One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.
Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.
As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances, friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.
You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.
Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.
I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.
Last night I took my four-year-old to see punk and riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna speak for a Women’s History Month series held at Columbia College. While between projects at work, I decided to see what was written about the talk. The regular news sources summarized Hanna’s visit succinctly, but there was nothing coming from a local blog. There aren’t many good blogs in this town these days, but a void needs filling and I’m about to get back on that horse.
As I mentioned above, I took my daughter to see a woman whom I think is a great role model as she grows and develops. Kathleen Hanna is a strong, smart, and creative adult woman I want my kid to look to for inspiration. She has people like that in her life now, but it doesn’t hurt to find more.
My kid was in awe. First of all, she insisted on sitting in the front row. We skipped over a couple of seats that looked to be saved and settled in. It just so happened that one of those seats was Kathleen Hanna’s! When a woman began to welcome the audience, my daughter asked whether or not that was Kathleen Hanna. I promptly informed her that no, Kathleen Hanna was sitting next to her. It was all that four-year-old could do to contain her excitement.
She really loved any time Hanna referred to rocking and bands. See, my daughter loves riot grrrl bands. She’s particularly fond of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag. (She just wrote a letter and drew a picture for Wild Flag to be mailed ASAP.) She loves the power and upbeat energy from that era of music. The fact that it’s all made by women doesn’t hurt either.
Hanna gave the kind of talk one would expect. She told her story, full of valley girl vernacular. She had slides of rarely seen zines and flyers. There were grainy videos of her various bands. She had great anecdotes of major indie and punk rock players. She told stories of inspiring young women fighting the patriarchy at every turn.
A running theme was her attempt to take back space normally occupied by males. There were rooms in a community center, rock venues, even the space in front of bands to be occupied. Underlying all of this was the space men and boys take up that can’t be seen, the space occupied by ideas and words. Hanna challenged these spaces and found room for herself and the girls who joined her in the fight.
At some point, a guy sitting in the back yelled out some fairly off-topic statements and questions. I won’t dignify either the content nor the deliverer of such idiocy as it completely disrupted the night by identifying or detailing what was said. Hanna was knocked off course a couple of times. Finally, she regained her bearings and told the guy to “shut-the-fuck-up.” Then she demanded he leave.
Instead of leaving quietly, the “heckler” continued to be obnoxious until college staff and a few audience members helped him leave. The debate over his comments continued today on Facebook, but I don’t want to spend anymore time on this as the dude was totally out of line.
Two beautiful things resulted from this conflict. First, the outburst demonstrated Hanna’s point about men always taking up space that wasn’t theirs, infringing on a woman’s chance to express herself. Second, it provided an opportunity for my daughter and really any young woman in the crowd to see a need for feminism as well as said feminism in action.
Fuck that dude and all the jerks and bullies like him.
Hanna recovered and continued to present her story. I geeked out over a video of Bikini Kill. My daughter geeked out over a Le Tigre video. We both laughed over the cabaret video Hanna shared.
It was a fun and empowering night. I wish my daughter could have met Hanna, but that will have to wait for the letter my girl intends to write to one of her newest heroes.
If you see this, Kathleen Hanna, know that you made an impression on our little college town and one four-year-old in particular.
For more on the talk, check out The Missourian’s take.
Better late than never, eh?
This month’s session is brought to you by The Homebrew Manual and focuses on the relationship with beer between brewers and drinkers. I consider myself both, but I know of many who are more one or the other. It does taint one’s appreciation of beer, but I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other.
Let’s start with me. I used to be a drinker only. My thinking was that I could never brew something as good as a commercial brewer. And many of the homebrewers I knew proved this to be true. Their beers were mediocre at best and didn’t offer the same wow factor that many commercial breweries offered. I just didn’t see the point of brewing 40-50 bottles of something that wasn’t nearly as good the various different beers I could find at the store or in bars. That and many of these homebrewers seemed ignorant to the tide of craft beer developing under their noses. High IBU’s and ABV’s seemed impossible. “Throw more spice and have another malty beverage!”
So, I threw myself into the craft beer movement. I bought every new release. I built a cellar that might not be the largest you’ve ever seen, it’s still solid in its variety and quality. I lost track of how many beers I had before Untappd (BU), but I have since achieved Legendary status (500 unique beers recorded) with a solid progression toward Extraordinary (1000 different beers). I steeped myself in the culture and blogging community so as to further my enjoyment of craft beer.
