Beer and Pavement

Craft Beer’s Hipster Problem

Posted in Beer, Video by SM on January 23, 2014

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I bristled at the idea of writing yet another post about hipsters, but I felt this had to be addressed.

First, let me say that I am decidedly pro-hipster at best or ambivalent toward them at worst. It’s a label placed on certain stereotypes that I don’t feel like getting into at this point. All you should know is that being a hipster is relative and that we’re all hipsters compared to someone.

When I say that craft beer has a “hipster problem”, what I am referring to is a perception of pretentiousness. Hipsters – right or wrong – are seen as pretentious. Whether it’s fashion, music, transportation, decor, or food, “hipster” is considered equivalent to “pretentious douchebag.” So, maybe it’s hipsters with the problem, but I digress.

Craft beer is neither exclusive to hipsters nor pretentious. However, as they say, perception is reality. And the perception is that craft beer is exclusive and loved by snobs. Exclusivity these days is blamed on hipsters for whatever reason.

The actual reality is that craft beer is decidedly not a hipster thing. The movement has been around for a while. The people I connect with craft beer are not very hipster-like. Just within my social circles, craft beer enthusiasts aren’t exactly the hippest lot. This is not a putdown. It’s just a reality. They are mainly white men aged 30-50. Yes, some of them own an Arcade Fire CD. Yes, some will wear ironic t-shirts. However, these are fairly benign practices these days. Ten years ago, they totally would have been hipsters. In 2014, not so much.

Now, a lot of hipsters are getting into craft beer. It’s artisinal. It’s really popular right now. It’s beard friendly. There’s a lot in the craft beer community for hipsters to like. However, when push comes to shove (and as the wallet empties), PBR and Hi-Life aren’t that bad.

Seriously. Craft beer is attractive to the North American Hipster because craft beer tastes good and gets us a little tipsy. That’s basically the same reason we all love it.

The more insidious part of craft beer’s perception problem is the pretentiousness with which the community has been unfairly labeled. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it features exotic flavors and production techniques. Yes, it’s better than what you normally drink. Yes, they have silly names. However, a preference for the finer things does not necessarily mean that one is pretentious.

If anything, craft beer enthusiasts and brewers are some of the least pretentious people I know. They willingly share. They participate in online forums such as this one. They share. They fucking drink beer with you. And they share.

I don’t know how craft beer can fix their “hipster problem.” I suggest we all continue to buy beers for our more skeptical friends and drink an industrial, rice-adjunct lager now and again just to show our more human side. The hipster perception is not a problem. Trust me. But the perception of beer snobbery is and we must do what we can to fix it.

(Maybe I should do the same for indie rock. Right, Taylor Swift?)

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My Non-Encounter with Kim Gordon

Posted in Book, Life, Massachusetts, Travelog by SM on August 2, 2015

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Let me begin by saying that I am not a stalker. I do have a habit of obsessing over my heroes when there’s an off-chance I could meet them at the least and become best friends in my own delusional world at the most. Then, I realize I’m about to overstep and back off, because they are just working schmucks like the rest of us. Now, by overstepping, I would never do anything weird. I might just be a hanger-on or an awkward third wheel or whatever. But I’ll explain that all below.

So, as you know, we moved to Western Massachusetts. We live in Amherst (where J Mascis lives), next to Hadley (where there are farms, big box stores, and Frank Black), and across the river from Northampton (once the home of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in a grand, old house on a hill). It’s liberal heaven and beautiful. There are five fairly progressive campuses on top of each other and two of them are all-women colleges (which are either cooler or lamer than your school, the former in this case) surrounded by wilderness, rolling farm land, and mountains.

As I hinted above, some of my heroes live or have lived in the area. Kim Gordon is one in particular. I’m reading her excellent memoir Girl in a Band. So, I was sure Kim and I would hit it off or she would find my daughter reminds her of her daughter or my son would charm her the way he charms everyone or my incredibly talented wife would make quick friends with her as they discuss feminism over wine or… You get the picture.

It was nothing creepy. I, like any Sonic Youth fan, went through a Kim Gordon phase (similar to phases involving Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, etc.), but that was a youthful crush. I have friends Kim’s age with similar sensibilities. I didn’t want to have steal a piece of her soul or spy on her or her child. I’m just a fan who wanted on the inside, but I didn’t want to harm my hero in any way.

