Tags: shows


plug! shameless!

Anna Leuchtenberger, Shawn Roggenkamp, Jon Good, and Noah Booth performing at The Tank for Josh Luxembourg and Nick Aszling's Puppet Playlist. These guys are frickin' amazing and I'm not just saying that because they're my friends. Video speaks for itself.

There's another Puppet Playlist this weekend, with the theme "One Hit Wonders." Tonight's sold out, but there's still tickets left for tomorrow night at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. If you're in the city, you should go.

enough residual energy to fill an E can




Man I suck at meeting new people. I guess that's one thing I've never given up about being a nerd--though my social skills have vastly improved, I'm still no good at starting conversations with strangers. (Once a conversation gets going I'm good to go, but that first step is still awkward and terrifying.) Fortunately, the great thing about nerds is that they're no different. NERD COMMUNITY MOTHERFUCKER YEAAAAAAAAH

And all the ladies my age are taken. All of them. Everywhere. There's no point in even flirting anymore. If you like it someone else has put a ring on it, woh oh oh.


*several minutes of continued fratboy screaming*

*continuous headbanging*

8-bit tankbusters!!

Brief flash-forward to New York before I continue writing about Cupertino.

Last month, when by amazing dumb luck I met Tob, the guy who did NitroTracker and the DS MIDI Interface, he told me about a little chiptune concert series in the city that he was planning to stop by the next day before he returned to Germany. "It's called Pulsewave," he explained. "I am interested to see what you Americans are doing with chiptune music. I hear you guys have done amazing things using Game Boy and Game Boy Advance sound chips as instruments."

"Sounds cool," I said. "Where is it?"

He scratched his head a bit. "It's not a large venue, very small, I hear," he said. "A little theater off a side alley in Times Square called the Tank..."


You're shitting me. That Tank? The little off-Broadway theater where my Oberlin friends Josh Luxenbourg and Jon Levin do Puppet Playlist, where I've heard Jon Good and Anna and all the others perform? Goodness. The bigger this city gets, the smaller this city gets.

Alas, I couldn't make it that Saturday due to prior commitments. But when I heard there was going to be another one last night, I couldn't pass up the chance.
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fun things i have done lately, part 1

Yes, I do occasionally leave the house, or do things other than make stuff. Sometimes. On occasion. Every now and then.

Last week I met theotherbaldwin in person! It's weird; I've known him through the Internet for over twelve years, longer than I've known most of my closest friends, and he used to live less than an hour's drive from me, but we'd never seen each other in meatspace. (He was a regular and eventually maintainer of the Cafe Eblana Messagebase, the first Internet community I'd ever been a part of, back when I was an attention-starved twelve-year-old messageboard troll.) He didn't look or sound anything like the pictures and audio he's put up over the past few years, but that may be because he's just been through an ugly divorce and that will mess up anyone pretty badly. Funny how in this day and age you can meet up with someone you don't recognize and in less than thirty minutes go on to reminiscing with him about the time a dude you guys both knew in middle school broke his penis in a tragic masturbation accident.

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heralds of the post-oberpocalypse

For those of you who didn't go to Oberlin, or are too young to remember, blues-rock trio Adult Situations was one of those Oberlin student bands with so strong a following that it never managed to stay dead. You know the story--they pack the Cat at their final show, they graduate to tearful farewells, they go on their separate ways, they start lives and careers--and one year later they're all back in Oberlin playing at the Cat for One Last Gig. And, a couple years later, another Last Gig. And then in New York, or Seattle or Portland or San Francisco, another Last Gig for their alumni homies, just for old times' sake. And so on. The Bucketkickers, the alumni of the Obertones, Huzzah for the Shopkeep--it seems like no matter how dead the band is, no matter who leaves, no matter how vehemently the frontman insists that, for real this time, this is their last show, ever, sooner or later they'll all be hanging out together with their instruments at Oberlin, reminiscing over good times, and boom--someone'll book 'em for one last gig. To put this phenomenon in perspective, Adult Situations's absolutely sublime post-graduation reunion show was the first performance I ever saw at the Cat, back in freshman year--a watershed moment in my lonely, rapturous relationship with live music. That was in 2004. Today, in 2009, Adult Situations--not having played as a band in two years, with one of its members living in Indonesia--got together again, booked a tiny venue in the Lower East Side called Arlene's Grocery, and what the hell. One last gig. For old times' sake.

