Raiders of the Lost Rickenbacker

22 09 2010

Ok, take the next left, and then an immediate right and you can't miss it.

Some of you stalkers may remember the recent trip Priscilla and I took to Denver Colorado for UMS.  After getting in the car at about 10PM, Priscilla and I drove out of Denver, and didn’t stop until we’d reached home, sweet home, St.  Paul, MN.  I was getting out of the car, and decided we’d better get the guitars before we went inside to collapse and sleep for a day.   I opened up the back of the Element and there was only one guitar. “Oh, we don’t have my bass…”

My baby! See where Frank ran out of room, and finished his name sideways? ...wait, you can't it's behind the mic stand. ...but that's what it looks like.

Priscilla broke down crying, which was very sweet of her.  My Rickenbacker, 4003 bass is my most prized possession.  Aside from the fact that, that’s just an awesome bass, mine was made more awesome by Frank Black when he signed it.  He was a complete dick the entire time I interacted with him.  I approached him as he was clearing some things off the stage at a small show at The Warehouse in LaCrosse when I was still in high school.

Me: Frank?

Frank: *silence*

Me: Frank?

Frank: *silence*

Me: Um, Frank?

Frank: *sighs* Yeees?

Me: Can you sign my bass?

Frank: I’d need a marker

Me: *waves hand already holding out marker*

This was probably the most pleasant of the three brief conversations I had with him that night.  Despite him being a jerk, AND his musical downward spiral (I was quite found the the FIRST six solo albums.  Now he’s got, like, forty or something- each progressively worse from what I could tell.  This was on the ‘Frank Black and the Catholics’ album tour.  That was a SWEET album.) it is still my favorite memento.  But as Priscilla cried, I was far to delirious from driving 15 hours to care about anything at all, and I stumbled inside.

Grief stricken, but determined, Priscilla went online to try and find what might have happened.  As luck would have it, a local Denver band found it and had already sent us an email.  When I woke up, we had to figure out how we were going to get this bass back.  I couldn’t ship it, because it was just in a gig bag, and I wouldn’t trust shipping it anyway.  There was only one thing to do- journey back west.

Our good friend Stephy, and new pal Brittany stopped somewhere in Wyoming for no reason that I can think of. Stopping in Wyoming is probably the most dangerous thing that happens in this blog...

Our good friend Steph went and got the Rick from the Denver band and took it home for safe keeping.  Then, on one fateful morning in September, we both set off, from opposite ends of the Earth, on a mission to reunite me and my bass!  Where should a historic reunion like this take place?  In the place the Natives believed was the sacred center of the Earth, and the white man marked as his territory with four famous severed heads, like some overly artistic dog peeing on a fence.  That’s right, Mount Rushmore!

Actually, that’s a lie.  We did go there because Steph brought her friend Brittany along, and she’d never seen Mount Rushmore.  But, we actually met beforehand at the hotel where we were staying ten miles away… Which is where I got my bass back. After that though, we did go to Mount Rushmore.  And once I had my bass back, what more could I ask for?  More bears please.  That’s right, back to Bear Country USA!

Bear Country also has Caribou, but they have less add space devoted to them...

So, it just so happens that we hit a ton of bugs with our car on the way to South Dakota.  It also happens that bears actually like to eat bugs.  …I didn’t ask them why.  But this combination turned out to be interesting.  We might as well have strapped a dead deer to our car as far as one hungry bear was concerned.  After he was done picking the grill of our car clean, he got up on his hind legs and plopped himself on top of the hood of the Element and began chewing on our windshield wiper.  It was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me… THEN, Bear Country USA came to our rescue by sending a scrawny teenage worker to chase the bear away from our car by clapping his hands and saying, “Shew!”  They apologized to us, and gave us out money back because there were scratches on our car.  …I didn’t tell them I would have paid extra to have a bear chew on my car…

People have asked me if I was afraid after seeing these photos.  …seriously? As if!  I’m not afraid of this little guy- it’s not like its a maneater like… oh say, a killer whale! *drum roll*  But, what happened next scared the crap out of me.  After the ride through the park we got out and walked through baby land.  (The part of the park with all the baby bears and other little critters) When, out of nowhere I felt something hit my chest hard, like some punk five year old whipped a pebble at me.  …but it wasn’t a pebble, it was the scariest bee I’ve ever seen.  If you can identify this thing then I owe you a beer.  Remember when I was getting attacked by horse flies that I thought were bees? This was like some sick joke by mother nature.

 

Evil has a name. It's this guy's name. ...I don't know what that is, specifically... so I'll just call him, 'Evil.'

