The Small Text: Bottlerock Recap

A flat tire in a sketchy crack riddled hotel row in Vallejo wasn't how I had imagined the day starting. It was the last day of a short tour with the Bottlerock set on the horizon. Shady folks who looked like the extras from a breaking bad meth scene outtake eyed the van and trailer for pawnable contents like a pinata that yielded the next fix. We were all tired, we had pushed the previous night thoroughly into the am at a fired up gig in Healdsburg and now it was time to summon the remnant energy for the last set, the one that really mattered. We got the tire fixed and were on the way, thrown into the fire on arrival. We unloaded quickly and stepped to the stage like underdogs with something to prove. I had no idea how large Bottlerock was. There was a literal sea of humanity there to see some music heroes with a litany of ubiquitous hits between. We were unknowns on the line up, the small font, but owned the determination to not live with that title. We hit the set hard with the hunger and every ounce of energy we could muster. After the set I was talking to one guy who had bought all of our CDs and he said "I just wandered over here for a beer and you changed my life, this was the best thing I saw all weekend." Mission accomplished.

 

Photos by Kristy Walker

The unabashed rudeness of polite strangers

To be an un-famous musician is to participate in the chronic hustle. At least that’s what I’ve gleaned from breathing. I imagine once you’re of Katy Perry status you can close your eyes, think of the specific sushi you want and a drone swoops in and perches it atop your cleavage in thirty seconds or less, but I am not Katy Perry. In fact, I’m not even sure if she’s a relevant pop reference as I dwell on the outskirts of “the loop”, but I imagine my point is received. My income is divided into thirds. The Holy Trinity of my current currency is the record store, the swap meet and any miscellaneous odd job that comes my way, I’ve been a hand model, junk hauler, song consultant, wedding priest, limo driver, basically if you’ll pay me, I’ll probably do it. One time I got $13 to eat 64 ounces of cranberry sauce after thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not sure if that counts as employment. Anyway, I take my swap meet excursions dead seriously, I’m not quite one of the record guys out there at 5am with a spelunking lantern, but I’m that second wave of 7am soldier out there looking for stuff to turn around. I’m usually the guy who gets to see the guy before me leave with all the stuff I wanted, but every once in a while I’m the first cat on a stack and I get a win. Yesterday I was at Qualcom and had some luck. I got ten quality records on the cheap, the best of which was a pristine copy of Eno Here Come the Warm Jets for a dollar. I had a good feeling about the day, I was walking at about the pace of Blanche Devereaux on an exercise bike when this dude stopped me. He couldn’t have possibly been a nicer human being, he said “hey dude, you like records, can I see what you got?” It’s the first time in a while my east coast soul almost percolated to the surface with a “Fuck you dude, I’m on the hustle.” Last time I slowed down to talk to someone I missed out on a Birthday Party record to some asshole who didn’t even know who the band was but liked the idea of a record about Birthday Parties (he was in for a rude awakening). I defied my instincts and showed this kind stranger the fruits of my labor and he began to tell me stories about each band. I was hoping he’d pick up on the jittery bloom within my shifting personality, I was welling with rush and anxiety, preying he would draw his conversation to close after picking up on the not so subtle social cues I was tossing out there. I got my records back and picked up the pace on my stair-master, think Vince Coleman 1985 after a blast of coke with police on his tail. I make it to a stack of records and I’m the first on the box. I’m going through and finding gems left and right, trying to temper my excitement. It’s a delicate dance, you don’t want the seller to know he’s selling gold for dirt. As I’m piling up a stack of records that will put a significant dent in rent this month, the polite guy resurfaces. He starts trying to thumb through the stack as I’m looking it which is a HUGE NO in the unspoken swap meet etiquette, I’m seen old ass men punch a dude in the shit for breaking that code, you can look over the shoulder, but no touching. I’m boxing this dude out, but he starts looking at what I got and he says “HOLY SHIT YOU GOT THE WHOLE BAUHAUS COLLECTION, YOU KNOW HOW HARD THOSE ARE TO FIND.” And under my breath in the quietest yet most commanding voice I own, I said “you need to shut your mouth down now.” I didn’t even know I had it in me and I don’t know that he heard it, I kinda hope he didn’t cause he was super nice and a fan of our bands, but there’s a line and it was crossed. Back to the Hustle. Panama 66 tomorrow with the Midnight Pine.

