Beer and Pavement

Aging

Posted in Beer, Life by Zac on July 11, 2012

Half the time, I write about how old I’m getting. This is not one of those posts.

When brewing beer – particularly at home – aging beer to that perfect moment is as inexact a science as one can find. That’s usually why I go with IPA’s and the like that need to be consumed ASAP for fear of them losing their hoppy bite. Even this truism with brewing IPA’s doesn’t always work. I brewed an IPA last year and it needed the extra month in the bottle before it really tasted good.

Aging for pro brewers can be just as hard, but they have a lot more beer to work with, staff, meticulous notes, etc. My aging process is a crap-shoot. Luckily, it’s worked out well for me so far.

I have three(!) such experiments in aging going on right now. This is strange for me as I rarely have more than one beer in secondary at a time. And even when I have, It’s been one beer is going in while the other is going out. However, for various reasons, I am sitting on three beers aging in secondary.

The first is the one that’s been in for two months and may stay in for another 2-4. It’s my Belgian-syle Quad, better known as Guided By Voices. This beer, like all my beers lately has nailed both OG and FG. It was supposed to host some dried fruit, but I opted to let it age without so that the natural flavors would come out on its own. This beast is sitting at just under 11% ABV, easily my booziest effort yet. I don’t want to try it yet, preferring to be surprised, but it smells so good.

Why am I waiting four or more months to try this beer? A friend suggested six and most of the bigger Belgian beers sit around for a long time. It will age as long as I feel like aging it. I don’t think it will hurt the flavor whenever I decide to open it. I can always age it some more in the bottle. Either way, I have boxes of 750-mL bottles just waiting to be filled with this thick, rich concoction.

The other two beers – one a Saison and the other a scotch ale – are for a special occasion. My wife officially becomes an associate professor with tenure on September 1st. To celebrate, we’re throwing a party and I brewed these beers for the event. The Saison is a crowd-pleaser and the scotch ale is for her as it is one of the few styles she enjoys. I’m hoping that I timed both beers to be ready by the 1st. Right now, they both sit in secondary vessels, awaiting their bottled homes.

The Saison is a repeat with a few minor tweaks. First of all, I forgot to include honey. It was nowhere on the recipe for some odd reason. Also, I used the wrong caramel malt (80L opposed to 20L). It’s a long story as to why the mix-up happened, but the beer actually didn’t start out as dark as the last time. Finally, I actually got the yeast to cooperate this time around. The first time, I used a smack-pack that just didn’t really take off. It was in dire need of a starter. Since I’ve had so much luck with dry yeast packets. I just threw in an entire pack and mixed it with my aeration wand. FG was achieved in small part due to my patience but in large part due to the extra warmth I added with a warming belt.

In the secondary, the Saison is sharing space with some additional Sorachi Ace hops and Rosemary. I’m hoping that this will make the beer a bit more fragrant. It should at least make it good for beer can chicken.

The scotch ale was a complete experiment. I’m not even sure if it truly matched the recipe I wrote. Still, it fermented just fine. I’m a bit worried that an American yeast in a Scottish beer will not show the character a scotch ale should  demonstrate. So, I added some oak chips soaked in cheap scotch whiskey for a little depth. Ideally, this beer would sit for two months on the chips, but I don’t have that long. Six weeks will have to do.

The second beer is called “Tenured Dingo”, a tribute to my wife whose last name is the same as the baby-eating, Australian dog. At best, the beer will be rich with flavor and really wow our guests. At worst, the beer’s namesake will tell that it would be good with a burger, something she says about every beer, regardless of style.

Aging happens in other ways. As my hair grays, my record and beer collections age along with these homebrews. As change happens in my life (wife’s mentioned tenure, a new job for me), change will occur in those carboys. I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on developments as they happen, but as you probably can tell, keeping a blog up-to-date is not always an easy thing to do.

It’s All Relative

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life by Zac on April 18, 2012

The boyz from Hot Knives went ape for a box of Founders. They mistakenly confused their booty for the entire lineup[1], but how were these west coasters to know?

Anyway, it’s interesting to hear their take on the beers. For the most part, they know what they’re drinking. The hoppy beers are balanced and lie more east than west when it comes to IPA character[2]. However, where Founders gets it right every time is with their stouts, imperial stouts even. Overall, they were stoked to get something so rare…for LA.

This got me thinking about how regions can have completely different takes on the same products. Founders is based out of Michigan and generally only ships to states in the Great Lakes region along with Missouri and a few other eastern states. To those of us in Missouri, they’re fairly common[3], to the point that a few of these beers are considered disappointments on particular years[4].

