Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creating Something Out of Nobunny

If receiving a gracious kiss on the hand by a creepy old guy while you perform music with a bunny mask on sans pants isn't the definition of the rock 'n' roll dream, I don't know what is.

There are few oft-repeated adages that offend me more than "Those that can, do; those who can't, teach."  I come from a family full of teachers and educators whose contributions to the lives of their students on a variety of intangible levels is almost certainly immeasurable.  But I do lend some credence to the idea that those who can't perform music become music critics.  And maybe in our current generation, a step down from the traditional music critic is the music blogger.  Like me.  Oh man, the word "blogger" just made me sicker than usual just now.

Anyway,  I accept this critique with little problem for two key reasons:

1.  Most music critics and bloggers these days are pretentious to the point of absurdity.

2.  And while sometimes guilty of #1, I don't take myself or this blog very seriously as a rule.  This has always been a vessel of distracting catharsis for me and has lately become a place to indulge my love of creating "mixtapes".  Only with technology today, I can create a mix just for you.  And you.  And most ESPECIALLY you.  But not so much you anymore.  Get it?  Got it? Good.

Having said all of that, I've decided to get in to the "creation business" when it comes to the music I hold so near and dear to my heart.  Simply stated, my friends and I are putting on a rock show.  And since you can't make that simple statement without it somehow implying that I'm gonna thrash a guitar or double kick-drum some poor audience in to oblivion, let me be clearer: My friends and I have managed to seek out and book one of our favorite rock acts--Oakland, California and Goner Records' own Nobunny--to perform a show here in Oklahoma City and we're investing our own money, time, and effort to make this happen.  Creation.

I wrote last summer about seeing Nobunny perform here in Oklahoma City and what an absolutely fun and raucous party experience it was for those who were there.  Does the guy have bits?  Sure.  He wears a bunny mask and keeps the details of his true identity largely hidden, but the music is pure rock 'n' roll indulgence.  But the "fun" has definite substance as the guy is an incredible songwriter.  His track "Live It Up" which was featured in one of my previous playlists, is worth a listen and speaks to me as a man on quite a few levels.  And yes, I have more than one level.  At least two.  Maybe three.

The concert was the brainchild of my friend and honorary brother Clint who simply saw that one of his favorite rock acts was touring, skipping our fair burg, and had an open date that he felt would make sense to fill here.  He came to a few of his close friends including Yours Truly who had so thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Nobunny's last Oklahoma City show and asked if we'd be willing to find a way to put our resources and efforts together to make this happen.  And so we're making it happen.  And you should come.  Saturday night, February 19th at The Conservatory.  Probably not your scene Mom, but I know you're proud of your little boy, regardless  Details and ticket info here.

So what's the grand meaning of this all?  I mean, there probably is no reason to take something simple and beautiful like an idea for a rock show put together by yourself and your closest friends and make something grandiose out of it conceptually.  But I will say that--even though the concert hasn't happened yet--I'm proud of myself and my friends for not doing what we all too often are guilty of doing.  You know what I mean--sitting around, bitching about something (like one of your favorite bands skipping your hometown--it cuts like a knife, sometimes) without a willingness to do anything about it.  Like people who complain about politics but don't vote.  Screw them.  We didn't sit around and wait for others to make something we wanted to happen. WE made it happen.  And I don't do that nearly enough.  I feel emboldened.  Empowered.  And I hope that I can translate this philosophy--nay, this conviction--in to all areas of my life.  You've all been warned.  The stupid music jerk blogger is now part of the process as opposed to just being a spectator.  Because who wants to be a spectator in their own life anyway?  Not me.  So that is my passionate plea to you my friends.  Life won't wait.  Go forth and conquer the seemingly unconquerable with an iron will and an unquenchable thirst for greatness.  Just make sure to buy tickets to our show first.

"There’s gotta be more to this life than “Go to school, get a job, take a wife, ain’t it nice?”…I’m gonna try to live it up.  I ain’t giving up.  I’m gonna get what’s mine.  Ain’t gonna waste my time.  I’m gonna see the world.  I’m gonna talk to that girl.  I’m gonna do it right.  I’m gonna start tonight."

--Nobunny from the song "Live It Up"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Airport Commuter 3

Sorry for denying you my latest playlist wizardry last week.  You may have a hole in your heart, but I now have four in my mouth.  It hurts just typing that.

So a few things I learned in the last week:

1.  I think it might be better for my oral surgeon to learn the concept of "underpromising and overdelivering".  This wisdom tooth--or should I say teeth (all four)--extraction was not the cake walk I was led to believe it would be.

