Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why the Cardinals are the Best Team in Baseball

With one month of baseball season almost behind us, I have decided to do a bear/anti-bear status update on the coolest team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals. In doing so, I will compare men on their roster to members of the coolest team of all-time, and by that I undoubtedly am referring to the kids from The Sandlot, which is my favorite baseball movie. Without further ado….

In the leadoff spot is Skip Schumaker. He started off the season a little slowly but has become red-hot as of late. He’s one of those players that is a bit squirrelly and he plays pretty well in right field, too.

His Sandlot equivalent: Michael “Squints” Palledorous. This guy is a classic top of the lineup kind of player. He is small and confidently calls his shot in the batter’s box, but we all know he only gets line drive base-hits. These guys are quick and fast and can always slide into the base and beat the tag. Plus, on top of everything, despite their size they have the guts to feign drowning and kiss Wendy Peffercorn. And that’s really everything you can ask for from a leadoff guy.

Next is Chris Duncan. Chris Duncan is a converted outfielder and it is always an adventure for him out there. The other night he made a routine fly into a heart-pounding, run-into-the-wall-at-the-warning-track-and-fall-down type of grab. Furthermore, he always has the biggest wad of tobacco in his mouth. I know most ballplayers chew but they do it a lot more inconspicuously than Chris does. I don’t know if you remember but Duncan reminds me of the guy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles who comes to give them a ride in Wichita, and is always snorting and spits juice on his palm before shaking hands.

His Sandlot equivalent: Bertram Grover Weeks. I think this one is pretty obvious here, people. The redhead kid who introduces everyone to “Chaw!” at the amusement park, resulting in them all puking and getting sick. Bertram actually reminded me of a guy on my own little league team, who instead of throwing a foul ball back to the pitcher he “accidentally” launched it into right field, and when he was running the bases he’d knock over the other team’s players, claiming they were in the way. These guys are always a bit of a wild card, but usually solid ballplayers out on the ‘lot.

Third we have Pujols. Day in, day out, Pujols is there for the Cards. He’s got power (the other night he cranked one into Big Mac Land) and he is also a gold glover at first. He hit the most fantastic home run I have ever seen against the Astros in the 2005 NLCS. We all know who he is.

His Sandlot equivalent: I feel somewhat bad about this one, but it is Allan “Yeah-Yeah” McKlennan. I know, you all thought it would be Benny, but it didn’t play out that way. Pujols is an all-star and the most flash that the Cardinals possess. “Yeah-Yeah” was the most glamorous Sandlot player and the best dressed, with his slicked hair and button down shirt worn open over his white T. He’s the one we all wanted to look like from 1950’s Americana and summer baseball. He’s the James Dean of the sandlot; the Pujols of the Cards.

Batting clean-up is Rick Ankiel, who has become my new favorite player with the team after Rolen went to Toronto. Ankiel started as a pitching prodigy back 8-9 years ago, and was just starting his way to Hall of Fame stardom until he couldn’t find the strike zone (or anywhere close to it) in the playoffs. He disappeared, vanished, the dreams were dashed. Until last year, when he came back as a position player and started cracking homers out of the park. He’s now the starting centerfielder, and don’t try to get an extra base on him, folks, he’s got one of the best arms in baseball. He’s also been in the HGH controversies for a few years ago when he was in the minors, but his journey is incredible, inspirational, and I’m sold on him. I love his half-sarcastic smirk that’s on his face most of the time.

His Sandlot equivalent: Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. Benny never made it big in the pro’s- at the end of the movie he is a pinch-runner for the Dodgers. But he is the hopes and dreams of the sandlot guys, the only one to ever even get close to the pros. Ankiel and Benny are equivalent because they each possess a mystique, a lore about them that makes them great despite probably never making the Hall. Pujols is the best but we all know that and expect it. When Ankiel hits a dinger or when Benny steals home, I get tears in my eyes.

Next on our line-up card is Yadier Molina. You have to love this guy- he’s got this perpetual grin going for him (except, coincidentally, in this picture). Like when he gets a single and rounds first, he’s beaming like he’s never been there before. He’s got two other brothers that are also catchers in the pro’s, so it runs in the family.