The love for regional beers or music by those outside said region is always interesting to me. Beers and bands enjoy a certain kind of love close to home, some genuine and some obligatory. It’s more of an ownership thing that’s tempered by familiarity. A brewery or band succeeds when they get all kinds of love from outside of their homes, love that is based on performance and not just hype.

In the above video, the hipsters[5] were excited by Founders’ hype on the west coast, but they were won over by the imperial stouts. Still, I wonder what the reaction would have been if Founders wasn’t all that good at brewing beer. I know that I’ve had some hyped beers from out of market and were somewhat letdown. Conversely, I’ve had others that did not disappoint, living up to and sometimes passing the hype. In the end, how the beer tasted, looked, and smelled won me over, not the hype associated with a scarcity based on regional distribution/limitations.

This is where I was reminded to appreciate what a rare treat it is that we in Missouri get great beers from Michigan (Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Bells, etc.), Colorado (Avery, Great Divide, Ska, etc.), New York (Southern Tier, Schmaltz), California (Green Flash, Firestone Walker, Stone, etc.), the Pacific Northwest (Deschutes, Caldera, etc.), as well as places in between and from our own state (Schlafly, Boulevard). However, sometimes it takes an outsider’s appreciation to do the reminding.

Relatively speaking, Founders is pretty common around these parts. However, it’s probably a jolt to these LA food/beer bloggers. It’s the same when someone here shows up with something from Russian River, Three Floyds, or Dogfish Head – all breweries not commonly available in the Show-Me state. Although these breweries are great no matter where you are, they are even that much better where they are not normally found.

It reminds me of the time I saw Guided By Voices play on Coney Island.  One summer weekend, a few of us drove all night to see them play in the inaugural Village Voice Siren Fest. As we rolled our collective eyes over the showmanship of the band, the crowd of New Yorkers went completely nuts for windmills and epic kicks.

See, living in Ohio during the 90’s and half of the last decade, one had many opportunities to see GBV in all its glory. I saw or could have seen the band play on every tour from Bee Thousand through Half Smiles of the Decomposed, plus special gigs in between[5]. So, their shtick was pretty played-out for us by then.

The difference was that New York had not been able to experience nearly as much Bob Pollard as we Ohioans had[6]. To them, it was all new or at least novel. To us, it was the last decade+ and we were ready to move on, forgetting how much we loved GBV and all those shows and all the theatrics we now detested. So, GBV’s popularity that day was mostly relative to them performing in front of a crowd not blessed to see them all that often[7].

Anyway, a good reason to keep beer distribution regional and small is the joy we get when we have a beer out of market, like the Hot Knives boys and their box of Founders. Some of the enjoyment we have – whether it’s beer or music – is relative to where we are, what’s normally available there, and with whom we’re sharing the experience.

I’m glad someone in LA got to try some Founders. They now know what the midwest has to offer that west coast IPA’s cannot always fulfill. I’m also glad that this video reminded me of what a nice craft beer option we have here in Middle Missouri with Founders in almost every grocery, restaurant, and bar.

Notes:
1 It was a nice haul, but there are a few key bottles missing: Cherise, Pale Ale, Dirty Bastard, Red’s Rye PA, Porter, All Day IPA, Curmudgeon, Harvest Ale, and Backwoods Bastard. Plus, there are the super rare bottles like CBS, Better Half, and Blushing Monk.
2 With my limited palate, I am finding that I prefer the West Coast IPA to those of the east. A “balanced” IPA seems to be code for “tons of sweetness to balance out all the hops.” I’m growing a bit weary over Eastern and Midwestern DIPA’s. The IPA’s are fine. It just seems there’s way too much sweetness going on.
3 Of course, this has only been the case for a few years. Founders was one of the first big craft brewers to plunge into Missouri’s waters. Since then, it’s been an avalanche of new beer.
4 The Devil Dancer just didn’t do it for me this year. I blame the ridiculous amount of hops needed for a triple IPA (whatever that is). If the crop this year was even a tiny bit off, it affected the whole beer. Also, I really don’t care for fresh KBS. That beer needs a year to age before it’s good.
5 I once saw them play a tent in Dayton on a snowy St. Pat’s Day. My brother got us kicked out.
6 Guided By Voices gigs and things like cow tipping are probably the only two things that Ohio can say they get more opportunities to do than New Yorkers.
7 See #6. Why do I even have this footnote?