That said, I learned Kim Gordon was having a garage sale. How could I not go to Kim Gordon’s garage sale? Would I score some cool piece of art or a X-Girl t-shirt or some piece of Sonic Youth memorabilia? Something. And I would hand my cash to Kim and we’d strike up a conversation and she would ask that I bring the kids by sometime and maybe her daughter could babysit… I have an active imagination, but it hardly resembles reality.

Using my expert Googling skills, I confirmed that the address on the flier a friend sent me a pic of was indeed Kim Gordon’s residence. Not wanting to overwhelm her street with parked cars, I parked on a main strip and walked the last couple of blocks. At the corner of her street was another sign with that distinctive flier. Running down the hill was what looked to be the type of aging hipster who would be good friends with someone like Kim Gordon. You know the type. These dudes can pull off longish gray hair, a pair of Ray-Bans, Chuck Taylor’s well into the nursing home. He was fixing the sign. So, I hurried in case he was closing up the garage sale.

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The house was old and somewhat stately. The landscaping was the typically overgrown New England jungle that somehow looked purposeful despite all the weeds. There were older foreign cars strewn along and in the driveway along the side of the house leading to the garage sale in the back.

I passed a for sale sign (same realty company we worked with) with more fliers covering one side and the other revealing an “Under Contract” add-on. This is when it struck me that this was more than an attempt at cleaning out some closets. Kim’s and Thurston Moore’s divorce had been known or in process for quite a while now. I guess I didn’t expect that she would leave Northampton. Rumor on the street is that Thurston lives in an apartment in Northampton with some rocker dude, but he’s rarely around as he’s been touring pretty steadily with his solo project. This was a divorce-caused-moving sale which is the saddest kind of garage sale. At that point, the sun felt a little more oppressive and the house began to sag a bit, but I was not to be deterred.

On my way toward the back, I could see some shelves, lamps, boxes of assorted stuff, and a couple of loaded bookshelves. A hipster couple walked in just ahead of me and an older couple was walking out with a newly purchased lamp. A few other people were perusing the piles as what sounded like a French woman oversaw the proceedings. And more aging hipster friends managed the merch.

The aforementioned hipster couple looked straight out of Singles. I guess grunge is back in style. They were raiding the racks of clothes. The woman was forcing a leather jacket around her torso, convincing her boyfriend that it fit. No doubt she was thinking it was Kim’s leather jacket, but the size made me think it was potentially Kim’s daughter’s, something she had grown out of years ago.

The lamp-carrying older couple looked a little less crazed grunge fan as they walked out with the retro metal lamp. We had a lamp like that once and I’m 99% it was also purchased in a garage sale. On their way out, the man turned to the screen door from where some loud music was coming on the side of the house and hollered “Goodbye, Kim” or some farewell message.

Kim Gordon was not actively supervising her own garage sale directly. However, I suspected that she might have been watching from her kitchen between packing boxes. Instead, a couple of dudes who were either in bands, owned record stores, or both managed some of the merchandise and took money from customers. The French woman wore a long, flowery dress and oversized sunglasses, encouraging people to look around and try things out.

This is when I started to shop. The racks were mainly filled with women’s clothing. I am terrible at shopping for women’s clothes, so I moved on. There were some nice shelves another couple was studying, but we just moved in and I didn’t know where we would put such shelves. Some card tables and boxes at typical garage sale junk. There was a box of framed art, but nothing hip of fancy. I grabbed a bicycle pump with a gauge. (However, in my haste, the pump was missing a nozzle necessary to actually pump up a bicycle tire.)

After browsing the bookshelves, I sauntered into the garage – one of those old, wooden, barn-like garages which probably got little to no use except to store some junk. The junk was there, but so were some Sonic Youth stacks or at least that’s what the masking tape labels claimed. Fifty bucks but you had to take the pair. I deliberated over this for a bit. I have a guitar with a pickup, but this seemed a silly thought as it’s an acoustic and I barely play. I then considered if the stacks would work for stereo speakers. Again, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we just moved into a smaller house and it was largely unpacked. I passed.