His Sandlot equivalent: Hamilton “Ham” Porter. They’re both catchers and the larger-bodied players of the team, so the resemblance begins there. I’m also going to infer that they both “don’t run well.” This phrase seems to be used a lot in baseball as a polite way to say a player is extremely slow and you panic if they take more than a two step lead. And hey, I like to picture Yadier wanting a “quick game” so he can get back to the dugout and grin over some hot dogs for lunch.

Following is Aaron Miles and Adam Kennedy. These guys play second/short and are in LaRussa’s rotation for the infield. They are pretty solid guys who can come up big at the plate as well, but it’s likely that sometimes they don’t get enough credit and fall under the radar as compared to bigger names in the league like a Jeter or a Polanco. They probably are two of the straighter-laced players of the bunch. They probably don’t get into trouble with LaRussa.

Their Sandlot equivalent: Timmy and Tommy Timmons. They look alike and sometimes you have to confess to getting them confused. But the Timmon’s brothers come up big for you and they don’t beat around the bush. They’ll holler “The Colossus of Clout!” in your face as many times as you want until you finally realize who Babe Ruth really is.

In the eight-spot is Brian Barton. Seemingly a fan favorite in the ‘Lou, he has got great speed and a terrific batting average. Just the other night he stretched a single into a double in the top of the ninth and ended up scoring the go-ahead and winning run. He’s got some great dreads to boot, which gives him tremendous aesthetic appeal.
Q: Why did Brian Barton make the starting roster?
A: Because he’s a rosterfarian.

His Sandlot equivalent: Kenny DeNunez. He’s a quality sandlot player but he’s got unknown talent because he’s not exhibited much in the movie. Likewise, we’ll have to see how Barton’s ability progresses over the course of the season in St. Louis after he gets more playing time. Plus Kenny is the only black player in the movie, so this is a good match.

Lastly, the Cardinal’s pitcher- Anthony Reyes. This guy is my favorite, though he’s not even in the starting rotation. Just look at him. He gets some flak for not bending his hat bill but c’mon, that’s style man. He’s got an old-school pitching delivery and usually wears his socks high, too. I don’t know when he’ll pitch again; sometimes he’s good, sometimes he gets lit up. He’s still young and learning, though.

His Sandlot equivalent: Scotty Smalls. Remember when Smalls first goes out to play and he wears that fishing cap with the extra long bill? Well that’s right down Reyes’ alley. I won’t be surprised if Reyes steps out on the mound with one of those sometime soon. But then Benny gives Smalls a new cap to wear. I’m sure Reyes would take a new cap but he’d probably still straighten out the bill.

A final comparison: Tony LaRussa. His Sandlot equivalent is obviously James Earl Jones. They both are the only ones who are always wearing sunglasses, even at night. Sure, James Earl Jones’ character was blind in The Sandlot, but maybe LaRussa is blind, blind to the fact that he is the coach of the coolest team in baseball. Both he and James Earl Jones take a ragtag bunch of ballplayers and turn them into something special.
Anti-bears- 4.0. Most of these guys are home-grown in the St. Louis minor league organizations, and I have tried to convince you that the Cardinals are the most inspiring team in the game. If direct, empirical comparisons to Sandlot characters don’t justify this claim for you, then nothing will.

Bears- 2.0. I still am on the edge of my seat as to whether these guys will actually make the playoffs.

The New Pornographers/Okkervil River, 4-21, Madison, WI

About four years ago I remember thinking that if I were in a band, that I'd want to sound like the New Pornographers. Their recorded output at that time consisted only of Mass Romantic and Electric Version, two hook-laden, upbeat, and the kind of diverse but straightforward pop albums that make you wonder why they aren't the most popular band in the country. How could anyone not think this music is perfect?