Another note…The use of “hipsters” as a descriptor was not meant as an insult. Hipsters tend to be creative and fashionable types. What’s not to like about that?

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine: The Review

Posted in Beer, Beer Thousand, Intersections, Mikkeller, Records, Review by Zac on January 30, 2012

Royal Rye Wine

Maybe I’ve over-extended myself, but this special occasion was reason enough to take this blog where it’s never been before. The Mikkeller collab Royal Rye Wine arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a brief moment in my schedule to review it properly. I don’t know that the video below does it justice, but we tried record the event and maybe we’ll get better with each episode.

My disclaimer is that this video beer review thing is not easy. The Hopry is the gold standard and now I understand why he doesn’t do it anymore. It’s a lot of work. Then there are those who consistently do professional-looking videos at New Brew Thursdays and 100 Beers in 30 Days… We’re just not at that standard just yet. I made the valiant effort of editing out a large portion of my “ums”, but you’ll notice I’m loaded with them. This is why I, um, blog.

Anyways, here’s the video. Below that, I’ll add some thoughts, what we did with the rest of the afternoon, and maybe even some additional media. Comment freely, but be constructive.

So, the beer was good and completely caught us off guard (in case you couldn’t tell). Normally, the three of us can talk forever on such things, but this beer left us speechless – something only Mikkeller can typically do. The rye was pronounced. The grape/wine flavors came and went as our palate was challenged by the rye and the beer warmed. There was a slight amount of carbonation, but as we drank, that dissipated quickly. However, the body of the beer did not suffer. This truly is a wine drinker’s beer. Typically, I think of sour beers as being the closest thing to wine a brewery can accomplish, but this beer actually attains a wine-like feel without wine barrels and the infections they carry. We weren’t just blowing steam up Mikkeller’s ass. This beer is both interesting and a lot of fun to drink.

Now, as far as the video, I’m hoping we’ll get better. You all should provide plenty of suggestions to make it better. I’m pretty happy with the opening and closing. Jeff and Jarrett were great. (Be sure to check out any out-takes I’ll post below. There’s good stuff there.) However, my stumbling, bumbling dialogue needs work. Maybe I’ll prepare a little better next time. Maybe we’ll do it live and you can see how it really goes down.

Anyway, there are some credits I forgot to include or didn’t make clear enough. Jeff took the pictures. You can find them here. Jarrett is a certified cicerone. So, he knows about which he’s talking. The opening credits song is “Hardcore UFO’s” from the Guided By Voices record Bee Thousand. If I missed something, let me know in the comments.

Oh look; beer.

We consumed the three beers above, plus one a homebrew Jeff contributed. The Allagash Interlude was a beer I found in Richmond, VA this past summer. It’s a 2009 vintage and contained tons of tartness with a touch of oak, another wine-worthy brew. Really, it was a delicious beer. I had had a 4 Calling Birds from The Bruery once before, but it was lost in a tasting. My palate was relatively fresh this time around and I found the nutmeg to be almost toxically good. Jeff’s homebrew was called Hop Heaven after Avery’s Hog Heaven Barley Wine. It was a hop-forward barley wine that could use some time to age, but that probably won’t happen. There’s noting wrong with that either.

Before I close, below you’ll find a video of out-takes, the two videos from Mikkeller dealing with the contest, and a Russian video about the Royal Rye Wine release. Enjoy!

Pics in this post are also courtesy of Jeff.

Tagged with: ,

Late Night Loves Indie Rock

Posted in Live by Zac on January 11, 2012

There have been a slew of late night TV appearances by indie bands in recent years. The time slots after your eleven/ten o’clock news programs have been receptive to indie bands for a while now, but they seem particularly hellbent on giving indie rockers proper exposure recently. Do we blame the blogs? Are those in charge of such decisions the same kids at indie shows in the nineties? Who knows.

Now, I get that by the time a band lands on network television – no matter the time slot – that it’s long past being underground or cutting edge. However, as a kid who grew up in a rural community with no real outlets for musical discovery, late night appearances were all we had. Sure, with the internet, we can discover all kinds of music, but sometimes it gets too overwhelming and we need something easy and delivered to our television sets. Many of these bands don’t need a bump from a late night appearance, but the exposure to a few more households is not a bad thing.