Kaapoo

Ah, my favorite time of year for shit talking, the unveiling of the Kaaboo lineup, the premier festival for a Donald Trump America. I can just see it now, Jeff Sessions raising his can of Miller Highlife, front and Center for Smash Mouth’s encore of All Star, though when Ice Cube's set begins, he might say to himself “who let all these wild ni**ers on stage, where’s Darius Rucker, I can handle that???” A Festival where Red Hot Chili Peppers shamalamdomalamasalabama their way into a headlining set, where Garbage isn’t just a band playing, but a theme for the weekend. I will say this, if last years line up was full blown HIV, this years line-up is more of an early detected prostate cancer of a music festival, there’s some solid acts, Tom Petty, Eric Burdon, Trouble in the Wind, Jackson Browne, Jane’s Addiction and Little Hurricane, but I’d still rather get pulled over alone on a rural Alabama road at 2am than find myself watching Live or Ke$ha perform music that I paid literal money to see. Shaquille O’neal, who made recent news for his flat earth beliefs with some of the most stunningly ignorant quotes I’ve ever heard, is doing a DJ set. I kinda wanna see that, so I could discuss it with thick tones of hipster irony, like wearing a Winger shirt while drinking a Zima Gold and watching a vhs copy of Gremlins 2, because sometimes shitty things are fun. And what the fuck band is "Led Zeppelin 2", cause other than Empire Strikes Back and the second Godfather, I’m weary of sequels, I'm talking to you Dorian Mingus (this joke is for two people and I hope they read this post). Is San Diego that lame (he asks himself at work as he rings up a guy with board shorts and frosted tips for an overpriced Slightly Stoopid lp)? I still believe there could be a festival in this town that leaned on both creative acts pushing boundaries and well established acts that don't make me wanna kill myself (in a bad way, you could book the Cure or some shit), but I also believed that it was impossible to have a Trump presidency and that the earth was round. But who knows, last year I was driving back from a gig in LA and when we passed KaaBOOOOOO, there was a ton of humanity on the fairgrounds. Also, sorry to all the bands I perform with that there's no chance in hell they'll ever invite us to play the festival again. I promise to make it up to you when I start booking my Kablam festival, there will be no Barenaked Ladies unless it's a particularly hot day, Alanis Morissette will not be one of the more "virtuous" acts, the lineup won't shame you into telling folks you're "from Canada, the Ca stands for Canada, aye" and you won't risk running into Ben Carson at a Toad the Wet Spocket set.

Didn't Even Need A Delorian

Yesterday it was discovered that human time travel has occurred. This is not fake news. It was discovered by me. See, we always wondered how it would work if one was to go back in time and mistakenly alter the trajectory of the future. This is your basic Marty McFly principle, or the Sound of Thunder or the Simpsons episode where Homer delivers the poignant line "I wish i wish I didn't squish that fish". I mistakenly assumed that if this were to happen, my memories would change accordingly, to coalesce with the rearranged passage of time, but in fact, at the precise moment some shithead reaches deep into the past and offers George Washington a "rocket blast of methamphetamine", we were catapulted into this very real dystopian present. Everyone is asking themselves "how did we get here, we were moving forward, and then all the sudden Donald Trump was president and we no longer understand the world, was it a fragmented education system, was it the archaic electoral college, was it the proliferation of fake news and Russian interference, was the inherent misogyny of America so deeply ingrained in our bones that we couldn't bring ourselves to pick the clearly better choice because she owned the Alley McBeal DVD box set, or did a Drug dealer named "You Turn" show up at an MIT Lab to provide some young scientists the cocaine they needed to pull an all nighter and upon exiting, stumble into an experiment, travel back in time to the dawn of this great nation and smoke crack with the founding fathers to "see what it do"? Still think this is fake news, read the sound of thunder and then read the Times interview with the president of America. Watch him wield unhinged from subject to subject in a wildly incoherent way, watch as the fragility of his pride struggles with the mass of his ego, watch him bend the truth like it was made from clay and sculpt it into his own misaligned vision. It is truly terrifying.