Over the past few years my tastes have ebbed and flowed to and from poppy stuff, noisy stuff, drone stuff, sweet stuff, and bands that fell into categories defined in different proportion by all four of the preceding categories. For the most part what's become evident is that bands as perfect as the New Pornographers have tended to fall out of favor with me. The vocals are too polished, the hooks too catchy, the band too confident, the image way too damn slick. The NP's subsequent two albums, Twin Cinema and Challengers offer a slight departure (much moreso on the quieter, subtler Challengers) that I couldn't quite hop on board with as easily as with the first two. Twin Cinema and I had some good times, ranging from when I bought that album in Tulsa after we got back from our roadtrip out west and before school started that year, through when I saw the band play a dynamite set at the now-defunct Mississippi Nights in St. Louis (I always loved the club but it wasn't until I moved to a town with so many venues of questionable quality that I realized that Mississippi Nights was an amazing place to see a show) and pretty much up until walking in to the Brown Auditorium in Louisville where they were on stage warming up for Belle & Sebastian and basically not even caring that they were opening.

Since then I'll occasionally dip back to the first two albums and I tend to enjoy them, but I don't love them nearly as much as I did those last two years of college. A few months ago when I heard they were playing in Madison with Okkervil River, I was mostly limp on the idea of going despite my friends' excitement. I mean, New Pornographers are alright, and I like Okkervil River, but paying $22 (+ $6.75 from Ticketmaster if I couldn't find the time to go to the box office) for a show I'm not crazy enthusiastic about in a venue that I almost completely detest wasn't something that I was planning on doing.

Flash forward a few months and I hear a song in a bar (I don't remember which) and suddenly going to the show felt like a good idea. I'd pay the $22, but fuck Ticketmaster. If I couldn't get tickets at the box office I would not go. Turns out someone at work had an extra ticket they were unloading for $15, so that was awesome and I didn't have any doubts about the value of seeing a band I really like and I band I really used to love for that price, even if the show was at the fantastically hateworthy Orpheum Theater.

Day of show, and the temperature is 75 and the sky is partly sunny. Fuckin' a, I'm going to walk to the theater! It's only a mile and a half, but during the winter months that's an absolutely gargantuan distance to have to walk. When the sun comes out it's fucking gorgeous.

So, let's break this up into 3 sections (there will only be one score total, though):

The Orpheum Theater
I never reviewed the Decemberists show I went to at the Orpheum (holy shit, I just realized that show was almost exactly a year ago and that day was also one of the first truly beautiful days of the spring season as well), but rest assured that I hated it. Part of why I hated it was because I drank too much, part was because I didn't think the band was particularly 'on', but most of why it was so awful can be attributed to the Orpheum Theater.

This place is one of those big old-timely venues with ornate wall carvings and a swanky lobby and other beautiful accents, but unfortunately the obscenely awkward positioning of the balcony juxtaposed against the main floor has forced the stage to be positioned about 8 feet in the air, which you can imagine has to be a terrible headache if you have to either crane your head to look up from the floor or down from the balcony. I mean, who designed this fucking place? Our seats were near the back of the floor section and our view was actually pretty decent. However having seats in a venue is automatically negative points, so it was minor consolation (and though I'd actually have liked to have sat for the New Pornographers' set, everyone in front of me stood up and I'm not tall enough to be able to see over their heads when I'm sitting, so I had to stand also). Oh yeah, and it was ungodly hot in there. Big, hot, musty, awkward theater does not a good show help. At least the sound quality was above average, if not downright good.

Okkervil River
I've seen Okkervil River three times now, and of the three shows this one certainly takes the cake as the one I'd like to remember if for some reason I was forced to forget any two OR shows that I've been to (abbreviating Okkervil River as OR makes their name look dangerously similar to O.A.R.; I just shuddered). Will Sheff's narratives resonated perfectly through the venue, and his stage presence was enormous. He's got a fantastic, booming voice, and he commands it perfectly in tune with the band's songs. Their loud songs were good. Their quiet songs were good. Their cover of "Sloop John B" was fantastic (sidenote: I've read in several places that this song is the lone clunker in the context of its Pet Sounds surroundings, but I've always quite enjoyed it). I would have been perfectly satisfied if my $15 had gone to see only Okkervil River that night, but holy shit the headliner hadn't even played yet! In my experience even when the opener tears it up, the headliner usually puts them back in their place. This was going to be a great show. No regrets any more!