I clutched my bike pump and grabbed a bunch of kids books for my daughter. Kim’s daughter Coco was either an avid reader or she just had a lot of books. And they had all the right books from the last 15-20 years of children’s lit. I wanted some science books for my upcoming gig as a 4th grade math and science teacher, but it was mostly literature.

As I wrapped up my shopping, I still hadn’t found anything personal that screamed “SONIC YOUTH” or “this was Kim Gordon’s personal whatever.” Then I found a blank book or journal in the stacks. The cover was an Andy Warhol piece, one of those blank books you buy at Barnes & Nobles to use as a diary of journal. I opened it to see if it was still blank. However, inside the front cover was a collection postcards, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, etc. On the first page it read “Remember that Katie gave this to me.” I continued to flip through the pages. There were some crude drawings and comics, but most of it was blank.

There was a rush of blood to my head at this point. I had stumbled onto a tiny piece of Coco Gordon Moore’s childhood, but even worse, it was her private journal. Sure, it was unfinished and forgotten, but this was more than I bargained for. I am not a stalker. I do not need to be inside Kim Gordon’s or her daughter’s life. Despite selling her things on her driveway, she and her family didn’t deserve my snooping even if it was accidental.

I quickly shoved the book back into the shelf and went to pay for my items.

One of the aging hipsters came up with a price and I agreed to pay. (I don’t haggle.) The stack of books were a little unwieldy, so they offered me a tote bag from a bin of assorted tote bags. The French lady (not totally sure she was French, but it makes for a better story) grabbed me this “jazz in Paris” tote and I was on my way.

As I walked back to my car, I thought about Kim Gordan’s junk. I only use the word “junk” because that’s what everyone sells in a garage sale. There was an expectation of cool items that would connect to Kim’s celebrity, but that was unrealistic. Kim Gordon has junk in her garage sale like the rest of us.

And that’s when it hit me. The thing I like about the musicians I like is that they are all working stiffs like the rest of us. Sure, there are exceptions. There indie bands who have become insanely rich or down-to-earth megastars, but most indie rockers are often only a few months separated from a 9-5.

I’ve come to this conclusion on many occasions despite my near-worship of bands on indie labels playing the same shitty clubs my friends play. I remember chatting with a friend who was talking about his chance encounter with Tori Amos and how magical that moment was. As he searched for the words to describe his experience, he finally just turned to me and said, “You know how you feel when you meet one of your people.”

I didn’t know how he felt. My “people” are like me. They have to work really hard for a living – on the road or in a steady job to make ends meet. They have families. They have student loans. They have car payments. And they sell junk in their garage sales.

Yeah, there is the celebrity and often there’s a bunch of money they have from doing some rock festivals overseas or having one hit song. I looked for some clues online as to where J Mascis lives. I assumed he lived in a neighborhood like mine or closer to downtown, but it turns out his mansion with recording studio burnt down a few years ago. He doesn’t live in my neighborhood, needless to say. Kim Gordon’s house was listed as selling for 1.5 million dollars online. I don’t know how accurate that is, but she doesn’t live in my neighborhood either.

Still, there are all these moments where one rock hero or another demonstrated some bit of humanity that’s made me check my hero worship. There was that time when the guys from Archers of Loaf reminisced a raucous show they cut short because the crowd was too rowdy, stating that “they needed to be beat down with yard sticks or something.” There was that time Bob Pollard drunkenly talked my brother’s ear off about the importance of the teaching profession. There was just the other day when I was listening to the last Walkmen record and on the back cover was a portrait of the band members and their children. There are so many other moments, but the point remains that no matter the fame (or perceived fame), they’re all a bunch of working stiffs like you and me.

Kim Gordon sold her house and a load of her junk because she’s leaving the Pioneer Valley. She has to do all of this because her husband had a midlife crisis and hooked up with a much younger woman. They divorced and suddenly look as vulnerable as the rest of us. She played her last show in town and packed her car. Most of this move is documented on Instagram, much like the way I recorded my own move.

There’s some saying about how we all eat, shit, and fuck like everyone else or something to that effect. We have to remember this about our heroes now and again. I am the worst about getting wrapped up in celebrity. Luckily, people’s humanity shines through and I’m reminded they are people who are no better than I am. Conversely, I am no better than they are and I don’t deserve a piece of them, even if I pay for their junk at a garage sale.