Fly Guy

A long day awaits me. An 11-hour shift at Cow, followed by a quick walk to the Dani Bell and the Tarantist show at Winstons. I clocked in at 10am and minutes later an obviously crazy person walked in. The day never had a chance to get its bearings. Those first few minutes of peace before a long shift are like the essential deep inhale before a marathon, my first metaphorical breath would be of car exhaust, dust-off and paint thinner. How do you know someone is crazy from first glance? Well, he had a partially shaved head that looked more like a topographical globe of a new earth, where the bald parts indicated toxic water and the hair indicated varying elevations of land, and there were plenty of each haphazardly splayed around his world. He had caution tape wrapped around his right hand, perhaps a reminder to masterbate with the left and left only for some reason. He had an American flag ear ring, I guess that doesn’t necessarily indicate crazy, perhaps the Olympics brought out his pride, but perhaps Trump. No shirt. A tattoo of a single solemn tear. Also, last week he came in and yelled at a Vampire Weekend poster. I guess that’s not entirely crazy either. I have no problem with the guy, especially today since he didn’t come in yelling at our posters, but here’s where conundrum drifts in like a fart cloud. When he left he grabbed a handful of Birdy Bardot flyers. He said “I like to use these things as ice breakers, sometimes I’ll give them to someone and they’ll give me a quarter. One time it was 50 cents.” Hmmmmmm. Perhaps this explains why we had to reorder a bunch more Birdy flyers. Now I’m thinking if a batshit crazy person gave me a flyer, I’d start making assumptions about the band he was promoting. In this scenario, I’d expect Birdy Bardot to be a Korn coverband who does socal reggae versions of Korn’s early works. This cannot possibly be good for us. As opposed to intervening like a good record label owner and saying “here, take these Blackout Party flyers instead” I asked if I could take a photo of him holding a Birdy flyer, so I could share it with the band, to which he responded “PUT ME ON THE INTERNET, I’M FUCKING FAMOUS!!!” So here we are. In a moment of absolute serendipity, I snapped a photo and a fly landed on his head and sat there forever as if they were partners in a buddy comedy called My Guy / My Fly.

What Happens If You Stick Your Finger In An Electric Pencil Sharpener

Do you ever wanna see a Trump Presidency just to know what it would be like? Like in Back to the Future 2 when the future is all fucked up because..... well, now that I've used that as the example, I vaguely recall the plot involved a Trump-type becoming president and running amok. Sometimes I have apocalyptic daydreams, just hit restart like the end of Fight Club and begin again with a clean slate. I'm not saying I'd ever do anything to make that happen, but every once in a while I'll have some bicep riddled customer say "Do you have the new Bush cd?" and I'll wonder, what would happen if I just slapped the shit out of him before he could say the "d" in cd. I have enough common sense to preserve my life, but one can escape into the "what ifs" behind closed eyes. My vision of the Trump years starts with me lurking discretely after curfew, street fires illuminate the night’s ebony and I'm hunting rats for sustenance with a net made of barbed wire. The street corner preacher mutters passages from the New Testament and Wiz Khalifa lyrics, but it's drowned out by the Stone Temple Pilots cover band, there's one on every corner. A tattered flag blows half-mast in a hot polluted wind commemorating the death of Poet Laureate Paris Hilton. Defense Secretary Scott Baio is in charge of our days and our nights, our wrongs and our rights. I run into former speaker of the house Paul Ryan, he's eating a tin foil roasted squirrel under a cardboard roof Jackson Pollocked in guano, still reluctant to admit the Obama years were better. My friends and I contemplate an attempt to sneak over the Mexican wall, ironically built to dam the flood of liberal Americans seeking a better life. Turns out they weren't rapists and murderers, but diligent workers who expedited an extremely durable wall in under 2 years. Besides, my degree in Greatness from Hooters University would likely be worthless down there.