2.  Pain builds character.  And while it's building that character in an excruciating way, all the other stupid pain you thought was really important--over money, personal life, your disappointing sports team, etc.--suddenly isn't so important.  A nice bout of physical pain helps you realize that all those other things can't be that big of a deal if your mind can be so easily re-directed from them.  After this week, I am less frustrated, less longing, less dissatisfied, less lonely, less heavy, less pretty much everything.  A week ago, victory might have meant finding the love of my life, or having a family, or somehow becoming a fully realized man.  Now victory would just be the ability to eat some chips and salsa.  Perspective.

3.  When you talk for a living like a do, a two hour presentation when your jaw is in searing pain is a true test of will.  As well as a test of one's ability to explain away tears to a group of fifteen people you've just met.

4.  And on the third day, God created hydrocodone.  And He saw that it was good.

So here's your much delayed playlist, my faithful followers.  I'll try to do another at the end of the week to make up for last week.  Another airport commuter list for the dark and handsome gentleman who is back on the road again.  Or for me.  Whatever.  Anyway, after the highly popular "Slow Jamz" playlist of last week, I thought it would probably be wise to mix in some tunes this week that don't explicitly involve the concept of "freakin' you all night long"--you know, just as a change of pace.  All of this is either new music or music that's new to me.  Many thanks to those of you who have made some strong to quite strong recommendations of late.  Your input is appreciated when it is.  And I mean that.  So say a prayer/think a good thought for me as I head right back to cold, snowy, dirty Pennsylvania this week.  I'll be thinking of you.  Well, not you.  But you?  DEFINITELY.

Random, but potentially important note regarding this playlist: I think The Head and the Heart may just be the next big thing.  In a good way.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Playlist of the Week: A Dozen Slow Jamz

I've always been told that it's only how you see yourself that's important.  Well in that case, I choose to see myself as D'Angelo, circa 1999.

There have really only been a few music "phases" in my life.  First there was my Def Leppard/INXS phase.  I don't know why it was those two bands, but around 1987 I was pretty much convinced that there was really no need for any other music.  Then there was a country phase.  Sure I had all of Garth's CDs and always saved my best, most awkward, nervous efforts at school dances for some special girl who would slow dance with me to "The Dance".  But I actually listened to country radio constantly and knew all the words to such classics as "Bubba Shot the Jukebox" by Mark Chesnutt.  Who is Mark Chesnutt, you ask?  Exactly.

But the final phase before my current phase which I just refer to as the "good phase" was the rap and R&B phase.  Back in the day when I certainly couldn't circumnavigate the parental advisory stickers that drew me to music then like a moth to a flame, I made due by buying cassette singles of what I later found out to be the radio edits of my favorite songs (you'd be amazed how much different the radio version of every Dr. Dre single sounds than the actual album version--pretty shocking) as well as just going super-classy and recording songs straight from the radio on to blank cassette tapes.  Now if I've lost any of you on what a cassette tape is, you should stop reading now.

Well thanks to a passionate suggestion in response to my solicitation for playlist ideas by my friends Melissa and Jessica, I've had the opportunity to quite scarily tap back in to those junior high years gone by--specifically to identify a dozen bona fide famous/infamous slow jamz.  Oh, there's a "z" in "slow jamz", alright.  Slow jamz are a very specific, but instantly identifiable sub-genre of R&B.  And during the years I was growing up, they were my first introduction to R&B.  I knew no Al Green or Marvin Gaye back in those halcyon days.  No, I knew of H-Town and Silk and the great, great Jodeci as the bell cows of an entire genre.  Sigh.

Slow jamz were and are really defined by some or maybe even all of the following devices:

1.  Breathy,  statements/monologues of intent.  Almost like a sexual mission statement.  But in a really breathy voice.
2.  A promise--nay, an oath--to do this for all the ladies out there.
3.  Use of the word "freak" as the f-word of record.  In fact, "freak" was pretty much the way to get away with conveying all the dirty intent of the king of all f-words without saying it.  Genius.
4.  Promises of all-night love making encounters that in all likelihood created slightly unreasonable expectations for myself regarding "future Rob".  I'm actually certain these kinds of songs created unreasonable expectations for both sexes.

With all that out of the way, here are a dozen slow jamz handpicked by myself and the aforementioned Melissa and Jessica.  I want to be sure to mention them so that they can share in the glory.  And the shame.  This should hit a sweet/sour/cringe-worthy spot for those of you in your mid 20's to mid 30's, but I don't want to make any assumptions about what any of you have heard or hold ashamedly dear.  A few of these songs are actually really good songs in any era.  And some of them certainly aren't good, but there isn't one track here that didn't mean something to each of us at some point which would deny a smile on our face now.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy a trip down memory lane.  In a drop-top.

P.S.  Thanks for all the recommendations and keep them coming.  I plan to use them all at some point.  Unless they sucked.  But none of the ones so far have.  I'm pretty sure.  Also, say a prayer/think a good thought for me as I go under the oral surgeon's knife tomorrow.  If for some reason I don't make it, this is goodbye.  Sad that of all my playlists, this might be my farewell gift to you.  You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quick Music Jerk: International Fame Monster, Housekeeping, and Brain Solicitation

The monthly numbers don't lie.  I'm pretty much a cultural phenomenon in Croatia.