Either way, there have been a few notable late night performances to share and digest…

Wild Flag on Fallon (skip to minute 37)

What’s funny is that when I watch this, all I can think of is how much Carrie Brownstein reminds me of Mic Jagger circa late 60’s. Jagger didn’t play guitar, but I imagine he’d look just as cool. The entire band seemed to have the mod coolness about them in this performance. Wild Flag is just so cool, strong, and they rock with ovaries to the wall which means they rock harder than most boys and their bored demeanor proves they don’t have to work as hard at it. I hope their spring touring finds them in the Show-Me state and maybe another record soon.

Guided By Voices on Letterman (Sorry. Embedding’s not cooperating. Just click the link.)

http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid1089.photobucket.com/albums/i359/dg11469/January32012-January82011/guidedbyvoicesletterman.mp4

Is there anything better than Greg Demos falling on his ass? No.

This song is so 1994 it kills me. Driving, fist-pounding progressions and typical Bob Pollard delivery would place this song and the performance on Letterman right alongside Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes GBV. The only thing that’s different is the geriatric-looking rockers performing. If you can imagine it, there was a time when Guided By Voices was considered old because the members were like 36. Wait. I’m 36 right now.

WU LYF on Letterman (Again, wonky embedding.)

http://www.cbs.com/e/kTPYKVZDqU2gJSnLiJasmse_rS_BaTGo/cbs/1/

I may have totally overlooked or over-thought including WU LYF in my 2011 best-of. Consider them #11 at the very least with this performance. There’s something about bands who are so unaware of their surroundings as they perform on TV or completely ignore the host once their gig is done. Unintelligible vocals combined with backing instrumentation usually reserved for instrumental outfits hailing form Texas or Canada make WU LYF an incredibly intriguing watch. I just hope they continue to be as lost in their music as they seem to be on Letterman.

Tune-Yards on Kimmel

I had only read about a Tune-Yards performance and I have to say that it’s even more glorious than expected. It’s so exact and layered that I almost don’t believe how transparent the live performance actually is. And Merril Garbus is as engaging a stage presence as I’ve seen in a long time. It’s incredibly simple yet precise how she samples her own voice and drumming and builds a song from scratch, similar to Andrew Bird. However, the use of the drums and her incredibly unique voice just make her so much more fun to watch.

What have you seen on late night television (or replayed the next day on P4k/Stereogum/AV Club/etc. the next day) that’s caught your attention? Thoughts on the performances above? As per the usual, leave comments below and Like this blog with your Facebooking self.

Top 5 Indie Band Tribute Beers

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Pavement by Zac on January 9, 2012

See? That’s Sam Calagione with a GBV shirt on.

In last week’s top-5, I predicted there would be some indie rock tribute beers this year. Since I want to be part of the solution and not the problem, I have decided to post five possible examples of beers that could be brewed as a way to properly recognize the chemistry that exists between indie rock and craft beer.

5. Dogfish Head Guided By Voices Heavy Lager – I once heard Bob Pollard proclaim on stage that he drinks “Bud Heavy” and not Bud Light. So, I think Dogfish Head needs to produce a “heavy” lager, maybe an imperial pilsner or high ABV bock of some sort and dedicate it to the reunited classic GBV lineup. I chose Dogfish Head because they’ve done this sort of thing before and there’s a picture of Sam Calagione wearing a GBV t-shirt out there somewhere.

4. Stillwater Bright Eyes Angst-Ridden Saison, Aged in Red Wine Barrels – I once had a pretty in-depth discussion about Bright Eyes with Stillwater brewer Brian Strumke. So, I know he’s a fan and would totally be into this sort of thing. I also know that Conor Oberst loved some red wine. If anyone could figure out a way to brew the perfect beer involving a red wine barrel (Pinot Noir possibly?), it’s Brian. This is actually the beer on this list that I personally think has the best chance of actually happening.

3. The Bruery Pavement Pilsner, AKA Watery Domestic – Of course I had to figure out a way to work Pavement into a beer. I suspect The Bruery could tap into Pavement’s Northern California aesthetic from their early days and brew their first commercially-available pilsner in the process. Since it’s from The Bruery, expect some flavors and adjuncts that will throw you for a loop.

2. Shmaltz Brewing Company He’Brew Yo La Tengo Barley Wine – A better brewery and band pairing would be hard to conjure. Shmaltz calls NYC home and specializes in Jewish-themed brews with their He’Brew line, particularly their Hanukkah gift pack. Yo La Tengo hails from across the river in Hoboken, but they spend a lot of time in the City. Every year, YLT celebrates their Jewish heritage with a set of shows each night of Hanukkah. A huge barley wine that improves with age would be ideal.