I grabbed my shirt and pulled it away from my frail human body, and out of range of the massive stinger on its butt.  Then I worked up the courage to try and flick it off of me.  Just when I was about to make my move, Priscilla freaked out and told me not to- clearly afraid of what this thing would do to retaliate.  Just when we thought all hope was lost and the bee would have to ride home with us we heard, “Oh for Pete’s sake…”  Some small children’s mother walked over and fearlessly shewed the bee away.  I was surprised when it didn’t kill her.  I went up to the little boy she was with and told him, ‘Your mommy just saved my life, isn’t she brave?’  And he looked at me like I was a freak.  After that adrenaline rush it was time to go to Deadwood and ‘heckle’ pedestrians.  At least that’s the ‘official’ story of what happened…

Anyway, it was a weekend of triumph and knowledge.  I got my base back- that was great, but I also learned some things.  Some hotels charge by the person.  But when someone asks you why you need three keys when there are only two people staying in the room, keeping a cool head can save the day.  …that and using the back door the entire time you’re there.   I also learned that you can blow out your rotors really quickly in the black hills.  What I haven’t learned is what in the hell landed on my shirt.

 

I was thinking about going back with a screw driver to make the claw marks more badass, but I decided to leave it.

All for now!

 

 

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How do you spell Rumpelstiltskin?

23 06 2009

I hate how you can’t really advertise your true feelings anymore.  The internet turns even the most mild blogger into a gossip whore.  I can’t even talk about how I hate my day job and I want a new one because  it’s likely that someone I work with will read this, and let me boss know, and then all the work pot lucks will be awkward.  Not to mention, that dude I called a douche is probably going sneak up on me and say something designed to intimidate me.  The world is more dangerous than ever.

The Alarmists seen in natural habitat.

The Alarmists seen in natural habitat.

So I try to keep things positive.  These guys do that too. If they mention you, they like you.  If they don’t, they probably just wont mention you.  That’s a sound, friendly approach.  But what about everyone else?  Should we never be able to talk about things that we think suck?  Should we be afraid to let people in our vicinity know that we don’t like their work?  Should people even get upset if someone doesn’t like what they do in the first place?  Who knows, but I do hate my job.  I don’t hate The Alarmists though, so lets talk about them.

I don’t know Eric Lavold super well, but I do know him and his cohorts Drummer Boy Schwandt and Bassist Brian who are also in the bands White Light Riot and So It Goes respectively.  All great guys.  So, when I was told that the City Pages peed on them, I wondered what was up.  A friend alleged they had recently called them poop heads, and ass clowns who couldn’t play instruments.  …or something like that.  It’s sparked a huge debate about whether or not The Alarmists suck and/or whether or not the City Pages sucked. Also how in the hell do you spell the Star Tribunes music guys name?  I had to know the truth, so I decided to investigate.

Like all important people in the Twin Cities, I had an advance copy of The Alarmists new album, The Over-head Left to listen to. I also went to the release show, and then I read all these articles AND all the blog comments on the City Pages site.  Then I read Chris Rachmaninovschneider’s interview in the Star Tribune.  I’m pretty much an expert about now,  so, I will tell you all the truth.  But before I act like I know everything, let me first drag out this story by adding in personal experiences that are unrelated.

As I mentioned, the entire cast of Maudlin showed up to the show.  The first bit of evidence that I collected came when I saw the Rock The Cause table in the Varsity Theater.  As you may or may not know, Priscilla and I sit on the board of directors for Rock the Cause.  If you’re not familiar with how we help the community and music scene, please take a look.

Eric Lavold approached Rock the Cause with an offer.  Bands approach us with offers all the time.  Some of them are good ones, some are a little self serving.  Some would be really difficult and some more realistic to do.  Eric’s offer was both generous and easy.  At a time when our org could really use some extra cash, he offered to let us accept donations for digital downloads of the new album on our site and keep 100% of the proceeds.

Priscilla and I arive in Dinky Town, Jason documents.

Priscilla and I arrive in Dinky Town, Jason documents.

This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but the amount of work, money, and liability that goes into RTC putting on an event to raise money is huge.  This required nothing of us other than we upload the song.

The comment was made that The Alarmists drama may have over shadowed their music.  Why can’t someones generosity and good nature over shadow the drama surrounding their band?  I guess because People magazine would go broke, with the City Pages along with it.

Craig Grossman of Green Room Music Source, The Alarmist booking agent (also our agent) and Scott Herold, CEO of Rock The Cause hang out at the show.

Craig Grossman of Green Room Music Source, The Alarmist booking agent (also our agent) and Scott Herold, CEO of Rock The Cause hang out at the show.