Soft Racism

I had a run in with some soft racism last night. I was working on my day off and a couple was buying a bunch of records. The lady forgot her credit card and caught herself walking out with the records. I reassured her that even if she were to walk out without paying for albums, my extreme apathy and lethargy prevents from running down a customer. Then an old drunk guy decided to chime in "you look like you'd be a great sprinter." This is kinda hard to explain. Sure, he didn't straight up say "man, this purebred blackie has an extra leg muscle which allows him to outrun even my most racist hunting dogs." (Imagine all this in a New Zealand accent, which just sounds kinda racist, and yes, me saying all new zealanders sound racist is ACTUALLY racist), but the way he said it definitely made me feel like I was a specimen on an auction block and my potential attributes were being listed. And I'm not one to point the accusatory finger that everything is racist, this happened to be though. I wanted to teach him a lesson and start running for him, to show him that some tall black dudes run like a two legged turtle with a glandular problem. I wanted to dribble a basketball and have it bounce into my face so I could teach him a valuable lesson, but all this sounded like a lot of work, so I just sat back down and fortified the lazy stereotype as best I could. And then I literally ordered some chicken to be delivered, cause stereotypes make me think of chicken and then I'm hungry. Then the old guy asked if I knew which rockabilly band had an upright bass player and I realized he was an idiot, and knowing you can't cure stupid, I went about my night. On a side note, when I was 21 I worked at the PB Music Trader. During the ill advised PB Block Party, the store was packed and some dude grabbed a stack of Master P cds and bolted. I don't know what sense of duty and loyalty came over me but I sprinted out of the shop like a cheetah-kenyan-gazel and I ran the thief down in an alley. I grabbed the culprit and had this moment where I realized he was considerably larger and stronger than me and had me severely outnumbered in the neck tattoo department. And as I wondered if I had really put my life on the line for a minimum wage job and some 10 cent Master P cds the store was better off without, he dropped the discs and ran. But that was 4.5 presidential terms ago, unless there's cops chasing me or an orange chicken giveaway, I'm not running anywhere.

New Radiohead Day, Trump Nights

I’ve been following Radiohead’s brilliant build up to the release of this new record. Disappearing from the frontiers of social media only to have the opposite effect. They stirred the conversation, reestablishing a distant name ever on the tips of tongues back to the center of reclaimed relevance. I dropped my phone this afternoon, broke it and disappeared from social media. And all I got was a panic attack.

And when I returned to social media I found out that Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee for the republican party. DONALD FUCKING TRUMP. I think I’d have preferred Game of Thrones spoilers. Not even sure how this is possible. I mean, he’s probably the president we deserve, our king of fast food culture, wielding clips, snippets and hollow slogans, catch phrases to rally anyone who doesn’t bother with a follow up question. Let’s make America Great. How? Let’s make America great. The two sentences an ouroboros, devouring each other into infinity. Last week when I was asking the Festival Gods if San Diego deserved Blues Traveler, Jimmy Buffet, Sugar Ray and the Goo Goo Dolls, all I had to do was walk down Newport Avenue on Saturday night to know that’s exactly the correct event for us. So when I take the pulse of America, the real pulse, not just heartbeat of my closest friends, but the America that you feel when you take a greyhound bus from San Diego to Newark, sea to oil slick sea, I get it. When Obama took office we heard a term Post-racial, as if electing a black man could erode all that blood thick lead heavy history. But as we took those strides forward, in view of masses, those quiet racisms once relegated to corners surfaced, they were aggravated, amplified, placing them in corners made them feel cornered and they started to lash out. And Donald Trump tapped into that sentiment. The first generation born mostly minorities, the status quo felt its back against extinction’s wall, saw gays marrying, a black president and legalization of marijuana as the end times, where we saw some amalgamation of progress and simple logic. But here I am both wrong and rambling. I saw it as an exasperated gasp, those antique tongues of the last generation to spit venom with such nonchalance, the refusal of a few aged hands to let go of tomorrow like it was the gun in a Charleston Heston sentence. But Donald Trump made it all the way through the primaries. Enough people swallowed his lies, but worse, swallowed his truths. We’re living through interesting times, polarized, the earth’s rumble before a drastic change. I’m as curious as ever to watch and partake in the unfolding.