1. Just About Any Portland Brewery to Brew an IPA in Honor of Just About Any Portland Band – I get that this will be seen as a cop-out, but how could one narrow Portland’s beer and music scenes to just one brewery and one band. The one thing that isn’t hard to figure out is the beer’s style. An IPA makes the most sense here as some of the best come from Portland. Their bitterness can be a turn-off for some at first, but eventually the joy that is a Wests Coast IPA is discovered. The same goes for the average Portland indie band.

Update: This happened today. Let’s get on this, Stillwater, Bruery, Schmaltz, et al.

The Dead Season

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by Zac on January 4, 2012

Tundra

January rolls around. We recover from our holiday hangovers and prepare to cleanse and write resolutions for the year. Typically, the same sort of reset happens with craft beer and indie rock. Both industries take a moment to breath in preparation for the new year, even if it’s our last.

I look at January as the “Dead Season”. There are no or very few major releases from either craft breweries or indie labels. Someone will point out that there are a few noteworthy releases, but this pales in comparison to the plethora of releases in November/December. Nope, this is the time of year little comes out as we collect our…er…collective breaths and prepare for what the year has in store for us.

Two notable releases will be my only respites during this Dead Season.

The first is the Guided By Voices album, Let’s Go Eat the Factory which features the band’s classic (and somewhat geriatric) lineup. And from what I can tell from listening to the stream on NPR, it’s an album that would have fit well among Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Now, it’s not as good as those albums, but Let’s Go… is a swell piece of nostalgia reunions alone could never completely fulfill. I look forward to my copy arriving in a few weeks and giving you all a complete review then.

The other release is Bells Hopslam. Hopslam season has been well-documented here by the coalition and probably will receive some attention when this year’s version hits store shelves. I’ve put in an order for my family to obtain a minikeg again. After months of imperial stouts and oak-aged barley wines weighing down my palate, that shining light that is Hopslam will burst into my mouth, most likely featuring loads of grapefruit and honeyed sweetness. Can’t wait!

So, the Dead Season will end joyously with the nectar of the gods rolling down my throat as the dulcet tones of Bob Pollard and his boys rattle my eardrums. The Dead Season will end soon enough.

My Response to Drinkify

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Pavement, Rock vs. Beer by Zac on November 8, 2011

Carrie Wade thinks she’s really funny, so funny that she posted this atrocity on my Facebook wall. Really? We’re supposed to believe that Pavement pairs well with 1 PBR? What, because they’re like hipster slackers of something? Eff that.

I’m taking it upon myself to pair some bands with beers that make sense. Comment freely or suggest your own pairings. The wrong that has been created on Drinkify must be stopped. I mean, we’re trying to build coalitions up in this joint.

Pavement – Saison
I considered choosing one beer for Pavement but settled on a style instead. With a band like Pavement, it depends on the record. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain  might require the smooth quirkiness of a Boulevard Tank 7, but Wowee Zowee is a Boulevard Saison Brett all the way. The Saison is one of the more versatile styles out there. These beers can be loved or hated, depending on one’s mood, but they are generally appreciated. The range of flavors (earthy to citrusy to sour to bitter) is only equaled by the range of Pavement’s discography. Also of note is that Stephen Malkmus represents the entirety of the Stillwater lineup of artisanal Saisons.

Wilco – Schlafly American Pale Ale
What goes better with dad rock better than a slightly hoppier pale ale from the St. Louis area? Wilco, of course. This easy-drinking lesson in hoppiness is the perfect beer for the dad who wants to still show that he’s cool without drinking anything too bitter or high in alcohol. I mean, he does have to drive home. I also considered Three Floyds’ Alpha King, but figured it only paired with Wilco’s more obtuse work like A Ghost Is Born.

Fiery Furnaces – New Belgium La Folie
They’re both difficult to love sometimes, but if you put forth the effort to find what’s good, it’s totally worth it. Because of this, both have the most loyal of fans who must learn to ignore all the judgmental stares  from their peers for choosing to like something so difficult. I considered several more artsy, more difficult bands (Joan of Arc, Beat Happening) along with other Flanders red ales (Duchesse De Bourgogne, New Garus Wisconsin Belgian Red). The pairing just seems right.

Guided By Voices – Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
I realize that Bob Pollard drinks Bud, not sissy craft beers, but the classic IPA is perfect for macro-arena rock from the midwest. I was torn on several bands and IPA’s, but I settled on two classics. The best part of the IPA are all the variations it’s birthed along with other possible pairings. Dinosaur Jr ruins your eardrums like a Stone Ruination IPA (which is really  an imperial IPA) ruins your tastebuds. Other Stone varieties also pair well with similar indie outfits such as Cali-Belgique (Yuck) or the 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (Chavez). Of course, there’s always old standbys like a Modus Hoperandi (Superchunk) or Lagunitas Hop Stoopid (Archers of Loaf)…I could go on and on, but there are other beers and bands to pair.