The crowd at the show was great, and the bands selected where right on too.  Maudlin had a great time running around and mingling.  I let my agent buy me a drink, and Eric’s dad tried to buy Priscilla a drink because she adjusts his glasses at work, but Craig beat him to it and bought her a drink too.  Primarily we like Craig as our agent because of the drinks.  Anyway, Jason bought himself one too many drinks and then ran around taking pictures for posterity.

Jason getting his drink on.

Jason getting his drink on.

The Alarmist show was actually really good.  The new line up is great.  Someone on a blog made a comment that all the new musicians couldn’t stack up to the old ones, and made special citation of the drummer being included.  Their old drummer was very good, but complaining about Mark Schwandt’s drumming is pretty retarded. Aside from being a solid show, it was more raw than the album and had a more personal feel to it.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It actually made a few songs I was a little luke on from the album really grow on me.

Me forcing people to listen to me.

Me forcing people to listen to me.

The Album itself is certainly nothing at all to scoff at.  I can see how it differs from previous releases with less edge, but it adds a more haunting feel- actually reminds me a bit of Chris Isaac on some tunes.  (course I was just watching True Blood so…[At least, when I first wrote this pharagraph I thought that Chris Isaac wrote that song, but today Barb Abney *cough cough name drop* corrected me.  Some random hillbilly wrote that song. ]) The vocals are more stripped and personal.  They bring out a great contrast against synths soaked in reverb.  There are some dark sounding melodies and hooks, but the album still feels hopeful even if melancholy.  Something for a rainy day if you’re not the kind of person that gets super depressed and hates rainy days.  I definitely favor the first half of the album with tracks like, “Rhyme and Reason,” “Car Crashing,” “Flutter and Fly,” and “Hollywood’s Not My Home.”  Not feeling songs like “The Country” or” We Belong” as much, and I flat out do not like “The Elusive Mr Albright.” …not sure what the motivation is on that one.

Over all it sounds very much like a liberation or a rebirth than a swing and a miss.   These guys knew exactly what they were going for, and while it’s not going to thrill everyone, I think it will win a lot of people over.  As to whether or not The Alarmists will take over the world, who knows- and who cares.  They’ve already carved out a place for themselves, they’re making music that’s rewarding to themselves and still have an audience to listen.  That is what success is.

The Alamists at their CD release show at the Varsity Theater

The Alamists at their CD release show at the Varsity Theater

I believe in real criticism though, real honesty.  If there isn’t anything bad, then, of course, nothing is really good.  It’s just all double plus ungood. We don’t want that.  I’ve met Andrea from the City Pages before, and even if she hadn’t been talking with me about my band being good, I still would have thought she was really nice.  Not at all the kind of person who seems out for a vendetta.  The City Pages article is pretty scathing, but, if it’s honest, then it’s not meriting retaliation.

Chris Rumpelstiltskinschneider said that The Amarmists are big enough to take a hit.  They are.  His own article in the Strib praises the album and gives a great inside look at what’s going on with the band and what’s transpired.  It’s hard for me to not take a step back and see the two biggest papers in town arguing about a band and think, “Any press is good press.”  Ultimately the controversy made listening to the album more fun for me.  …Although, if it was my album getting shredded I would release angry bees into the office of the offending party.  Not killer bees, just kind of having a bad day bees.

My biggest complaint with local press has always been what they miss, not what they criticize.  There’s so much music here in Minneapolis, and way too much for everyone to go out and see what every band has going on.  A scathing review here and there is a service.  Just like letting people know about a new great band, and keeping up with what the bands we’ve all heard of have been up too.  The more reviews the better, good ones and bad.

Still The Alarmists, only the lights are a different color now.

Still The Alarmists, only the lights are a different color now.

So what are my conclusions? People may have differing opinions about whether The Alarmists new album is good, just like people have many different opinions on how to spell Chris Rasputinschnieder’s name- and that’s ok.  Because, in the end, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer.   And, if that conclusion offends you, blame this guy.

David





If I asked to take you camping, would you go?

23 04 2009

…well, Jason would.

Almost three years ago, Priscilla and I met Jason Robert Nelson, who became the drummer for Maudlin.  He answered an add we put out, and we got together and started practicing and I set up the first show.  …I was still our booker at that point, and I kind of have this fascination with bizarre shows… I don’t think Priscilla or Jason do… but I do.

Sometimes my friends and I will go White Water Rafting in Wisconsin, and I thought, why not combine that with a show.  …So I contacted all the resorts until I found one that would have us play there.  Poor Jason didn’t really know any of us that well, and when we told him about my plan he went along with it.  …later I would learn he’s deathly afraid of water, but just didn’t want to say anything.