Then – I don’t remember whose beer it was – it hit me. It is possible to brew beer at home that’s as good or even better than what the pros produce. It was like a second epiphany. So, I tried some homebrewing. At first, it was a kit that seemed pretty pedestrian, but I didn’t care. It was mine. From there, I completely changed the hop additions and developed an incredible single-hopped Simcoe IPA and the rest was history.
Now, granted, I’ve never moved beyond extract brewing. Some would argue that I don’t really brew. However, I haven’t moved on to all-grain for two simple reasons. First, extract brewing requires less time and is generally simpler. I can steep some specialty grains before I boil for added complexity. Extract brewing is just so easy. Second, my beers have generally been considered “better than extract.” Few have been able to sense the extract and all have loved my beers. I’ve done some insanely hoppy IPA’s/DIPA’s, potent imperial stouts, a ridiculously popular saison, and there’s a boozy Belgian Quad bottle conditioning right now that is loaded with that raisin flavor/aroma brewers strive for.
So, I’m a brewer and a drinker. I don’t think one understands beer better than the other. Brewers can break down a beer into its components, altering the enjoyment from aesthetic-based to one of utility. Each beer is judged like a puzzle, stirring inspiration for the next batch while developing metacognition along the way. Drinkers, however, are not lost in the details and enjoy beer in the moment. Where the brewer tries to experiment with technique and ingredients, the drinker collects and hoards his own variety. Both can be generous with knowledge and refreshment. Both know their stuff. But, most importantly, both appreciate and love beer.
As is usual for this blog, I can find an applicable comparison to musicians and music fans. I am of the latter and not the former. I wish I could play music. I tried teaching myself guitar and bass at one point, but there just wasn’t time in my schedule. Despite my love of the DIY movement, I’ve never really felt that playing music was in the cards for me. However, I don’t appreciate music any less than musicians. I have several musician friends who – for whatever reason – like to read this blog, talk music with me, or come hear me spin. I’m more than a fan. I curate.
But I digress.
Does one need to brew (or play music) to properly appreciate beer (or music)? No. The appreciation is just different. I know a lot more about beer and appreciate a well-made pale ale or Pilsner because of what I know about brewing. However, there are some times when I want to suspend that knowledge and just enjoy the beer for what it is at that moment. Who cares what causes the head retention or that tartness. I just want to appreciate the beer for being a beer.
I don’t ever want to be the brewer that analyzes every beer, sucking out the enjoyment. I don’t want to swayed by technique over the ephemeral. Conversely, I don’t want to drink a beer blindly, ignorant to the efforts that went into making it so great. It’s all about balance.
We need balance in the beer community as well. Drinking beers with only brewers or drinkers makes for a dull, monotonous experience. Beer, as complex as it is, can become a rather boring thing if only
seen tasted smelled experienced through one perspective. Beer needs a diversity of thought to be fully appreciated. So, there’s plenty of room for both brewers and drinkers. Also, those of us who float somewhere in between.
Like making a year-end list of best records, creating a list of one’s favorite is a silly yet necessary exercise. Silly because who really cares? Necessary because everybody’s doing it. In no particular order, here are beers that were either released this year, discovered by me this year, or finally made sense to me this year. I apologize upfront for the IPA-heavy list. I’m a hop head and have trouble remembering what I thought about most sours, stouts, Saisons, etc.
Trappist Westvleteren 12
I’ve had Westy before, but it was a small sample at the end of an evening of craft beer debauchery. My bother “won” one of those lottos just to get a chance to buy and $85 six pack. He shared as family is wont to do over the holiday. Half a bottle was more than enough for me to fully appreciate what many consider to be the best beer in the world. I don’t know about all of that or even if it’s the best Belgian quad, but it’s very very good.
Goose Island King Henry
This may have been released in 2011, but we never saw it locally. One evening in Lincoln, Nebraska at an excellent pizza joint offered me the opportunity to try this magnificent beast.
Bells Black Note Stout
I should not have had a glass of this beer, but I did. A sample was sneaked to me as I had to leave a Bells dinner. Imagine the molasses-fueled deliciousness of Expedition, mixed with the sweetness of a milk stout, and brewed in bourbon barrels. Even then, you can’t imagine how glorious this beer tasted.
Three Floyds Zombie Dust
I love me some APA’s but this one is on another level. So much Citra. So good.
Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Specially released IPA’s from Stone are all over my list. This one featured an amped-up version of what was my epiphany beer, if that was even possible… Of course it was! This was as good a tribute as any brewery has ever brewed.
Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA
I actually preferred this one to the September version. It’s possible this one was fresher, but both were consumed well before their best by dates. The idea of a ridiculously fresh IPA is nothing new, but this release made it a priority. There’s no way one of these will ever sit on shelves too long. I hope they continue to brew Best By IPA’s.
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2008)
Obviously, this beer was not from this year, but I finally opened it and was glad I did. No one does lambics and sours like Cantillon. Probably no other more obvious sentence has ever been uttered regarding beer. Lou Pepe was no exception. I suspect the aging altered the beer, but I doubt I wouldn’t have loved it a couple of years ago.
This one is on the brain as I just picked up the latest release of this great Smokestack Series brew. I always liked this beer but never really got it until this year. I don’t know whether that’s trying so many inferior rye beers or just the ongoing development of my palate, but it’s so rich and so good. Aside from Boulevard’s Saison Brett (another all-time favorite that could make this list every year), this is one of the true Missouri craft beer treasures.
The Bruery 5 Golden Rings
I stumbled upon one of these at a Whole Paycheck the day before Xmas Eve and figured it would make the perfect Xmas dinner drink. And it did. No one outside of these guys and Stillwater consistently make beers that go better with food. I was lucky I paced myself of this one would have put me under the table.
Broadway Brewery Columbus Single Hop IPA
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured a beer brewed here in Columbia, MO would make a list like this, but this one stacks up. I’m sure the freshness factor comes into play here, but I dragged a growler nine hours to Ohio, another three to Cleveland – all of it in a cooler that was probably not properly chilled and a growler that was not properly filled to the top – and the beer survived. Hell, it did better than survive. It was downright delicious.
Odell The Meddler Oud Bruin
I had nearly given up on Odell’s special releases, but this one was decently priced and I like to try anything new in this style. The beer was beautiful from appearance to aroma to the all-important flavors within. It paired well with whatever I was eating that night. This beer renewed my faith in Odell.
Schlafly Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)
Schlafly has been experimenting with different varieties of hops, mostly through special keg-only releases and cask ale. Still, this one was a nice little surprise. It’s one of those beers that nails the hoppiness hop heads are always after, causing us to want to drink one after the other.
Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
This is how pumpkin ale should be done. Screw the pumpkin pie and sour varieties. Put your pumpkin in an imperial stout or Baltic porter! As an imperial stout, it’s not my favorite. However, it made me rethink pumpkin beers just as I was writing them off.
Treble Kicker Beer New Slang Saison
My own Saison is easily one of my favorites. I upped the ante with this year’s version for my partner’s tenure celebration. More lemon zest and rosemary = a punch in the face Saison that is not playing around. Add in some dry-hopped Sorachi Ace hops and you have a lemon bomb/balm that needs to brewed again and soon.
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
This one was met with many mixed reviews, but I loved the twist this one offered some lemon verbena and rye-induced spice that made for one of the more interesting/surprising beers this year.
Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Why isn’t the white/wheat IPA more popular? Because no one wants to take on Deschutes’ hold on hoppy beers. No one hops a beer like Deschutes. No one.
Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale
This was my beer of the summer. Refreshingly hoppy goodness in a can carried me through record-setting heat, including a 30-mile bike ride.
Green Flash Rayon Vert
I’m not sure how long this beer has been around, but it made its first appearances in middle-Missouri earlier this year and I’m sure glad it did. Another twist on the IPA (this time with Belgian love), Rayon Vert became the “heavy” beer of summer.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before about Stillwater’s excellence. I could put any of their beers on this list every year. Still, this one made its debut in 2012 and I for one welcome it to the best lineup of Saisons this side of Belgium.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale continues to dig out a niche in craft beer and Firestone’s entry is no different than the best of the style.
Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies
Did I mention Deschutes’ mastery of the hop. This fresh-hopped IPA and its fresh-hopped APA cousin (Hop Trip) do what fresh/wet-hopped beers are supposed to: capture the essence of Dionysus’ underwear… or something like that.
Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine
Most of the Mikkeller releases I enjoyed this year were not all that new to me. However, the experience surrounding the Royal Rye Wine made this possibly the most memorable beer of the year. Read more about it here.
What did I forget? What would you add? Disagree or agree with any of these?