Where was I?

Sonic Youth – Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
There is a ton going on in a Sonic Youth record. Layers of rebuilt guitars and alternate tunings upon alternate tunings create a cacophony that’s all their own. And over the years, SY has grown into almost a completely different band. While they sound nothing like themselves 30 years ago, only they could have evolved the way they have. This is much like Canadian Breakfast Stout, the much hyped and oft-cited imperial stout of the moment. At the moment, there’s a lot of noise in that beer. The suspicion is that it will undergo a Sonic Youth-like metamorphosis while in the bottle that sits in my cellar. I’ve had a taste, but I can’t wait to have another.

Sufjan Stevens – He-Brew Genesis 15:15
Speaking of having a lot going on, this musician and beer pack a whole lota flavor in relatively small packages. Sufjan Stevens brings one layered opus after another from his home in Brookly, much like the brewers at Schmaltz/He’Brew. The religious imagery and connotations are undeniable…This is a pairing made in heaven.

Wild Flag – Avery/Russian River Collaboration not Litigation
The members of Wild Flag were never in any danger of suing one another, but they have collaborated to create one the year’s best records. The Avery/Russian River collab is nearly as caustic and full of riot grrrl power as Wild Flag is. Plus, at nearly, 9% ABV, it makes you as woozy as one might feel after a Carrie Brownstein windmill combined with a Mary Timony classic rock non-riff. Confused? You should be.

I think I have more, but it will take some time to sort them out. In the meantime, what are your favorite beer/music pairings? Do you like any of the pairings I suggested above? Do you have a better pairing for the bands and beers I listed here? As usual, leave some comments.

LeBron James, Matador, and Disappointment

Posted in Jock Straps, Life, Pavement by Zac on July 12, 2010

Disappointment is a part of life. Not everything goes your way. Disappointment can be a downer, it can even hurt a little. Sometimes, that disappointment is so bad that it morphs into distress or depression. Even once you accept disappointment’s inevitability, it doesn’t make the pain go away any quicker.

Sometimes we set ourselves up for the worst disappointments. Hype is built all around a person or an experience, hype that is never attainable. There’s this sense of entitlement that things should go our way just because we want it so badly. In these instances, the letdown is greatest.

Buy my ego!Such is the disappointment in my home state of Ohio1. That’s where LeBron James pulled the dagger stuck in Cleveland’s collective sporting heart, washed it in the polluted Cuyahoga River, and returned it to its home deep inside Cleveland Municipal Stadium where he twisted until there was no life left. In other words, he took advantage of his free agent status and signed with a team that is not the Cleveland Cavaliers who have the ability to win championships in the next two to three years as opposed to losing them the past three2. James is now a Heat3. The fans of Cleveland are so disenchanted from this letdown that they’re burning jerseys, making vague death threats, and even writing angry letters in Comic Sans4.

I won’t bore you with the trials and tribulations that is professional sports history in Cleveland5. Let’s just say they have not had much luck. However, when James was drafted as an 18-year-old phenom from nearby Akron, Clevelanders were convinced this was the ticket to ending their suffering. James himself declared his desire to bring a championship to Cleveland, but what star athlete wouldn’t do the same for their long suffering city? Cleveland fans bought into the myth, the legend-in-the-making. Suddenly, it was as if that 30% unemployment rate had disappeared. Drew Carey became funny. And videos like this would soon lose all humor and relevance…

So, things were good for a while. Even though the Indians6 and Browns were still just..well, the Indians and Browns, Cleveland sports fans had hope that LeBron James would return for another go at a championship. The Cavs had the best record in the league for two straight years and James was the two-time reigning NBA MVP as well. If he signed with the Cavs this off-season, LeBron could guarantee himself a max contract and the adoration of Clevelanders for eternity7.

Instead, over the course of an hour-long ESPN infomercial for his ego, LeBron James disappointed every single Cavs fan by deciding to move to Miami. Now, pro athletes do this all the time. However, an expectation had been built that LeBron would never leave Cleveland and win them a sorely needed championship. Sure, some of those expectations were built-up by a 25-year-old man8 who can dunk a basketball with the best of them, but most of those expectations were built or at least embellished by a fanbase hungry for a championship.

