Beer and Pavement

Thanks

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Live, Records by Zac on November 24, 2011

I’m thankful for a lot. However, I won’t go into all that here. This blog is about craft beer and indie rock. So, I won’t go into my thankfulness for my health, family, home, etc. Those all go without saying. No, this post pays homage to the little extras that provide a little spice to life, the things for which I obsess over and blog about incessantly.

10. Improved Missouri Distribution – Since I’ve moved here and eventually became a beer enthusiast, the distribution in this state has increased dramatically. I don’t even think I can name all the breweries we’ve added in that time. Off the top of my head, I can think of Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, Stone, Founders, Ska, Jolly Pumpkin, Stillwater, and a bunch more I probably didn’t realize weren’t already available here. We currently get nearly all the important Michigan and Colorado breweries. Our west coast selections improve monthly. It’s a great time to be a beer geek in Missouri.

9. Two Clubs, Two Cities – It’s tough trying to see bands in a town such as Columbia. We’re not really gib enough for a lot of acts, but we do have options. Two clubs here are just the right size for most indie bands. There’s Mojo’s with it’s barn-like qualities and the Blue Note with its old-school dancehall/porno theater feel. And when bands don’t want to stop here, it’s not a huge deal to drive two hours in either direction to see them in St. Louis or Kansas City. This year alone, among others, I’ve seen Sebadoh (Mojo’s), Yo La Tengo (Blue Note), Beirut (St. Louis), and Wild Flag (Kansas City) in four different places. That’s not bad for an old man.

8. The Ohio Pipeline – Even though Missouri’s distribution is improving, there are still many breweries we do not get. I could do some online trading or simply buy online, but that gets expensive. Luckily, for every brewery we don’t get here, there’s a better than average chance they do get it in Ohio. Between my siblings (one who works at a Whole Foods) and my mom (who drives here once a month to see me her only grandchild), I have a steady flow of out-of-market beers to keep myself satisfied.

7. Insound – I’ve complained before that there’s no decent record store here. Thankfully, Insound is always a click away. At one point, they shipping so many records to me that the UPS lady asked my wife if I was a DJ. Hardly. No, I’m just a man with a problem, an addiction, an addiction to vinyl.

6. Glassware – A beer out of the wrong glass or even out of a bottle is just not the same as one served in the proper glass. Over the years, I have collected several different glasses in which I can enjoy some of the finest beers in the world as well as some tasty homebrew. I have various stemmed glasses for various styles of beer. I have enough conical pint glasses to serve a decent-sized party. There’s even the set of taster glasses for those who just want a small taste of a big beer. Over time and many bottles of beer, I’ve found the tulip to be the best, most versatile glass. The stem gives me something to hold onto if I don’t want to warm my beer. The bowl presents an option to make my beer warmer. The lip allows aromas to flow. Quite simply, it is the perfect beer glass.

5. The Nineties Are Still Alive – In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a child of the nineties and my musical tastes reflect as much. My favorites continue to be nineties mainstays and most of the new music sound so 20 years ago. The two best albums might be by Wild Flag and Stephen Malkmus, ambassadors for the decade. New, younger bands such as Yuck and BOAT have ’90’s written all over them despite their youth. It’s the decade that will never die. Spin and I will make sure of that.

4. My Bottle Opener – For whatever reason, I like to hold onto the bottle caps from the beers I drink. In the past, I’ve turned some into refrigerator magnets, but most just go into a drawer. Still, it’s a luxury to have an opener that opens caps without bending them. My opener does that. It’s fashioned from an old railroad spike. It’s heavy and rustic looking. My bottle opener is a conversation piece before we ever crack open a bottle.

3. 180 Gram Vinyl – I love to listen to vinyl, but I worry that it may warp or that the record won’t stand the test of time. However, with hefty 180 gram vinyl records, I don’t worry about that. One can feel the weight of a 180 gram vinyl record the way one should feel the resulting music from the grooves within. The record is so tactile anyway, it’s nice to feel some heft as you lift a disc to rest on your turntable.

2. Mikkeller, Stillwater, Jolly Pumpkin – I love breweries that push limits and don’t taste like any other brewery. These three do what they do at the highest level and often alone. Mikkeller, Stillwater, and Jolly Pumpkin are the kinds of breweries that keep my attention firmly set on craft beer. They’re always good and even when they’re not, they’re at least interesting.

1. This Blog and Its Readership – Seriously. This blog has really taken off since the Freshly Pressed moment last winter, but the continual participation and contributions from my readership have really moved me to post as often as I can. In fact, I’ve looked forward to finishing a post a day throughout November because I know that you all will respond in kind and often add to the discussion in a way that makes me think and motivates me to write again.

Thank you faithful readers and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Ohio, Here We Come

Posted in Beer, Life, Travelog by Zac on May 26, 2011

Then, it’s off to Spain.

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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.

Beer? Give me Bloodbuzz.

Posted in Records by Zac on May 12, 2010

I’m originally from Ohio. Whenever there’s a reference to the Buckeye State, I smile. So, when I heard The National’s “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (from the just released High Violet) I couldn’t keep the corners of my mouth from rising a bit.

I realize for most, Ohio is just another, depressing, fly-over, Midwestern state. While there’s truth to that, that’s not the whole story. The part of Ohio from which I come was pretty rural, pretty rundown. Then, Honda came and the industrial jobs popped up everywhere. There was steady growth. Folks built new homes and bought bigger cars. The second half of my childhood saw a boom in Ohio’s economy, standard of living. Superficial and consumptive? Sure, but it was the kind of wealth people from that part of Ohio rarely enjoyed.

And as the rest of the economy has gone, so has Ohio. In fact, Ohio may be worse off than most states. It’s in really bad shape and it doesn’t help that so many people racked up loads of debt to build those new homes and buy those bigger cars. It’s pretty depressing these days.