Of all the bands this could have happened to, it couldn't have happened to a better band. I mean no offense to other kickass Oberlin bands like the Bucketkickers, who, despite their name and the departure of half the band, have repeatedly failed to kick the bucket--but when most of these bands get together it's a nostalgia trip more than anything else. It's clear they haven't practiced together in ages, they forget the words to their own songs, anyone who's never heard them before has no idea who they are--but who cares? The spirit and spectacle of the performance are what counts, and it's always a fun show, if never as magical or intense or ass-kickingly facefuck raaaar as you remembered. (As with all bands, there's an inescapable weariness to playing their signature set for the eleventy billionth time.) Two things set Adult Situations apart, though. First, they managed to stay together and perform for a while in New York after they graduated--fuck, they even opened for Fall Out Boy once, if the rumors are to be believed--allowing them to grow their music and establish an identity outside of the school. Second: they're Connies. And that, really, matters more than anything else. Long before Oberlin became a notorious hippie school it was recognized as one of the best music conservatories in the country. These guys are part of that heritage, that legacy of phenomenal musicianship, and it shows--you can hear it in their composition, in their lyrics, in their improvisations and delivery--even in that crazy experimental shit they do like the almost imperceptibly low bwaaaowaaaow Asher gets by tapping his hand against the side of his electric bass and cranking up the distortion. They're not just a bunch of talented kids fucking around with instruments and having a good time. They're professionals. These guys, in their time apart, have been practicing. A lot. And holy fuck does it show.

Recordings don't do them justice, honestly. They're too intense for conventional recording equipment. I'm serious. Opera singers have a voice that breaks glass; frontman Nick Messitte has a voice that breaks amps. Halfway through the show the amp started buzzing because the sound guy grossly underestimated how much juice was going to be coming through that mic (why does Nick need a mic at all?). Not entirely the sound guy's fault--it happened at the Cat, too, back in 2004, and it happens on all of the shitty old mp3 recordings that served as the soundtrack to my Oberlin education. The dude is intense. There's a power to his wailing, neurotic, deliberately off-key delivery that puts some of the punk rockers I've seen to shame--which might seem incongruous among the elaborate blues picking and country-western distortion tricks he does on his axe. But it works. Joined by the crooning harmonies and drum-shattering rhythms of vocalist/drummer Ian Pollock, and the magical flying fingers of bassist Asher Rapkin, the resulting music is a veritable force of nature. It's a distinctive blend of styles--youthful and energetic and incomparably intense, and yet somehow retains more than enough of the soul and depth of its jazz roots. No four-chord vocals or cookie-cutter bass lines, oh no. This is advanced music. And it's crazy and emotionally brutal and will rock your toenails clean off. (Their Oberlin-era magnum opus "Piano Etude," a musical narrative about a Con guitarist taking piano for a music theory class, is particularly nerve-shaking. No small feat, considering that it's basically a song about how much Nick sucks at piano.)

That's one thing I love about this band--they make the kind of music that you can just close your eyes and get lost in. It's not the kind of music you'd want to listen to alone--but you could. The harmonies just come out and slug you at some resonant frequency, and all of a sudden you're moving at seventy miles an hour. It pries open the little bottle in your soul where you keep all the angry things and sucks them right out. You feel almost like what it must have felt to be the Gerasene demoniac having his one thousand demons torn from his soul, driven into pigs, and blasted into the sea by the sheer force of awesome. Not even in the cheap way an emo or punk band would do it--it's not all raw emotion--but in this intricate, delicately winding channel with occasional exploding floodgates. I didn't even notice until tonight that most of their songs--including the ones I've already been listening to ad nauseam since 2004--were about alienation, loneliness, and social awkwardness. It's a blessing, in retrospect, that so early in my Oberlin experience I could experience that raw poetic lyricism as a prelude to all that was to come. I thought that it wouldn't be the same, this time; teenagers tend to prefer more emotional stuff and my tastes have definitely already begun to mellow out--but, if anything, their frenetic, anarchic style and lost, frustrated lyrics (not to mention the liberal smattering of New York references from their post-Oberlin material) makes their music even more relevant to me than it was five years ago. It was a real privilege to hear them again.

and even old new york was once new amsterdam

It's really hard to write about a TMBG live show--not to mention almost pointless. For over a quarter century (!!) they've been an institution of silly rock. Seeing them live has been a rite of passage for three generations of teenage geek rockers, each of whom claim the band as their own. Their eclectic, catchy tunes have spawned multiple new genres of pop music, are on permanent rotation at high school and summer camp dances, and have become an emblem of hipster heritage; every rock 'n' roll fan born between 1980 and 1994 has at least one fond memory with a TMBG song as its soundtrack. Hell, even Faye from the uber-hipster webcomic Questionable Content, who generally only wears ironic original T-shirts, was wearing a TMBG shirt in the flashback in which her father committed suicide in the mid-90s. You guys grew up with this band, and know more about them than I do--there's little point in telling you about them.