The New Pornographers
I forgot to mention this earlier, but a few days ago Neko Case injured her foot and had to drop off the tour for a few shows, this Madison stop included. That was a serious bummer because a huge part of why I decided to get a ticket hinged on her presence. When she sings, I get fucking chills. Everyone gets fucking chills. Kathryn Calder has a beautiful voice, but she's missing the "Neko Case Factor", which needless to say is unique to Neko Case.

Anyway, after a reasonable intermission, the lights dim and the crowd cheers. Minus one point for the crowd, since when a venue is that full for a band that is that popular, I expect a roar. Cheer is laundry detergent. Roar is what good crowds (and lions) do. I guess the crowd was also anticipating a mediocre performance in the absence of Neko Case and Dan Bejar, but come on, give the band the fucking benefit of the doubt!

In the crowd's defense, the first few songs performed were total snoozers. I don't know if the band were mirroring the crowd's intensity level, but it wasn't until "The Laws Have Changed" that things started to pick up a bit. It's a melodic upbeat rocker, but when it's the first enthusiastically performed song of the night and it's the fifth or sixth in the set, there's not much hope for the rest of the night. Or is there? Following "Laws" with "Twin Cinema" was making me reconsider my own lack of enthusiasm. I was beginning to feel it, and I was having fun. Turns out the rest of the show was pretty limp. I enjoyed my old favorites "Mass Romantic", "Electric Version", "Sing me Spanish Techno"and the two encore songs, a genuinely spirited cover of ELO's "Don't let me Down" (don't let me dowwnnn, KROS!!) and the classic "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism", but during the rest of the show I was pretty bored overall. I certainly wasn't the only one either. Most of the crowd didn't really seem to give a shit about a band they paid at least $22 (and in some cases around $30) to see, which is unfortunate because an excellent crowd can turn a mediocre show into a really good show.

Overall it was pretty clear that Okkervil River stole the show. In the section of songs I enjoyed I neglected the one that Will Sheff stood in for, commandeering Dan Bejar's vocal section ("Myriad Harbour"?). Several friends agreed, and I heard various comments in the lobby about how great Okkervil River were and how merely "alright" or "pretty good" the New Pornographers were.

Bears - 3.5.
There was a tall guy standing right in front of me. I mean, seriously, come on! In the whole row directly in front of us the one tall guy was immediately in my field of vision. Also, the venue tends to suck a lot of life out of the shows it hosts. And it was fucking stuffy in there. Also, the New Pornographers weren't great.

Anti-bears - 3.5.
Okkervil River saved this score. Will Sheff is awesome on stage. Also the cover songs the bands performed were fantastic. The weather and the walk to and from the Orpheum were very nice, as well. The New Pornographers weren't terrible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My morning commute

This morning I set out from my apartment around 6:35 AM Eastern time. I walked from my apartment to the Farragut North Metro station. Along the way I listened to my IPOD. I like listening to music while walking down the street to the metro. Along the way I passed by the National Geographic Museum and the infamous Mayflower Hotel. My walk was about 10 minutes. I took Rhode Island to 17th st to L st. I took the L st entrance into the station, because it's the closest to me. There are 2 other entrances I could have taken, but I stand by my choice. I waited 3 minutes for the red line train. I rode it 4 stops to Union Station. At Union Station I went to Au Ban Pan and got a cinnamon scone. Mmmmm delicious. They have great scones there. Then I got on the 7:12 Marc Train and I was on my way! While on the Marc train, I read the newspaper and talked to my friend Elizabeth. Upon my arrival, I bought a coffee because I need to have a caffeine boost to start my day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The post below . . .

. . . may be the worst post that has ever been put on this blog. While I don't really like this bastardized version of charz2k, at least most of the posts have a point. The original concept for charz2k was a parody of a review site. Since moving to this blog format, reviews only account for about 30% of the posts. The remaining 70% is regular blog-type garbage. BUT AT LEAST THOSE POST HAVE A POINT OR SOME FORM OF VALUE! Really, reading charz's post made me think of a certain incident involving Naveen, Garz and a blueberry bagel. It may even be worse than that incident. At least that incident was related by speech. While I can't say that it wasted less of my time—in all honestly I can probably read faster than Naveen (or a surrogate) can speak—at least the bagel story spawned an incredibly long-lived line of jokes. Charz informing us denizens of the web that he is going to watch the Simpsons will do no such thing. He didn't even have the sense to wait until he'd watched the freakin' (yes, Parks, that is a lion) show, so he could give us a report on this endeavor. Instead, we are forced to browse through the comments to find a poorly drafted re-cap of what we all know is a mediocre show.