1.  The numbers above represent page views from the last 30 days or so and where they originated from.  And while I'm not exactly threatening Perez Hilton or anything, about a third of all the page views I've received all-time (and no, mine aren't being counted here) have come in the last 30 days.  So either I've suddenly become a really kickass writer (But who are we kidding?  I've always been a kickass writer) or the playlists are creating some momentum.  Either way, thanks!  This is really just a fun writing project for me, but it's nice to see that a few people are checking it out.  I'm especially intrigued by the scant international audience I have.  I'm sure they're probably coming across my website on accident during web searches (The word "jerk" has quite a wide range of meanings and uses, apparently) or just trying to hack in to something. But hey, who cares?  Let me hear from ya, Croatia!

2.  A few "housekeeping" notes (now I'm angling for "housekeeping-related" searches to inflate my site traffic).  Some of you have reported not being able to see these "alleged" playable playlists that I post each week (which are placed directly below the iTunes tracklist image).  I've deduced that many of you are reading my blog via Safari and since Apple and Flash apparently have some sort of blood feud going, this may be the issue.  I don't know enough about all that tech crap to have a definitive answer, but those reading in Firefox, Chrome, and IE haven't been reporting issues.  Except one person.  And she's got a permanent technological disability (amongst others) that probably can't be remedied.

3.  To keep the whole playlist theme going, I'm shamelessly soliciting ideas for my next playlist which will go up some time in the next few days.  Am I masking my own lack of ideas via a solicitation that suggests I truly value your brilliant input?  Don't worry about that.  The point is that I would love some ideas on different themes, genres, or other funny bits (maybe a dozen songs that make you want to get divorced) you might have in that pretty little head of yours.  Generally speaking, any feedback on the blog is appreciated--especially negative feedback.  Remember, your hate makes me stronger in that Darth Vader-y sort of way. 

4.  Finally, I want to point you in the direction of a few of those links there over on the right.  As I imagine my playlists have become essential to the auditory fabric of your epic life, I have all of them collected via the site that allows me to create them--8tracks--and you can access them by clicking on the link that says "Music Jerk Rob's Collected Playlists".  You can go to that site and create your own embeddable playlists that won't be as good as mine but might still be fun.  Also--especially for those of you outside of Oklahoma--check out the link to The Spy FM.  It is a truly independent alternative and indie rock station and a constant source for me in the pursuit of great new music.  It's easy to stream both on your computer and via your smart phone and I can't speak highly enough of their station and their music selection.

Have a great Wednesday.  I love you.  Unless I don't.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Playlist of the Week: Audio Joy Pills

Joy.  When you're so happy, you need to punch something.  But in a good way.  Joy.

Ah, the enthusiasm and hope of the new year!  It's that inspiring combination of resolutions made and a clean slate that makes our desire for mission statements, climbing mountains, and picking fights with grizzly bears all the more feasible.  But much like the euphoria one feels with new love or the season premiere of Jersey Shore, the post-holiday reality inevitably sets in, expectations get lowered, and disappoint is likely to follow.

So how do we cope?  Well I--like many of you--partially cope through external self-medication.  But at least I do so in more positive ways now than before--though I'm sure that even "positive" is a relative term.  Where once were cigarettes, booze, fast food, and music there's now exercise, less booze, good food, and music.  Never being one to preach (about anything important, at least), I'll focus on the common denominator between the bad old days and the current slightly less bad new days.  I have used and will probably always use music as a means of self medication.  I spoke about this a bit in a previous entry, but while sad music will always be a strange and necessary bedfellow to one's own misery, there must be music that can provide that little jolt of joy.  Maybe not so much as some long term treatment of your view askew, but as a quick fix whenever we feel that hopeful feeling we've seized on beginning to dwindle.  

Consider those joyful songs we all have in our catalog like our own musical 5 Hour Energy.  They don't solve all our problems, but they help remind us how great solutions can feel so that we might persist in this pursuit of that which we cannot completely articulate but that we somehow know is good and right.  Audio catharsis. Stereo therapy.

On November 11th, I posted this as my Facebook status:
Just walked home from dinner, listening to my iPod and singing along at the top of my lungs to every word of "Stereo" by Pavement without a care in the world about anyone hearing or seeing me. And it's the happiest I've been in months. Amen. 
These are the songs that give me those little moments of reprieve I need.  They are my little audio joy pills.  You've got yours.  I've got mine.  And mine are probably/definitely better, but that's alright.  That's what I'm here for, remember?  Now keep that brand new 2011 enthusiasm going.  But don't be afraid to take a little boost here and there when you need it.