Here are ten of the best records I heard this year, in no particular order
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Man, I loved last year’s Wye Oak album and needed more this year. Luckily, Sharon Van Etten came through this year. Similarly to Wye Oak, Van Etten seemed to come from nowhere to unleash a haunting rock record that grips you from start to finish. It didn’t hurt that half of Brooklyn collaborated it behind the scenes or in the margins to help Van Etten deliver a punch to the gut. Still, it’s defining moment for a musician I hope to hear more from in the coming years.
The Walkmen – Heaven
Nothing new here. The Walkmen release a record and I love it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that their records are always this good. Somehow a band known for songs about going out and drinking have eventually written one of the best albums about adulthood, having children and all that. There’s a simplicity to The Walkmen formula that allows them to adjust to their current living conditions. These are just working stiffs trying to put some food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children. I can get behind that.
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
I’m not gonna lie. I really didn’t care for this record upon the first listen. I was having buyer’s remorse as I listened to it stream on Spotify, knowing that the new local record shop was holding a copy for me. Then, I gave it another try as the record popped up on several year-end lists. It’s really a fantastic record as Titus Andronicus does what every New Jersey band does eventually: they all turn into Bruce Springsteen. There’s nothing wrong with this of course. It’s just a fact.
Cat Power – Sun
Yes, this has been a shitty year for Chan Marshall. However, that may mean she’ll have to put out more records and tour whenever she can scrounge up the dough and good health to hit the road. Cat Power has evolved from record to record. Now, after some faux-bravado, one gets the sense that Marshall is becoming comfortable with her station in life, embracing her demons, health issues, and apparent financial stresses in making what is maybe her most honest record in years.
Believers – Believers EP
Someone will surely give me a hard time for praising Believers again, but the praise is legit. Although this EP feels somewhat incomplete, it brings with it the promise of great things to come. I fully suspect several of these tracks will reappear – possibly re-recorded/remastered – on an LP via some high-profile indie label.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Honestly, this would be my record of the year. It’s a bit more uneven than 2009′s Post-Nothing but it still contains that raw energy that only Japandroids can bring without an ounce of irony. This band makes me want to hit the bars and dance all night before the reality of my middle-class-mortgaged-parenthood comes crashing down on my fantasies. Still, it’s nice to dream/reminisce once in a while.
Best Coast – The Only Place
On one hand, I don’t know why I like this band. On the other, I don’t know why I ask the first question. Like Japandroids, Best Coast has found a recipe that works. Unlike the “live like there’s no tomorrow” message in a Japandroids’ song, Best Coast wears their California lovin’ on their collective sleeves. I appreciate this love for one’s home state. Like Jenny Lewis and The Eagles, Best Coast won’t let you forget where they’re from and they’ll make you want to live there as well.
Dinosaur Jr – I Bet on Sky
How is it that Dinosaur Jr. is writing and recording better music after they’ve reunited? Maybe it’s that Lou Barlow has been allowed to come into his own. Maybe it’s because J Mascis has mellowed his ego. Whatever it is, I hope they never stop making loud records.
Hospitality – Hospitality
Last year, it was Eleanor Friedberger. This year, it’s Hospitality. Last year’s Friedberger joint Last Summer had me longing for some straight girl pop rock from the City. Hospitality filled that void admirably. And when you close your eyes, you think it’s Belle and Sebastian.
Dirty Projectors -Swing Lo Magellan
I really expected a letdown from Dirty Projectors, but this record – more straightforward than previous efforts – did not disappoint. I knew this as soon as I dropped the needle to reveal the opening track.
Discovered too late to form a proper assessment, but they’re pretty great: Tame Impala, Diiv, Grizzly Bear, Metz
Overall, this year wasn’t nearly as inspiring as last year’s onslaught of great records. However, most of these would rank among last year’s best. So, take that for what it’s worth, which is basically nothing.
1Ranking art just seems to be so archaic, so overdone. So, I will refrain from it this year. Instead, I’ll just tell you about ten records I liked.
2Meaning that, like Wye Oak, she hadn’t released anything of note until this latest album which is great.
3In Cat Power years, that’s maybe two records a decade.
4Let’s face it, every EP feels imcomplete. They are akin to the 20-minute set. You get a taste of the very best, maybe with one stinker. Just when you’re into it, it’s over.
I, like Lenny Bruce am not afraid. The Mayans are wrong about this one. The world will not end by 12/21/2012 EST. And if it does, I live in CST and should have at least an hour to take care of some unfinished business.
It’s all coming to an end and we can’t take any of it with us. So, why not indulge a little. Get that one more experience in before it all comes to an end.
It makes record collections and beer cellars obsolete. Unused blogs sit and digitally rot, losing readers by the minute.