Cavs fans were more than a little disappointed and they demonstrated their hurt by burning James in effigy and declaring him enemy #1. They felt they had a right to a championship. They were spoiled by seven years of pretty amazing basketball and rhetoric that made them believe that even Cleveland was entitled to a championship. The entitlement unfulfilled left the people of Cleveland very, very disappointed to say the least.

Sorry for the sporting news, moving on with another example of disappointment…

never againIn my world, I have been obsessed with the Matador 21st anniversary party in Las Vegas and I’m not the only one. If you were to peruse the comments on the Matablog, you would find a similarly ravenous fanbase to the one that follows the Cleveland basketball franchise. And even before the tickets were to go on-sale, a similar sentiment was expressed as those pour fanatics in Cleveland.

Matador fans were already disappointed with the ticket price, hotel accommodations, Las Vegas’ allotment of tickets9, the lack of information, ticket price, no Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 reunion, an inability to call in sick for work to get tickets, ticket price, etc. before the tickets ever went on sale. There was a huge cry of disappointment that no one10 would be able to see maybe the most amazing three-day lineup in American independent music history. And swirling among that disappointment was that same sense of entitlement felt by those jilted Cavalier fans. Only this time, folks who had original “Girly Sound” tapes and saw Pavement when Gary Young still did headstands off his kit were incensed that they were not given their desired allotment of tickets due to their years of fandom as opposed to LeBron James’ jersey-wearing “witnesses” pining for a championship.

In the end, 2,100 or so people were able to score tickets. The real disappointment came when the tickets were gone in 2 minutes11. I should know, I tried in vain for 25 minutes just to get tickets and hotel packages into my shopping cart with no luck. I, like many others, was disappointed.

Basically, these two fanbases suffered tremendous disappointments last week, but not so much because their favorite sports star or indie label had let them down. Oh no, it had more to do with this strange entitlement they seem to feel. Cavs fans feel they are entitled to a championship. Indie rock fans felt they were entitled to see a reunited Guided By Voices from a black jack table. From where does that entitlement come? Does anyone really need these things?

The only thing I can come up with is that fans feel they deserve to be paid for their loyalty, their patronage. Would LeBron James or Matador be where they are without their fans? Maybe. Maybe not. They are both among the best at what they do. Something tells me they can find more fans. The fact is neither LeBron James nor Matador Records owe anyone anything. Sure, it would have been nice if LeBron had stayed in Cleveland and somehow won a championship on 31-year-old knees only to never walk again12. And it would have been really sweet if I had scored tickets to that Matador thing. The fact is that neither thing worked out. They were both disappointments, but that’s it.

There’s a certain amount of blind faith that is involved in fanaticism which allows people to feel they are entitled to a little payback. However, just because you  love LeBron James or Stephen Malkmus doesn’t mean you are entitled to their eternal servitude. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You’re lucky James played seven seasons in Cleveland13. We’re lucky Malk decided to reunite Pavement14 for one last go. No one is entitled to these things.

In conclusion (because I feel this post rambling out of control), most of this disappointment could be held in check if folks had tempered their fanaticism. Fans are not entitled to anything more than what’s offered. If a band tours through your town and you’re able to go, great! If your favorite athlete chooses to sign with your hometown team and delivers a championship, fantastic! However, you are not entitled to these things. After all, it is just entertainment.

I feel lucky that LeBron James, may be the most famous person from my home state, played some pretty amazing basketball for a team in said state. I feel lucky that I have seen many of the bands in their prime that are set to play Matador’s celebration. Sure, I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out the way I would have liked, but that’s OK. There will be other athletic triumphs to enjoy and concerts to attend. I might be disappointed, but the only thing I’m entitled to do is move on.