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the world ends with you

The federal government bought out AIG. They didn't want to send the wrong message to other insurance companies, so the conditions were harsh--Uncle Sam gets a 80% stake in the company and veto power over its leadership, and the company has to pay off all the money the government lent it (all $85 billion or so) at 11% interest. This is essentially an emergency government takeover of a very important private institution. Libertarians are already crying foul (and socialists rejoicing), but the implications of this move are for the future to decide. What matters is that any money you may have lost in the Lehman brothers collapse (aside from the falling value of stocks, which will hopefully eventually be recoverable) is insured. Better still, British bank Barclays has bought out Lehman Brothers's consumer assets, including all the accounts people had with them, so even former Lehman customers can breathe a little easier. For now, a Great Depression style collapse has been avoided.

That's not to say the markets are fine, or even on the road to recovery. Despite the buyout of AIG there was another crash today--the Dow fell 450 points--and now the last two major independent brokerages, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, are in immediate danger of suffering the fate of their peers. On TV news Morgan Stanley's already talking about fleeing into the arms of some other firm (any other firm), and Goldman Sachs is reporting record losses. With Bear, Lehman, and Merrill already gone, the last two horsemen of the apocalypse are getting ready to ride, sending investors fleeing to the safety of their teddy bears. Those teddy bears are the safest investments on the market, the ones you only invest in if you are okay with making no profit at all--the strength of the market for gold and Treasury bonds today was what one commentator called "absolutely absurd". Apparently (and I can mention this because it's old news) there was even a run on mattresses in Manhattan today. Some claim this is because investors are sleeping in their offices to monitor the situation; others say it's because it's the last safe place for them put their money. My guess is that they just want a flat surface to lie on while the market fucks them in the ass.

But you know what? I really can't bring myself to care. With the government running AIG and Congress holding emergency session after emergency session to intervene, there is now a solid wall of cash between what is going on in Wall Street and everyday life for ordinary Americans. Lots of very rich people right now are going to be a lot poorer, and Wall Street is undergoing some historic and irreversible changes, but unless commodities don't hit rock bottom (you have to hit rock bottom to bounce back), it's not worth losing sleep over anymore. This isn't my game. In the office the two TVs we always have on are flashing red arrows and using vocabulary like "meltdown" and "historic" and "epic proportions"--if I hear "in my X years in the business, I've never seen anything quite like this!" one more time I'm going to have to choke somebody--and dethroned CEOs are screaming "I lost my net worth over this. My entire net worth!!" on the news and folks in the office are ending personal calls with "Don't jump," and I just go SHUT UP WORLD and code. The Man (the political-corporate elite, not some illusory white racist conspiracy) squeals real loud when he gets punched in the balls, but it's got nothing to do with me. For now, you guys are good, I'm good, America's good, and Wall Street can go to hell.

I hate money. I don't want to post about finance on this blog ever again.

So tonight I went to see my Oberlin acquaintance Tom Curtin perform at the Sidewalk Cafe in the Lower East Side. Now that I'm a novice (not even amateur) guitarist myself, I tend to get mixed feelings when I see a really talented, better-than-amateur musician performs in front of a really small crowd. Don't get me wrong, it was a good show--a really good show. Tom's quite formidable with an acoustic, and he's reached that rare level of mastery in which his passion for the music and his technical expertise perfectly augment, not interfere with, each other. That's a very enviable quality, and watching his fingers move over the fretboard as he belted out soulful self-penned melodies about gay senators and the twin children of necromancers helped me understand that playing that well takes so much more than strumming the right chords to the right beat. If he was kind enough to write up the tabs for his songs, I could probably learn one in a month, but it'd take years before I could know the instrument well enough to perform with his candor and musicality, much less bring the songs I've written to life the way he does. His lyrics are silly, often frivolous--they seem to hint at greater meaning, the way a lot of indie folk bands do, until you listen closely and realize that singing "There are flies in my mouth!" over and over again doesn't actually mean anything but "There are flies in my mouth!" And yet there's so much genuine feeling in the way he sings "There are flies in my mouth!" that you can't help but feel moved by the tragedy of all those poor insects trapped within his maw. That's the difference between a true musician, like Tom, who has mastered his instrument well enough to focus on the music and not the playing, and a novice, like me, who can only strive to imitate the sounds he likes to hear. What's a little depressing is that his talent was not proportional to the attention he got. I understand it was a Wednesday night in an obscure restaurant/bar in the Lower East Side, but there were maybe eight people there tonight, and I think most of them knew Tom personally. They were the people who would come see him and cheer and clap even if he wasn't an amazingly talented musician. Does Tom Curtin even know how good he is?

