if anything, to the social media sphere.  Don’t go away mad, just go away.

Ah hell, who am I kidding? As long as you shut the hell up with the whining, I don’t really care if you leave mad or not.

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Helpful Hints: fast food edition

Having just spent close to twenty minutes awaiting the successful assembly of four simple
(3 ingredients) fast food items, I’ve decided to be proactive.

Anyone can merely point out problems, I’m here today to offer some handy preventative tips that might help reduce the ridicule your establishment receives or deserves.   If you have hiring authority in this industry, please consider the following tips.

1) If Donqartavious shows up for the interview with red, glassy eyes and then shows up for work with the same slack-jawed blank expression while struggling to focus on objects directly in front of him … fire his ass.    Don’t allow the mistake you made in hiring him initially to be compounded by retaining him.

2) If Billy-Bob (or his wife / first cousin Billy-Sue) cannot successful spell “cat” on the third attempt after you’ve spotted him (or her) both the “c” AND the “a” … do not hire them.    Their IQ is not going to rise significantly no matter how many times they screw up the simplest of tasks.  Avoid the suffering they will bring to your co-workers, yourself, and your customers.  #JustSayNo

3) If Sharqarnevia arrives for her after-school job interview twenty minutes late, with a baby on each hip, a boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend, two cousins, her grandmother, and what must be her younger twin siblings all along for the visit … don’t hire her.   You already know she’s not going to be on time, you already know her judgmental abilities are questionable, you already know there’s going to be disruptions connected to her employment from the get-go.   So … just don’t.

4) If identical twins Lemonjello and Orangello show up for an interview but one keeps slipping away to inspect your security cameras and the alarm systems while the other is talking to you, take trust that slightly uneasy feeling you should be getting.   Employment for either is probably not going to end well … at least not for your/your location.

While I realize that these are only starting points for improving the customer experience at most fast-food establishments, we have to begin the process somewhere.   The simple tips will move the majority of locations a noticeable step in the right direction.

You’re welcome.

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O Happy Day … sorta

It’s about to get political up in here.   You’ve been warned.

{polite pause for the scrollers}

Ding dong, the fence post turtle is gone.  That’s the good news.

And yes, I’m a happy deplorable in the sense that we got the best (by FAR) possible outcome from the available options. Do not confuse that with me being particularly optimistic.

Trump is, at best, a rather pale imitation of my policy desires far too often for me to be too encouraged just yet.  There are encouraging signs, there are discouraging signs, the proof will be in the proverbial pudding.

I hope he proves my lack of starry-eyed optimism wrong.

I hope he is more aggressive than I expect, that he more successful at bringing the nation back from the abyss, even more resolute and adept at moving mountains that I anticipate.  I hope he exceeds my expectations ten-fold and the fears of the liberal left twenty-fold.

I hope he channels Conan the Barbarian, exemplifying what is best in life “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”

I’d like for “Hail To The Chief” to be suitably replaced by Kid Rock’s “You Never Met A Mother****** Like Me” by the mid-term elections.  For more formal occasions, Nazareths’ classic “Hair of the Dog” can be substituted.

Because one part angry mutha and one part S.O.B. is what it will take to undo eight years of damage presided over by the second-worst President in U.S. history.   (Yes, I still think Carter was actually a worse President, a truly unique combination of damned fool and inept bungler)

I’ve spent eight years being mortified on a regular basis, eight years being downright embarrassed to be an American.   Sorry if that rankles some uber-patriots but it’s the cold hard truth and I’m not inclined to lie about it.  Thing is, that isn’t Obie’s fault, he’s just a symptom.  The disgraceful disease is the rampant liberalism that allowed such a worthless empty-suit to be elected in the first place.  And THAT is what I want President Trump to address.   Treat the symptoms so that we can survive, secondary complications from such a serious malady can kill you, so they have to be dealt with.

But then, well, ideally Trump becomes the national form of chemotherapy.   The personal embodiment of a merciless assault on the terminal illness that plagues a once-great nation.  Every time he smacks down some idiot in sore need of a backhand, we take a step toward recovery.  Every time he speaks a straightforward truth, we move a step back toward reality and away from “safe-space” nonsense.  Every time he shows a little backbone, hopefully a cell regenerates in the national spine.

Today was a symbolic step in the right direction.  It’s a reason to hope, a thin silver of sunshine after eight years of steady, and sometimes torrential, rain.  It will take extraordinary resolve to repair the damage, let alone begin to rebuild.   Trump has defied the odds repeatedly, here’s hoping he can do so again.

And, at the very worst, we get perhaps the biggest upgrade in First Lady’s EVER.   And that is, at least, SOMETHING.

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… and the horse you rode in on

Ever had a friend that you just really feel the need to slap the shit out of?

Fair warning: considerably more profanity will probably ensue here.  If that’s a problem for you then it’s probably best that you stop right here.
{pause} {pause}  {pause}

That’s essentially my initial thought toward the now format-flipped Bulldog 93.3 here in Athens, GA.   I suspect a lot of their listeners are about as happy with them as I am right now, probably able to relate to my inclination.