Notes:
1Yes, this is not my current home state. However, when you lived the first 30 years in a place and have a tattoo to prove it, it is forever your home state.
2They tried to build a winner, but the problem is that the Cavs were built to win this year and they failed.
3I am not a fan of such team names as Heat, Magic, and the like. Really? There’s not some endangered species or terrible cultural stereotype from which you could mine your next mascot name?
4Comic Sans is a crime against humanity.
5That’s what footnotes are for! Let’s see, there’s The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Burning River, The Game Seven, The Sweep, The Manny Ramirez, and now The Decision.
6Hate U, racist Chief Wahoo!
7Well, the adoration would last a while. He’d still have to win a championship, but one championship goes a long way in Cleveland.
8Who was, at one time, an 18-year-old kid in the NBA promising the same things. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust the 18-25 version of myself for anything.
9Which, from what I understand, was largely unclaimed after the online allotment went on sale. And the only reason Vegas was given so many tickets was because they whined about the lack of opportunity they had to score said tickets.
102,100 people to be exact.
11There was some confusion in the online ticketing system that caused some ticket-buyers to purchase more tickets and hotel rooms than they needed. For example, some people purchased four sets of four tickets and a room for four people. That’s sixteen tickets and four rooms for four people. There were some extra tickets for sale on Saturday, but I had had enough disappointment for one week.
12I suspect if James makes it to his 31-year-old bad knee self, he won’t be winning a trophy with any team.
13It should be noted that it may have been the most amazing first seven years of any NBA career in the history of the league. The kid is pretty impressive to watch.
14It probably wasn’t just up to SM, but had he said “no” there would have been no reunion.

Young and Old

Posted in Manifesto by Zac on February 11, 2010

A comment in my last post struck me. Longtime reader and taint haiku-ist Carrie had this to say1:

This is why I feel I have to fight so hard to be credible, because most of the people my age–quite frankly–listen to music with no reference points (also note: I had a moment of swelling pride today when a 40-something guy on one of the online forums I frequent told me my musical depth gives him hope)

Two things: 1) The fact that as a youngster, Carrie has to fight for credibility due to her generation’s inability to move beyond P4k and iTunes. 2) Carrie is not like her peers in that she has impressive “musical depth.”

First of all, Carrie doesn’t have to prove anything. A quick glance of her blog, Colossal Youth, and you’ll quickly realize that she has plenty of credibility. This is also proven by my second thing above. I’m glad that is out of the way.

What I wanted to get at is the fact that it’s way easier to have musical reference points when you’ve been at it as long as I have2. Of course I know Pavement, Brainiac3, Guided By Voices, and Archers of Loaf3. I lived those years. There was no work involved. I went to the club once or twice a week and saw some shows. The local record emporium kept me updated. There was very little work to it.

I don’t blame the young for not always knowing music’s history. It takes work4. I don’t know that I always put in the work to know newer bands these days. It’s OK.

On the other hand, I did do a lot of the work necessary to gain that point of reference. I loaded up on quintessential albums in the used section at Used Kids5. I’ve read the books and magazine articles. I put in my time to learn about the trajectory of music. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it.

There’s no excuse with Google and Wikipedia and whatever not to know about music’s past. It’s easier than it used to be. Someone name-drops Lydia Lunch. You run over to Wikipedia and search it out to find that she was a pioneer of No Wave and has deep connections with Sonic Youth. It’s really not that hard.

Of course, we older folk can’t expect younger generations to know about our music if we don’t teach them. Take this evening. I had a conversation with a friend about the indie scene in Ohio back in the nineties6. It got some wheels in my head spinning. I put on some Guided By Voices while I fed and bathed my daughter. I sang and danced to the music and taught her a new word: Ohio. Her indie rock education began a long time ago, but this was the beginning of another conversation over Ohio’s contribution to music.

This does not leave out the young people. They have to hold old cranks like myself by the hand and tell us about new bands so that we don’t fall behind7. Of course, an exchange between young and old is always necessary to advance thought, even in music.

Anyways, Carrie’s comment made me think and think some more is what I’ll do.

There are more angles to look at this topic. Take beer, for instance. Kids know how to get shit-faced and have a good time no matter how terrible the beer tastes. Older beer drinkers know what tastes good and how to get the same effect out of three beers as opposed to twelve.

I have always felt that I’ve had a lot to learn from those younger than I, but they can learn from me as well. So, that’s where this blog fits in. I don’t have many readers at the moment, but I know someone will glean something worthwhile from my words at some point.

What do you think? What can we learn from each other? What have you learned from folks younger/older than yourself?

1In her comment footnotes no less!
2I was one of those kids affected by Nirvana. I smelled of the teen spirit. I grew up in grunge and the early days when hardcore transformed into lo-fi which later became the all-encompassing indie.
3If these boys are too obscure for you, look ‘em up. Buy something today. I’ll wait.
4Although I always prided myself at understanding from where a band came or their influences, I can’t say I always put in the necessary work to truly get a band.
5If you’ve never been, it’s really worth the trip to Columbus, OH.
6Yes, we had a scene. Guided By Voices, The Breeders, Afghan Whigs, Brainiac, Gaunt, New Bomb Turks, etc.
7Or we could just read some blogs.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,067 other followers