Additional note about the book: Kim Gordon has a straightforward writing style that shows her story to be an interesting in worthy read. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we should have been hearing more from her over the years than her ex Thurston Moore. Gordon is sharp, politically aware, open-minded, and in-touch with reality. This memoir – although I’m not done reading it – is right up there with the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. You don’t have to be a fan of Sonic Youth to enjoy this book, but you should be a lover of the arts and a leftist.

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The Official Stephen Malkmus (Solo) Oeuvre Series, Part 1

Posted in Pavement, Records by SM on February 14, 2014

This is not my first lap around the oeuvre track. I once attempted to write a post for every Pavement track on a single blog dedicated to the Pavement oeuvre. I’m considering starting this up again, but that’s another project for another day. On this blog, I once wrote three posts discussing the complete catalog of Archers of Loaf. However, today, I intend to take on the oeuvre of one Stephen Malkmus and his ever-faitful Jicks. This is part 1 of a series in which I hope to break down every SM track post-Pavement.

Stephen Malkmus

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Black Book
I have no idea what that mess in the beginning: a tribal call of a new era, perhaps. Whatever. This was a clear break from Pavement and a typically lazy stroll of a song for Malkmus to make in the first track of his first venture outside the previously mentioned indie legends. Anyway, the “black book” of which SM is referring seems to be the Bible – literally or metaphorically. By calling the black book “perminently-diversified”, he seems to be addressing the commodified nature of the Bible and possibly the Christian religion in general. Could it be considered a prediction of the hipster Christian megachurch future? Who knows. Either way, it’s a fairly serious song with that familiar, Pavement-esque, lazy hook and feedback flourishes with sloppy layering.

Phantasies
If you lived in Alaska, you would have fantasies about far away, tropical regions as well. Still, the protagonist stays in his winter wonderland where the temperature reaches 99 below and he spends his time fishing through a hole in the ice. Someone –  I suspect someone native to the land, maybe an Eskimo – tries to talk his friend out of a move to the tropics. Still, fantasies persist. (Interesting side note is that this song was used for a Sears commercial. I tried to find video proof, but you’ll just have to trust me.)

Jo Jo’s Jacket
A track of Yul Brynner talking about the freedom enjoyed from shaving his head opens “Jp Jo’s Jacket” perfectly as Malk goes into a Brynner-inpired soliloquy about his role in Westworld as a robotic cowboy. From there, it gets fairly absurd, including crap house music, a Christmas-y innuendo, and a Dylan quote. It’s a fairly Crooked Rain-era track that made for a good single in true Pavement fashion. The line about being his candy cane hints at a sexual advance, a theme that pops up now and again in SM’s solo/Jicks work now and again. The Dylan quote and the following bit reminds us not to take any of this too seriously. In the end, it’s just a Pavement Stephen Malkmus song about Yul Brynner.

Church on White
“Church…” is the first track that just reminds me of Terror Twilight/Brighten the Corners era Pavement. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, Pavement. Anyway, this song for me is Malk’s memoir. He was the spokesman for a generation (or at least the white, male, educated portion of said generation and not exactly by his choosing) and all we ever wanted from him was that he stayed true to form. Whether he sings “I only poured you half a line/life/lie” doesn’t really matter. He admits to only giving so much whether it was a half-finished lyric, a small piece of himself, or a partial deception. Whatever. He’s given a lot. It’s a marathon and not a spring, but I feel as though I’m digressing…

The Hook
One of two narrative songs on the album – a totally welcomed aspect of Malkmus’ new direction. As it turns out, the dude can spin some yarn. This particular story is about his adventures as a pirate. No one should over think this one. It’s a pirate tale and not some allegory for his time with Pavement or some commentary on class. He’s kidnapped by some pirates and eventually becomes one of them, to the point that he is their leader. It’s just a fun, fun song.

Discretion Grove
Discretion happens after hours in an anonymous locale. You sneak around like French freedom fighters in World II, fighting for a sort of freedom not everyone needs to know about, an affair, perhaps?

Troubbble
We don’t find trouble; it finds us. No matter how much we try to avoid it, entropy happens and people are messy. Hell, we can’t even spell “trouble” correctly.