I would like to take this opportunity to do a quick-and-dirty classic review of the current state of charz2k.

Anti-Bears – 2.314
  • Occasionally, Garz, Dan or Jared writes a funny post.
  • Actually, Jared's posts (sans the dream post) are never all that funny, but they are usually in a review format which I'll have to count as a plus.
  • If I ever forget why I once put my head under a car tire and asked Garz to run it over, I can always remind myself by returning to this page.
Bears – 5+ (Weight assigned individually for effect; remember that the scale is not additive, so the overall score is NOT the sum of its parts)
  • This is nothing more than a blog—I still think I'm too cool to ever like something that could be called a "blog." (3)
  • Do I really care what 5 songs pitchfork media told Garz to listen to this week? (2)
  • Charz's post. (17 – for a point of reference, if there were ever an earthquake of this magnitude, the earth would not only crumble, it would most likely vaporize)
I feel very dirty after posting on this charz2k blog, but something had to be said. Since everyone is obviously incredibly interested, I'm going to go brush my teeth. I'll probably spend about 1.2 minutes doing so, after which I will take out my contacts. I will then sit on the edge of my bed and stare at the wall for approximately 8 hours. This will still be more fun than reading about charz's plans to watch the simpsons.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Simpsons.

I've decided to watch the new Simpsons episode tonight on Fox. I know, it's going to just make me angry, and it's a giant waste of 30 minutes. I'm curious though. Maybe with a new batch of writers, it's funny again? Okay, so there's a 1% chance of that being true. But I'm watching it damnit. Although there's a pretty good chance I won't make it past minute 10.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A comment on the Dead that I've decided to make as its own post because if I just commented on Jared's post none of you fools would read it

A pressing question for J. Two part question: Is uncle john's band in this grateful dead collection? If so, which version???

Now, a classic memory that I bet even J has forgotten: me making a lame joke about the grateful dead being from oklahoma because of the lyric "ripple in still water." Oh wait, that's not a lame joke- it's frickin hilarious.

PS the john adams miniseries rules. It's no wire, but good nonetheless. I bet for the next 30 years, elementary-high school students will watch this miniseries in their US history classes, and see some paul giamatti kick-assery.

Holy Lord Album Recommendations

Holy Lord it'd be so sweet if the Feelies played Crazy Rhythms! By the way, everyone, that album is a fucking sterling masterpiece- it's absolutely perfect! Not that the Public Enemy and the Mission of Burma albums are anything to scoff at. I think I'm gonna go to the Pitchfork Festival.

We should have a charz2k festival with arts and crafts tables and face painting booths. No music, we all hate music. No bands, band members are always dicks.

I got some album recommendations for every person alive (dead not invited):

Chrome - Half-Machine Lip Moves/Alien Soundtracks (2 LP on 1 CD thingie!)

Psychic TV - Forcing the Hand of Chance

Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On

Eric, dammit, you have to get that Sly album.

I'm so sad to hear about Whiskey. Quick story: he had been trained by the Garz family to stay away from the hard wood floors and to keep on the tile. One time we enticed him to slowly walk onto the hard woods and when he had finally gotten completely on them I said "Whiskey!! Get off of the hard wood floor!" and he quickly ran away in panic. He also enjoyed farting in rooms then leaving. Oh, and he had an awesome piggly tail.

RIP Whiskey

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pitchfork Music Festival!

Pitchfork Music Festival is in a few months, and piece by piece the lineup is being revealed to the public. After excellent rosters in 2006 and 2007, 2008 has quite a bit to live up to (but will probably be better than Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, regardless).