After a month or so of “stunting” with Christmas music, the former active rock station has gone to what amounts to AAA, or Adult Album Alternative.   Gosh, wonder what I think of that move?

It’s a format that probably needs a different label.  Something along the lines of CLWFH maybe.
That’d be a more accurate description, if a bit unwieldy.  Candyassed Lightweight Worthless Fucking Horseshit would certainly be more descriptive if nothing else.

From a business perspective a couple of things have to be said here.  First, if you own it then you’re  largely free to do whatever you want with it.  I apply that to most all situations, it applies here too.
Next, radio is a hard cruel struggle these days and I can’t swear that there’s any way to make a real rock station particularly  financially attractive in a town with such a high percentage of safe-space, participation trophy loving twits.  In short, I don’t know whether there IS a magic formula that makes a rock station work in a place that might lack a sizable potential fanbase.   If the situation is bad enough then there is a time to cut your losses.

But as a listener, hell even just as a person with ears that work reasonably well, there’s the matter of HOW you wave that white flag.   And that’s what I take umbrage with.

Bulldog ownership already fired a torpedo into its own hull once, with a misbegotten attempt to create a classic rock station about a year ago.  That braindead experiment lasted, give or take, about a month before they reversed course.  I say braindead because attempting to clone something that a MUCH better situated station with almost infinite resources is already doing is a fool’s errand destined to failure.  Simply put, they weren’t going to “out-River” The River, and anyone with a handful of working brain cells knew that.   The misbegotten move also robbed the station of whatever momentum it might have had managed to gain since launching in June 2014.   It also illustrated a lack of commitment to the identity, to both listeners and advertisers, and breaking that trust is hardly ever a good move either.  Still, at least some portion of rock fans in the area tried to forgive, forget, and forge ahead in 2016.

That number included me, which in a roundabout way led to my interesting few months as one of three “guest reviewers” contributing to an album review segment that aired in their weekly Classic City Countdown show.   That was a good experience as a writer if for nothing other than it forced me to listen to some of the absolutely worst dreck I’ve heard in my life.  That really was good experience for me, since I had to find different ways to express dismay for what actually gets recorded at times.    The station gave me enormous leeway with that task, trusted my judgment (and ability to stay somewhere inside the broadly drawn lines), treated me with nothing but respect throughout, despite really not being sure of much more than me being an overaged rock enthusiast with a keyboard and opinions.  Whether it was the ops manager, the show producer, or my fellow reviewers, I have nothing but good feelings about that experience.  I thank them each and every one for that.

Alas, sometimes your friends end up in a mess not of their own making.   And if they’re standing in the middle of a manure pile then some splatter may be unavoidable.

That’s pretty much where things stand today.  I’ve known about the impending change for a month or so, have had plenty of time to internally debate what I might say afterwards.  (Yes, I’m pretty sure those that knew me figured full blast was coming).

The problem here — aside from the marketplace — strongly appears to be ownership.   The founder is badly overmatched by the sizable challenge in my opinion, and lacks the necessary commitment to overcome the odds.    That last bit is critical to me, as AC/DC noted “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll”.   Instead, self-indulgent specialty programming, a lack of creativity, a lack of courage to do anything other than follow the the mildest and meekest of paths, it simply doesn’t add up to success.

Then again neither does four formats in 2.5 years.  Active, to classic, back to active, to a Christmas stunt, to this useless fucking dreck.  I know attention spans are getting shorter but damn.   I could have had more respect for pretty much any decision than the one that was made.  It’s the very sort of worse than useless shit that I’ve now spent literally years railing against.   Better to have turned out the lights or burned the (figurative) building than to have done THIS.

This isn’t just “no longer rocking”, this is the antithesis of rock, propagating the cancerous alternacrap that has left the rock genre weakened & watered down to the point that its very survival is very legitimately questioned.

Bulldog 93.3 didn’t just quit, it joined the enemy.

It would have been better to have gone quietly across the rainbow bridge.

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Election Day 2016

You can almost feel my excitement jumping right off the page can’t you?  Yippee.  Yahoo. Whee.

Barring mishap, I’ll once again make the trek to the polls on Election Day, and while you may have guessed (correctly) that I’m less than overjoyed about it, a few thoughts seemed appropriate.

Oddly, for as imperfect a field as we have at the top of the ballot this time, I’m actually more enthusiastic than I was four years ago.  That is indeed damning with faint praise, but still.  If you’d have told a younger me that I’d ever see a ballot where I could not in good conscience cast a vote for a Presidential candidate I’d have figured you for nuts but that’s what 2012 brought me.  My lingering regret over voting for McCain as the lesser of two evils four years prior was still fresh in my mind, I vowed not to regret a vote I knew was wrong for me again.

8 years later, I still regret that ballot for a lightweight like McCain.
4 years later I have no regrets about passing on Malleable Mitt.

And that brings me to this year’s ballot topper, and the odd journey to my vote/non-vote this year.