(This is his MySpace page, by the way. As of now, he has two songs up there, "Noble One" and "The Optometrist Song." Neither of them are his best, but they're both pretty good.)

Also...I will never be one of the cool kids. But that's a rant for another day.

like a muthafuckin' riot

Oberlin alumni acoustic coffeehouse at DaBhang on West 8th! Happy, happy, happy, happy. Unplugged music is my soul made flesh! Er...sound! Or...or some less drunken metaphor that actually works.


This is the first all-acoustic show I've seen since starting to learn guitar, and consequently I couldn't stop staring at performers' fingers. It's amazing how wide a variety of styles there are, and how performers from so many different technical backgrounds all make beautiful music. Jared Glenn's got some great fast-strum, chord-driven songs with intellectual, driven lyrics; that Brazilian dude has restrained picking and pleasing Spanish chord progressions; Tom Curtin has Paul McCartney verve and crazy barre jumps; and Anna goes her own way and fingerpicks whatever sounds best match her poetry, scales be damned. You know how in the blitzball minigame in Final Fantasy X, whenever an opposing player hits you with Poison Shot or Sleep Tackle, "PRESS TRIANGLE!!" will flash across the screen, and if you hit the triangle button at just the right time you'll still get hit by the move, but you'll learn to do it yourself? It's exactly like that. "Learn Fingering" and "Learn Strum Pattern" are my Reaction Commands. First thing I did when I got home was pick up Shandy and improv some chord progressions from what I had learned. Felt good, and sounded better.

I don't give myself enough credit, guitar-wise. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a novice, and I'm still too uncoordinated to sing and play at the same time. But all that practice is finally paying off.

But back to the show. Oh man. Lots of experimental stuff--two guys who were involved in the theater production of Lost Highway at Oberlin were there, and it showed. Dueling basses, sax/trombone/percussion jazz improv, random screaming scat--it was like sitting outside the Con listening to the TIMARA people record samples. (Make of that what you will.) With some better lighting and one dollar chocolate chip cookies it would have pretty much been the Cat.

Also I met lots and lots of people I only sort of knew, and as much as social interaction wears me out and confuses me it does good to drink deep after a drought.

Oh man. I've needed this. I've needed this so bad. Sweet muuuuuuuusic. And people. And coming home and strumming those fingertips grey.
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who you gonna call? (goatfuckers!)

Went to the Huzzah for the Shopkeep/Bucketkickers/Zen and the Art of Mayhem party (concert? party? concert?) above the hardware store last night. Huzzah was awesome as always--what's not to like about fresh, tight jazz-rock--but it wasn't 'til the Bucketkickers came up that the show went absolutely batshit insane. There were like fifty people, not including the band, in a room the size of my bedroom, crashing into each other and waving PBRs and screaming obscenities. There was a mosh pit. There was crowdsurfing. The band took off their shirts (as did some of the audience). By the time they got to their infamous covers--NIN's "Closer," Sublime's "What I Got", Run DMC's Ghostbusters theme, to name a few--the crowd was almost as loud as the band. It was pretty wild, and a fitting last show for a truly venerable ska band. Carly, Jon Good, Bucketkickers I don't know--you rock. Hard.

Shyness be damned, I really should go to this kind of thing more often. So what if I'm going to spend most of the show going deaf by the amps and not talking to anyone. I like the music, I like the atmosphere, and sooner than I think I'll be too old to enjoy it. I've never been big on the bong-smoking rainbow-sock-wearing party scene, but maybe I should be. I mean, I'm still going to be keenly aware of Consequences--pot, alcohol, and rainbow socks can cause a lifetime of regret--but there's something to be said about just being there. Even if all you do is drink one beer and try to lose yourself in the music with people who have had ten. Friends--as much as I love you all, I know you're mostly of the smug variety, the kind that likes to gather in small groups on the sidelines of such a spectacle and shake your heads and judge, with equal parts amusement and bewilderment. But there's something sublime about, and nothing wrong with, jumping into a crowd of screaming lunatics and letting yourself go, just for a little while. Embarrassing? Definitely. Mindless? Of course. Who the fuck cares, I'm having fun. I've got the whole rest of my life to judge other people for making fools of themselves. Right now, I've got to spend my dignity while I still have none to spend.

Last week I had zero things to look forward to after college. Now I have exactly two:

1. Visiting an old friend this summer.
2. Live music.

It's not much, but it's something. I know a girl who mentioned once, on LiveJournal, that the only thing that keeps her going is concerts. That's not a happy place to be, but I suppose it's better than endlessly worrying that your last and only important life choice is Abort, Retry, Fail.
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