For the uninformed (if not only for the daylight, climb out from that rock you've been hiding under; you're no lizard): Pitchfork Music Festival is a 3-day indie rock extravaganza that since its inception in 2006 has been an annual Midwestern hipster pilgrimage destination. What's unique about the festival is that, aside from the bands and the cheap price and amazingly inexpensive bottled water, some hipsters actually even actually wear shorts! It's also not uncommon to see really colorful and close-fitting t-shirts with ironic slogans, band names/logos, swirly modern graphic designs, and the occasional vintage Cubs shirt. Those who don't wear shorts usually have tight jeans on, and some even have *gasp* cargo pants. Sometimes utility actually does eclipse fashion as a primary concern of the cool kids who are quick to utter quite potent doses contempt for the crass assumption that they actually give a shit about what you think. Oh yeah, and the shoes. Chuck Ts, Onitsuka Tiger, Pumas, or bare feet. There are no other options. Enough about stereotypes. I wear things that look like what I just talked about. I am a walking cliche (+10 for Shins reference).

The lineup usually spans the entire chronology of "indie rock", and includes performers who perform music that people who tend to like indie rock also like (or at least pretend to like so as to not appear close-minded, even though as J stated below many would probably instantly wince at the mention of the Grateful Dead--I've been guilty of this but am slowly getting better) such as indie pop, indie dance, indie jazz, indie electronic and indie world music. Past years have seen breakouts (Danielson, Man Man, CSS, Tapes 'N Tapes, Dan Deacon, Girl Talk, Deerhunter), veterans (Yo La Tengo, the New Pornographers, Spoon, Of Montreal, Silver Jews, Stephen Malkmus), and legends (Yoko Ono, Os Mutantes, Sonic Youth). There has been the quiet of Beach House, the completely opposite loud of Mastodon, the funky of Jamie Lidell, the perfectly sincere of Jens Lekman.

This year's lineup as it has been announced so far again offers something for everyone.

Friday, July 18:

Pitchfork Music Festival and All Tomorrow's Parties
present "Don't Look Back"

Public Enemy performing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Mission of Burma performing Vs.
+ one more to be announced

Saturday, July 19:

Animal Collective
Jarvis Cocker
Vampire Weekend
Dizzee Rascal
Fleet Foxes
No Age
Jay Reatard
King Khan & His Shrines
Atlas Sound
The Ruby Suns
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

+ many more!

Sunday, July 20:

Dinosaur Jr.


M. Ward

Ghostface and Raekwon

The Apples in Stereo


Dirty Projectors

Cut Copy

Extra Golden

El Guincho

Fuck Buttons

+ many more!

Yeah, the formatting sucks. I don't know.

Anyway, I've got two predictions that, if true, would make this year's lineup infinitely more awesome than those of years past.

Prediction 1: The Black Lips. How perfect would the Lips be at the tail end of Saturday's dirty garagerockathon? Seriously. Atlas Sound, King Khan, Jay Reatard, No Age, and Black Lips? Fuckin' A!

Prediction 2: The Feelies just reunited. There is one slot open for "Don't Look Back" on Friday. Crazy Rhythms is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. You. Do. The. Math. That would be all kinds of amazing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Mother Lode- Grateful Dead Complete Winterland Recordings, 1973

I am the guy at work who has to go and pick up the mail everyday at the downtown Tulsa post office. I go at about 9 am, and the <15 minutes I spend in the car I find myself flipping between the radio stations. It is amazing how many of the same songs I hear. I've gotten my limit of Nickelback's "Rock Star"- all I know are the lyrics "everyone's got a drug dealer on speed dial." There's a new band Paramore that I've discovered, and they are terrible. I've heard the same Spin Doctor's song from 1993 a few times, and what I can enjoy the most is "Our Song" on the country station by Taylor Swift, who's apparently like 18 years old. The best thing you can really ask for is something like a "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" or an "Interstate Love Song." I saw one of these typical rock stations was doing a March Madness bracket online, except instead of basketball teams they had their favorite rock bands. I think there was a Fuel/Korn matchup.

Why do I say this? Because the trip to the post office pretty much constitutes my entire music listening during the week. Until now, sucka! I've always been a Grateful Dead fan, and I'm not ashamed of it. The package on my door yesterday was a gold mine- Nov. 9, 10, 11 concerts from Winterland, San Francisco, 1973- a 9 disc feast, three for each show! Plus I got a 10th bonus disc for ordering before April 30! I wouldn't label myself a Deadhead; obviously I've never been to a GD concert. I think I was 12 when Garcia died, and I don't trade concert tapes or anything like that either. But I have more shows to say I go beyond just a casual fan.