Without rehashing too much of the over-long primary season, half the clowns in the GOP clown car were non-starters with me from Day Zero.  It took very little for the rest to eliminate themselves from contention one by one.  Throughout the primary season I kept waiting for the last man standing with me to foul up, to step on any of several political third-rails that would eliminate him from consideration but he never did.  Came close once at least, but I managed to forgive that slip under the great Southron tradition of “bless his heart, he just doesn’t known any better”.

And so on March 1st, with a middle finger thrust quite gladly toward the party establishment, I cast a pretty willing ballot for Donald Trump.   Maybe it propelled him toward his eventual victory, though he never did thank me from stage or anything.

Have you ever heard me mention the notion that “nothing is ever simple”?   Sure enough, DT decided to prove it.

It took him less than two months to find one of those third-rails with me that he’d somehow avoided.  An ill-advised interview remark in late April in opposition to North Carolina’s HB2 effectively rendered the only candidate I’d seen any reason for hope from moot, a dead issue.  Simply put, if you can’t manage to get something that obvious right then how in the heck can I expect you to accomplish anything meaningful?    And from there, I basically spent the remainder of the year politically detached.  I kept up of course (how could you miss the basics after all?) but it was with roughly the same detached feeling I have for the results of Dancing With The Stars or some other crap I don’t watch.  It exists, I’m aware of, I’m just not worried about it.

It’s actually a fairly relaxing state of mind, that detachment.  There’s a certain peace in a state of being where all hope is lost, so you just ride the whirlpool down the drain.  I found amusement with it all wherever I could, mostly in the sad apoplexy that afflicted some of his detractors.  At least there was comedic value there.

Then over the past few weeks I started to waver.   The more handwringing I saw about Trump’s lack of political correctness, well, the appeal of tweaking that in the nose took on a new light.  Maybe there is some purpose to be found in that particular vote.   Trump is, after all, kind of a very lightweight version of me on my better days.    He’s too lenient, he lacks a necessary amount of common sense, he isn’t remotely reliable on much (if anything) I care about … but there’s a comedy value at least.  And, hey, he might accidentally stumble onto doing something right somehow.

I’ve wrestled with it for these past few weeks,and finally reached a conclusion.  He’s woefully inadequate to the task of saving a country that’s been spiraling down the drain for so long that I don’t actually believe anything can stop the momentum, much less reverse it.   Why not at least take advantage of an opportunity to extend that middle finger one more time, for not only myself but for all those who have known the right paths for America but strayed from them.  The ones that know, deep down, he’s right more often than he’s wrong but they’ve lost the nerve to stand by that knowledge.  He’s probably no more than an aspirin for a patient suffering multiple traumatic injuries, but that at least fractionally better than nothing.  VERY fractionally, but still.

Plus, hell, literally NOTHING would be better than the other choices.  You’d have needed to include the likes of certifiable idiot Sanders to have come up with a field worse than what Trump faces.  I’d have happily  moved to Illinois and died just so I could vote for Clinton twice against a nutjob like Bernie, if they were somehow matched head to head in November .. and I wouldn’t piss on her if she spontaneously combusted before my eyes.  Luckily, it didn’t come to that, but I did at least have a plan in case it somehow came to pass.

So barring mishap or misadventure, I’ll stand in a long line with the rest of the overjoyed masses and vote Trump on Tuesday.  If nothing else, one more rude gesture before what’s left of America disintegrates.

Otherwise, a very light ballot for me with no local contested races & few statewide.  I’ll vote with great disdain for Isaakson for U.S. Senate,  vote enthusiastically, though with no hope of it passing, for Amendment 1 (state takeover of failing schools), vote against a poorly and too broadly worded Amendment 2 (ostensibly assesses criminal penalties to go toward sexually exploited children but included an unwarranted ‘assessment’ (i.e. new tax) on legitimate businesses), vote strongly in favor of replacing the Judicial Qualifications Commission,and cast a blase vote in favor of directing existing taxes on fireworks toward trauma care & public safety.

There ya go.   There’s my endorsements, such as they are.

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Walking Dead premiere reaction

My intention here is to be spoiler-free, I’ll do my very best.

Maybe now some of my comments around social media in the past few days make a little more sense. I honestly don’t know that an American TV audience will prove willing to deal with this level of … brutality.  

 
For those that don’t watch The Walking Dead, consider everything you’ve seen on television — fiction, reality, any & all — and then consider that what just aired has me sincerely wondering whether it’s maybe just … too much.
 
I don’t mean from a should they/shouldn’t they aspect. The creative team was well within their rights & then some. This IS what the source material is. This is what always had to happen.
 
But will that have an audience on television?  I have my doubts to be honest.

The Walking Dead isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  I don’t mean that the audience suddenly goes away overnight.  But I do expect as much as 30% – 40% of the audience to be gone a year from now.  In my heart of hearts, I just don’t believe the level of cruelty on display is something that we en masse are looking for.  We get enough of that in our every day lives, one way or another.

It’s often brilliantly done television, hell, writing & acting period never mind the medium.
It’s a tribute to all those involved that we have such strong reactions.

But is this … entertainment?  And if we aren’t being entertained, what motive to watch do we have?

I’m really having some doubts about that in recent days, tonight did nothing to change those.

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