We should enjoy the freshest of IPAs before they go bad. Don’t let the hops fade. It’s important to smell the fruit and pine aromas and to allow their bitterness to defeat your tongue. I enjoyed Stone’s Enjoy By 12/21/2012 weeks ago and I’m glad I did. I’ve had too many IPAs who sat months on shelves outside their proper homes in beer coolers. My bottle barely spent any time on a shelf or even in a refrigerator. I mean, why wait when you know it’s peaking now and will only fade as the days pass?
Anyway, here’s a blog post to prove that I’m still around. In case, you know, the world comes to an end. And if it doesn’t, maybe I’ll post again sometime soon.
1Actually, due to family travel plans, I will be in the Eastern Standard time zone. So, I get no hour, well aside from the hours I’ll have after Europe goes up in flames.
This was posted elsewhere. I’m thinking I might get rolling again…
Like any college town, Columbia is home to many music venues offering a wide array of cheap entertainment. Aside from the regulars (Blue Note, Mojo’s, Roxy’s Eastside, The Bridge, etc.), there are a few DIY venues featuring another side of the scene not often seen or heard by the masses. Most of these venues are living rooms just north or east of campus. Another is the hairhole, which we’ve told you about in the past. A newer-ish DIY venue is The Dome.
Joe Dame’s dome is also his home. (Sorry.) And by “dome”, I mean to say that it’s geodesic dome near Ashland at the end of a long, winding, gravel driveway. And by “home”, I mean to say that Joe is renovating the dome in the woods to not only house some cutting edge music but also to serve as his house.
Late last week, I ventured out to The Dome in order to take in one of the more interesting lineups I’ve seen in CoMo in a while. There was Ben Chlapek and Neatly Knotted project plus collaborator Steve Ruffin – or the pleasant projectionist at Ragtag who wears those glasses. The duo opened with a lot of ambient noise. Quite enjoyable for a warmup without a proper name (Iced Wine, anyone?). The echoes they produced filled the rickety dome in the woods and warmed me up proper.
Out of the cornfields arose Curtain Co. with some chill waves (or is it chillwaves?) for the Domers to groove on. Another duo, this time the two musicians worked closely, pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder in delivering movement-inducing beats, causing heads to bob and even a few kids to hit the splintered dance floor.
Local regulars Enemy Airship played third with heaps of Broken Social guitars and keyboards to fill the Dames Dome’s rafters with layers of guitar and synths. A long time ago, I wrote that this group (at the time known as Nonreturner) had found their sloppy, rock ‘n roll selves. Well, along with that old band name went the sloppiness. The band is tight and professional and they just sound like they know what their doing. The guy who accompanied me to The Dome proclaimed them his new favorite local band and I can’t really argue with that.
Finally, what made the night really stand out came in the form of three drummers from Lawrence, KS. Cloud Dog played with a fury I haven’t seen since Lightning Bolt, but maintained an aesthetic closer to Animal Collective. The threesome was quite engaging with drum sticks flying everywhere as some hypnotic Tron-like imagery projected behind them. Look for Cloud Dog in a club near you.
All that happened in one evening at The Dome. Joe has done a great thing in some woods just south of town. You owe it to yourself to find an invite and/or ride to one of the more unique and homey venues in and around CoMo. Joe Dames’ Dome cannot be missed.
As you may have noticed, life gets in the way of my blogging. Of course, it gets in the way of many things.
There was supposed to be a beer tasting to attend Saturday, but I promised to DJ the Hairhole benefit. That didn’t happen either as my kitchen sink decided to quit working. Saturday was spent trying every DIY method for unclogging a drain only to have to call Roto-Rooter on a Saturday night.
Then there was the birthday party for a five-year-old and friends came for dinner…
The heavens parted as we sampled some beer, including my two latest homebrews. The first was the New Slan Saison which after only one week in the bottle is fully carbonated. The same can’t be said for the scotch ale, but I’m hopeful it will turn out fine by this coming weekend. (Then again, I’m not 100% sure I added priming sugar. Never homebrew when you’ve had a few beers already, kids.)
And when these friends took off, I hit the Blue Note for a Built to Spill show. I’m not sure why I still go to BtS shows. It’s pretty much the same thing every time. Even the band seems to mail it in a bit, but at least it was something. A rock ‘n roll escape from life. They played all or at least most of the “hits.” It’s old hat for them, but they didn’t disappoint.
Maybe life will quit getting in the way and I’ll find some inspiration sooner or later.