First of all, what is better than getting CD's when their packaging is tip-top? This set comes in a nice box with psychedelic squiggles behind the skull logo. Each concert is in its own tri-sleeve case with the same pattern but different colors. And the box smells really great, too. I'm halfway through the second disc right now, watching the Card's beat up on the Astros, and the music is amazing. The sound quality is great- I can get bass, drums, boards, and both guitars crystal clear- a lot of times with my bad ear I can't hear at least one of the instruments very well. So far the solos and jams are real good, and there are 3 X "Bertha" in the collection, one on each night- a favorite of my favorite Dead tunes! There was a similar collection released awhile ago from the Fillmore West in 1969, and is now unavailable. I have seen it go for $600++ on eBay, another reason to pick up your copy of this box set today! Plus, I could possibly be convinced on any given day that 1973 is my favorite year for these guys.

It has been a lifelong dream of mine to write something about the Grateful Dead on charz2k, and I thought what better time to defame a perfectly good indie rock blog with something on this band. I feel like the Dead get a bad wrap sometimes. They must be one of the least pretentious bands ever, but can do more musically than 10 other bands combined. I've always found their sound to be the most colorful of any group; the jams can evolve into something as quality as, say, "Bitches Brew," but garner none of the latter's "coolness." I even like some of their other shorter songs, which some consider more as throwaways- but I dig the combination of folk and pyschedelia that they did so well. Their whole music is the perfect blend of country, rock, and jazz- like John Wayne on his horse meeting up with Neal Cassidy's Hudson in the middle of the 1960's San Francisco Haight. Bottom line- you can keep all your Animal Collectives and Arcade Fires, I'll take this any day of the week. This and maybe Slanted and Enchanted.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Songs of the Day

Happy Monday! Garfield the cat disagrees with me (he hated Mondays), and I disagree with myself too. Mondays suck. I've never listened to the Happy Mondays, but even if they were great I don't think I could come to like Mondays.

Anyway, I've got a few songs that are Monday-appropriate. They're all a few years old and all have some sort of intangible lingering hint of melancholy in the melodies. There are only three I could immediately think of:

Enon - Natural Disasters
Stars - Set Yourself on Fire
Crystal Skulls - Airport Motels

Also, my family dog was put to sleep yesterday. It kind of came out of nowhere (his spleen ruptured yesterday afternoon because of an undetected tumor) and I'm bummed, but not as much as I should be. What's wrong with me?

R.I.P. Whiskey (1997?-2008).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Xiu Xiu, The Conservatory, Oklahoma City, OK 4/2/08

I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to drive all the way to Oklahoma City last night after I got off work to see Xiu Xiu. The show started at 8:00, there were two openers so it would be late when I got back, and I would be driving upstream from Tulsa to OKC into pouring rain. But I decided I did want to go- got there early, and had a McD’s fish sandwich, and headed to the Conservatory.
I’d never been there before, and I know there are certainly dumpier concert venues that I don’t know of because I don’t go to that many shows, but this was a pretty good dive. It felt like an abandoned building- no ceiling, open air pipes hanging above you like in Super Mario Bros., scant lighting of only a few random bulbs or stage lights, and around my feet I think I could discern 4 different types of flooring in my 2 foot standing radius: broken up tile, scraped up tile, ripped up carpet, and concrete. Not necessarily saying this scores negative points for the venue, but it’s just all I have to look at for an hour because I discovered the show actually starts at 9:00.
There is a small record store right next door to the venue and I rummaged around in there for awhile. I ended up buying a Circulatory System CD because I think I heard Garz say that band was good some years ago! Anyways, Xiu Xiu came in the store and was looking around at stuff before the show too. I’ll just cut to the chase and say they came on stage around 11:00 and I don’t feel worthy of reviewing their music. I know Jamie Stewart has had more heart-wrenching experiences in life that I can only dream about and this emotion comes through in their music; someone I would say fits the definition of artist to the fuller definitions of the word. The tunes to my amateur ear seem to swell between Stewart’s fragile vocals and violent onslaughts of instrumental noise. Much of their music can be unsettling at times, like a brick thrown at you. At the beginning of the show they turned the house lights off and just had the colored stage lights, but Stewart quickly told the manager it was better with them on. So they played in the light and they could see us as much as we could see them, as starkly open and honest as the music itself.
I was worried maybe the OKC crowd was lackluster for Xiu Xiu- there was genuine applause after songs, but what do you do in the interim before the next one? Cheer and holler to request the next brick? The venue almost got eerily silent in these intermissions. The stage was a festival of instruments, stuff that I don’t even know the names of. Stewart had a combination of like 5-6 cymbals and gongs in front of him, and a little snare or two. McElroy played keyboards, flutes, percussion, something that looked like an accordion. I won’t even try to chop up their material by throwing out abstract adjectives or comparisons, I wouldn’t do it justice. If you’ve heard the band I hope you know what I can’t fairly describe and if you don’t I do recommend their music. It is experimental but for me it consistently seems to have a purpose, not just weird for the sake of it. Is Xiu Xiu my new favorite band? Probably not, not if you mean exactly how many times I actually spin their records. Something like the Black Lips is obviously just an easier listen. But they are possibly one of my more admired or respected bands as musical artists. The performance hits hard and I am sure I don’t entirely get it, but I certainly appreciate it. I told Stewart thanks for the show as he was packing up his equipment, shook hands with him, and headed home, and I am really glad I went.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Worst Beer in the World