I began contacting friends I knew with bands- cause I didn’t want just us to play, I wanted a whole concert.  Naturally there were some goons in Winona who said they would do this.  Todd Hanson and We Are The Branches agreed to play, and they had a big van they were bring out with a bunch of people and gear.  We decided to split the load of gear, we would bring somethings, they would bring others, so that we didn’t all have to burden ourselves with so much crap.  This was all fine and good until… they all decided not to come.  …when we were already in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin on the way…  I was pretty pissed off.  Apparently I exaggerated how quick the ride would be, and when they all googled it they got cold feet.  But still, this was the day of and they were all planning on spending the weekend there.  Pansies.  Jason’s sister, and rap star Speshul K were dumb enough to come after a quorom of sane people decided against it.  That was nice of them.

At any rate, what ended up happening was Josh Lauer, who played with us at the time as an extra guitar, ended up driving out by himself, with all the gear we didn’t bring.  He drove four hours alone when he’d been up all night the night before… he was planning on sleeping on the way when someone else was driving.  Miraculously enough, he didn’t die.  So we got to the resort, went into the bar to set up.

There were like… five or six hill billies there, and the owners, who were kindly enough.  The “DJ” who brough the PA for us was spinning tunes and interjecting, “get ‘er done!” inbetween songs… and nothing else.  I wasn’t sure he knew any other words until we had to talk with him to get set up.

About this time we realized that Jason had no hi-hats.  …that’s not good. So he took his china and a crash and put them together.  -It was the worst sounding thing I’d ever heard.  Lauer opened up for us with some solo tunes by himself… the crowd wasn’t impress.  But, when Maudlin took the stage they must have been, cause the one hick got all rialed up and started to yell something about showing his penis.  I think it was a colloquialism of the area that we weren’t familiar with, but I’m sure it was a complement.  …So, basically, the show sucked balls.  Then came the part that would suck, but also try and kill us.

They call it the The Wolf River because it eats small children.  …actually I think it was the Peshtigo River… but they’re close to each other and the Wolf River sounds much more cool… No one knows how many people have died on the Peshtigo because no one can pronouce it well in enough to discribe where they are when bodies wash up.

Are convaences were Funyaks… which are like mini inflatable kayaks.  The water intructor guy was all like, “Ok, now on this first drop, you’re all going to get knocked out of your funyaks, so, what ever you do, don’t stand up.  That’s how you get your feet caught in rocks and die.  Just let the water carry you and float on.’  Then he did this odd acepella version of the Modest Mouse song.  It was weird.

Yes, we all fell out on the first drop.  …I also stood up after that and got yelled at.  But, the Wolf River was hungry that day, and wasn’t happy that even though we fell, no one died.  So it decided to call in an ARMY OF BEES!!

So, I’m floating along by myself, separated from the group, when this lone hornet looking thing lands on my boat.  It was huge. It was one of those dark ones the has kind of grey and black stripes.  This thing was out for blood.  I was terrified because I’m afraid of bees, and generally a wuss anyway.  So I started paddling to and trying to shew him away.  But then, another one landed on the boat.  And then another. Pretty soon they were all buzzing around my head and banging into me.  I could feel stings on my body and I started to panic.  I was swinging wildly at them trying to kill some, and paddling as hard as I could to get away.  The only thing I could think of was, ‘there’s so many of them, they must be swarming me.’  They just kept following me down the river, and I was freaking out hardcore.  I was ninja-ing my paddel at them ignoring the river, and my yak started going sideways.  I hit this giant rock slab and went flying out backwards and landed on my back.

Right about this time the intructor came paddling past and could see I was distrested.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m being attacked by giant bees!!”

“…those are horse flies.”

Oh. Ok. …well, I guess you usually don’t die from that sort of thing.  So I got back in my boat to continue on.  By this time, with all the flailing about, I had no strength left in me.  There was another big drop and the intructor guy was all like, “whatever you do on this one, stick to the right”  So I did.  …and I still wiped out. When I bobbed up at the bottom I saw Priscilla standing at the bottom of the left side of the fall, hyperventilating.  She was begging me to come over, but for the life of me, I was too tired.  (She still gives me crap about this… like, had she still been actually drowning, I would have.  Or if a bear had jumped in after her or something.  But she was clearly alive.)  She was pretty shaken up because she went under, and instead of floating back away from the fall, it pulled her under and sent her spinning underwater.  She used her oar to push off the bottom to get air.  The instructor later told us that that was the spot a lady got killed last year the same way.  So, Priscilla was terrified.  I was exhausted. And Jason who started horrified of water?  He had fallen out of his boat on every single rapid.

The entire thing was a total disaster and I haven’t actually gone back in the last three years, even though I used to go all the time.  To this day I still have no idea why Jason didn’t quit right there…

David








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