The most depressing part for me is that I don’t really have a piece of Ohio anymore. Yes, I have family and friends there, but that’s still just a Facebook connection or familial tie or both. Ohio’s not part of my being the way it used to be. Ohio’s tattooed on my arm, but she doesn’t remember me.

Anyway, Matt Berninger of The National gets that sentiment. There’s something to be said for the laments of white guys who are suddenly smacked in the face with the responsibility of a family and mortgage as the rest of the world crumbles around them. It’s a privileged life, but one is not allowed to feel sorry for one’s self when the American dream is being realized.

Then, I think about Ohio. These things go in cycles. Will things always be this hopeless/full? That kind of stress weighs on me. Apparently, it weighs on Berninger as well.

And this is why I appreciate The National. Everything they do is weighty. They feel the pressures I do. They drink to forget…or to remember. I can’t figure out which.

There’s the low grumble of a Cohen poetic. Strings carry; grooves ground. There’s space in their songs, but it fills arenas with its echoes. There’s the urgency of the moment. There’s experience. There’s something real going on here.

I won’t bore you with my white-guy-in-his-mid-thirties bullshit anymore. I won’t bother with footnotes. The potential for them in this post is eternal. I’ll just leave you with the fact that The National make good, heady music. Here’s a record you should buy. Let it marinade for moment. As it sinks in, remember or try to forget. High Violet is the kind of record in which one can get lost or find one’s own Ohio. I can’t figure out which.

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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.

Girls

Posted in Live by Zac on February 10, 2010

February 8, 2010 – Girls at The Blue Note, Columbia, MO

Rock shows. I used to see a lot of rock shows back in the day. I don’t see nearly as many these days. I certainly don’t see all the ones I should, but sometimes…sometimes I make my way out of the house for a rock show or two.

I used to also go to those shows to chase girls or possibly impress them1. Once, a girl (actually, very much a woman) licked my ear clean. (Well, a dude nearly did the same at another show2.) It was all girls, beer, and rock ‘n roll back in those days.

All three of those things have completely different meanings to me now. My partner is not a girl; she’s a woman, a womyn even. The only girl in my life is only 17 months old. The beer is certainly different these days as I have traded in swill for bourbon barrel-aged, dry-hopped, Brettanomyces, etc. as my bread-in-a-bottle. Some of that has to do with an increase in income, but it mostly has to do with the development of a finer palate.

The rock ‘n roll is the one thing that hasn’t changed. I still long for new records and to see a rock show that excites me. That may explain why I hit the Blue Note3 early for this one.

Upon entering, I could tell by the empty lobby that I had made a classic, newbie mistake of going to a show too early. The openers wouldn’t go on for 45 minutes. Since I am not too young and naive to make this mistake, the only reason for my unnecessary punctuality had to be my ever-advancing age4.

At one point, I was accosted by hipsters who somehow thought I was younger than I am. They wanted to talk about bands I had no time to hear. These hipsters couldn’t understand things like being a parent, an inability to stay out after 1 am, being married to a woman who didn’t like rock shows, Girls were a rock band, and Pavement5. So, I quickly slithered away, hoping that I didn’t have to explain myself to another dude in a scarf and 12 years my junior.

Bands started playing. Memphis’ Magic Kids opened. Throughout the set, I wondered why there were so many retro 50’s/60’s acts these days. Sure, they were peppy, even poppy, but it sort of turned old and a little played rather quickly. It was like I had heard this before…I know. My parents used to program the family car/van radio to all the oldies stations in Columbus and Dayton. I know every oldies song ever. That’s what these Magic Kids sounded like except without the legendary hit-makers in their midst. At least they were happy, very happy.

The originally scheduled openers Smith Western showed up way past their curfews6 to play your favorite teen grunge band hits. They were actually a breath of fresh air as they borrowed more from 20 years ago than 50. The venue swallowed them a bit, but I have to tip my hat to any band who shows up late after many hours on the road and plays without an ounce of fatigue. This band has promise.

At some point during SW’s set, I finally found a table of friends and acquaintances to keep me company and not make me feel so old7.

Girls came on and ripped through their set rather effortlessly. They played fresh and poppy at the start. The middle had the expected lull, but they finished strong. I was most appreciative of the two-song encore. It was way past my bedtime at this point.

Girls were good but not unexpected. Although it was a rock show I sought and received, it also contained the prerequisite forgettable openers, too green to be memorable. Those things were the same.

Maybe one of these days some band will help me remember what was like to be excited at a rock show again. That would be new and the same, but it would be welcome either way.

1It was mostly to see the rock show and ogle at young girls who were way out of my league. Ah, youth.
2OK, so the lick from the woman was unwanted. She asked for my last cigarette, which I produced as I had another pack in the car. She was a middle-aged groupie/photographer at a Guided By Voices show in Dayton, OH. The dude who licked my face was Eric Davidson of New Bomb Turks who were opening for…yes, you guessed it…Guided By Voices. However, this time it was the year prior at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus where Dime-Bag Darrell was shot.
3The Blue Note is the big rock show venue here in Columbia, MO, my current home.
4Which continues to advance in years come Thursday.
5A 23-year-old guy thought that Pavement was a super group of some sort. Well, if mean that they were super awesome and could conjure Satan in a young virgin’s womb by simply playing a single note, he would have been wrong. They aren’t a super group by any definition. They’re my favorite band and you may have heard something about a reunion tour this summer.
6Rumor had it they were all seven and that they had to wait for their mom to get back from the grocery to take them to the gig.
7They were all people who work with my wife and a spouse. They all get out more than I, so I’m not sure who made whom feel young.

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