I'm no connoisseur, but when it comes to drinking beer I usually like to maintain a decent standard. This almost always eliminates beverages sold in 30-packs of cans, sold individually in bottles of 32oz or more, and virtually all malt liquor. In fact, I tend to avoid any variety of canned beer altogether.

This past weekend, however, I was thinking of economy over quality and I succumbed to the evils of "that section" of the beer aisle and dropped about $14 on a 30-rack of Old Style. I had been jonesing for a PBR, but sadly the Copps on Park St. doesn't carry beers that nice. So Old Style it was. And after having already downed a few bottles of imports and micros, it wasn't as terrible as it could have been. But it was still pretty bad and it's not something I'm likely to do again in the near future.

Now let's talk about Danny. Danny likes decent beers (I've seen him drink them!), but when the order of the night is home-based boozing and general hangouttery (and there isn't enough in the house already to keep all parties adequately imbibed) he inevitably wanders to "that section" of the grocery store to pick up a 6-pack of 16-oz cans of the Worst Beer in the World.

Nope, it's not Natty (Ice, Light, etc), or Keystone (all varieties), Miller, Busch, Blatz (up north) or any of the preferred beers of the guys whose favorite season isn't summer, but rather "cargo shorts and flip-flops time". It's not Lonestar, or Schlitz (which holds the same special spot in my heart that Carlo Rossi does, but I'll likely not ever drink either of them again), or even fucking Milwaukee's Best (false advertising!)!

It's Olde English. And according to ratebeer.com (which is an awesome site), Olde English is the absolute worst beer in the world. It's even ranked below every type of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beer.

Danny, please start drinking better beer. http://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/TheWorstBeers.asp

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Review - Sam's April Fools' Day Joke on Me

Thanks to the internet, no one is safe from jokes on the first day of April. The first cruel joke played on me today was the weather: high temperature of 39 and snow flurries. It's fucking APRIL!!! Besides that the day progressed without incident (unless you count getting Rickroll'd a few times as incident, which I don't because Rickrolling is my favorite internet phenomenon [did you hear that LoLcats? Fuck LoLcats.]) until I got a facebook message from Sam saying that he'd written his first charz2k article ever. I was legitimately floored. SAM posted an article? No way. No FUCKING way.

I checked. There was no article.

How do you deal with heartbreaking situations? You respond via facebook, telling him he should post that amazing article he wrote! Then you wait, and check again a few minutes later. If you're me, you get to suffer the indignation of being April Fools'd after you'd come to expect if from every other possible angle. But from Sam? I didn't expect that at all. Check mate, man, you fucking got me.

Anti-bears: 4.8. You fucking got me!

Bears: 2.5. You didn't Rickroll me. Douche.

To Eric:

April Fools.

Love, Sam