Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Want to Rock and Roll All Night and Part of Every Day

An old Austin music scene friend updated her status on Facebook the other day by saying that her eight-year-old son is driving her crazy. He’s playing a KISS CD. A lot.

My first reaction was, “So what’s the problem?’

Then she added that she’s giving him all of her old “hard rock CDs” including some by Soundgarden, the Clash and the Foo Fighters, to try to get him to listen to something ”better.”

So my second reaction, logical for a rock critic, was, ‘Those groups are not hard rock.’

She wound up by saying her kid is not going for her music.


Everybody knows it’s a kid’s job to drive their parents bananas. It’s been that way since at least the nineteenth century, when young Bavarians started telling their folks, ‘Yo, Beethoven is dope.’ What’s more surprising is that my friend may have thought her family would be different.

Years ago, another musician friend of mine proudly announced to me that his sixteen-year-old son was listening to exactly the same music that he did. My friend had a noise band—they built their own instruments, which included electrified drainpipes and two-by-fours with guitar strings. So his teenage son was listening to the Pixies, and telling all his high school friends that hip hop and Christina Aguilera sucked. He was just like his dad. It was one of the creepiest father-son things I ever saw.

Besides, it’s all relative. My kids, Adinah and Ms. V., they love the Kiddie Contest CDs. These feature the music from an Austrian TV show in which a group of irritating rugrats and Celine Dion-damaged teens perform clever remakes of pop hits. One contestant turned Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” into “Handy,” a song about her relationship with her cel phone. Listening to that these last hundred times or so has been better than drinking Drano. But not much.

So I’d love it if my girls discovered “Detroit Rock City.” Or even “Calling Doctor Love.”

But do you see me complaining about Kiddie Contest?

No, you do not.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the nightlife era

Steve Shelley was in Vienna last night. He’s taking time off from Sonic Youth to play the drums for a band called Disappears . They’re good—a real straight-ahead railroad charge of spiky and spacy guitars—and it was great to see Steve bashing hell out of his kit in a hammerblow sort of way.

I’ve known Steve for about 25 years, so it was fun to visit with him and exchange sightings of some of our more loony rocker friends. He is also an unabashed Classic rock head, so I could (relatively) shamelessly confess to him that I’ve only recently “discovered” the Allman Brothers and well, James Brown. He gave me a few tips about both, then promised he’d send me some MP3s. Oh boy!

I haven’t been in a rock club watching a live band in about a million years, so that in itself was cause for rumination. Everything looked the same: the fanboys bumming cigarettes from each other in the front row, the blond bartendress built like a fireplug, the looks of surprise and pleasure on the guitarist’s faces. The sweat. It’s a great world. I wonder how much longer it will last.

I just don’t know how bands can tour anymore—gotta be so expensive, and to what actual financial or public relations gain? Matter of fact, even local bands must be going extinct. It’s always been a young person’s game, and always financially iffy, but right now? Sheesh, how long can one put off earning a living, just to bring the heavy riffage to a niteklub?

As I watched Steve wacking the toms with the same boyish half-grin he’s always grinned, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to show this world to my daughters?’ But I don’t know if the rock club will still exist by the time they become old enough to enter one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

um, hello again....

I started this blog with the admittedly ridiculous notion of documenting my transformation into a "European." In the last few months, I slowed down then finally stopped posting to it, but not because I've finally, irrevocably, become a Euro-like me. Instead, it's just that, to paraphrase Big Daddy Kane, bloggin' ain't easy.

For instant gratification and quip exchanging, Facebook is better, more zipperless. Maybe Twitter is better still, but I'll never know--I just can't stomach the idea of joining a revolution which could elect Ashton Kutcher king. Magazines are so old hat (so why do I still drop everything else when I have a chance to contribute words or pictures to them?) And having a website is just dopey. (So why am I building another one?)

In short, I am mediacentrically mixed up. If this is an Attention Economy, I've confused my paper money with my small change.

I've also been really fucking busy.

Anyway, I definitely am more Euro-like now. I believe, for example, that lo-cost, hi-quality childcare is a right. I don't drive. I appreciate good bread and smelly cheeses.

But my friend Rich will be glad to know I also still shower or bathe regularly. (He must have had a traumatic encounter with a French person.) And I think about the USA a lot. I miss my homeland terribly. I just don't miss the bullshit....

Speaking of the Tea Party, I was thinking of them the other day as I read The Downfall of Fascism in Black Ankle County. That is a short chapter in the most excellent Up in the old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. It was writen in 1939, as Americans were really coming to grips with the nature and implications of Nazi Germany. Mitchell documents the very short career of the Ku Klux Klan in his small North Carolina hometown. In just a few pages, he paints a picture of the KKK as hilariously inept and almost pitiable douche-lords, and he goes a long ways towards draining them of all of the fearsomeness they so clearly desire. This is a lesson I hold close to my heart: humor is the Death Star for assholes.

I'll try to remember that when I see pictures of Rand Paul and Governor Rick Perry.