Pink India
This one feels like another Terror Twilight leftover. Continuing Malk’s interest in history, he tells the story of Mortimer Durand and the line he drew between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I almost wish he had titled the song “The Great Game” as this was the term that described the conflict between Great Britain and Russia fighting for supremacy in central Asia. I don’t know my history well enough to tell you everything, but it’s interesting how the lasting effects of this conflict still remain. Also, the lines “Tension grows in Afghanistan / Carbine bullets could settle the score / I had a crap gin tonic it wounded me / Send my way off on one” are pretty great. It causes me to wonder about Durand’s experience and whether or not he succumbed to the pressure accumulating in the region. (Also, is it “carbine bullets” or “car-Bible-ets”? I always sing it as the latter which is way more interesting and may not be that far off.)

Trojan Curfew
An expertly described scene of a locale where Trojans once prevailed… Now, it’s a hotspot for vacationing Swedes and the like. At moments I’m sure it retains the majesty it once held when Troy was on top at certain times of the day. Once again, Malkmus is able to write a fairly straightforward song that simply describes a nice moment in time and the centuries of history that can overtake you when standing on historic ground.

Vague Space
Ever been in a relationship where you kinda get off by calling the whole thing…er…off? Well, I haven’t. I imagine this as one of those love-hate relationships where making up after regular fights is more fulfilling than being nice to one another. Some relationships need to blow up just to find the spark. They exist in a vague space where relationships rarely flourish except when the threat of ending it is always there.

Jenny and the Ess-Dog
The second narrative track of the record is a classic. “Jenny and the Ess-Dog” is your basic May-December romance that fizzles once the younger member of the couple out-grows her companion. In this case, Jenny goes off to college, does well, joins a sorority, and does what we’re supposed to do. Her boyfriend the Ess-Dog is an old hippy-type. His life isn’t going anywhere and Jenny’s move to college makes the distance between them and their years too much to overcome.

Deado
Yet another post-Terror track with that same lazy easiness which has allowed the final Pavement record to fair well over time. Something about this song reminds me about “Ann Don’t Cry“- maybe the chorus? I don’t know what the song is about. It could be about a slow road trip to Vegas for an impromptu wedding that takes a week to happen. There’s only one appealing person in a room of old people, possibly at a wedding or wake. A prom scene with full-on 80’s feathered hair… It doesn’t matter. It’s a sleepy way to end Stephen Malkmus’ first post-Pavement endeavor.

Pig Lib

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Water and a Seat
Pig Lib is the beginning of Malkmus and his Jicks playing around with some bluesy yet edgy jamband ish. From the beginning riffs, you get the sense that Malkmus doesn’t care and has no interest in making this Pavement, Part Deux. And what better way to invite this new era than with a song inviting the madness the way “Water and a Seat” does? The listener is now prepared for what’s about to occur…

Ramp of Death
Jazzy slacker rock takes over with what seems to be a pleasant pop moment in the form of a chorus… Just as SM has embraced this new leap into a new chapter in his career, he’s encouraging his listeners to do the same. I was in my mid- or upper-20’s when Pig Lib came out and it was time to move forward into adulthood. I took this record with me.

(Do Not Feed the) Oyster
Despite Pig‘s departure from his Pavement past – now a full album removed – this song does the mellow jazz docents right, mixing this newfound infatuation with blues-inspired jammy-ness and art house aesthetic. Lyrically, it’s a mess trying to cling to a theme that only loosely holds the song together. Still, that’s how we like it. What does it mean to not feed the oysters? Fuck if I know. It’s just a nice song to jam to. Amirite? Somehow it all concludes with a mail-order bride. Why not?

Vanessa from Queens
Bob Packwood was a Republican Senator from Oregon who was eventually forced out thanks to some sexual harassment and assault. Bob was dirty old man which explains so much about this track. One of the best lines ever has to be “Bob Packwood wants to suck your toes.”

Sheets” (Sorry, there’s no Youtube video for this one for some reason.)
Sexy Stephen Malkmus makes another appearance in “Sheets” and the instrumentation wreaks of two people going at it over and over again. For me, the song is about getting into a club or party, just getting through the coolness gates or whatever.

Animal Midnight
It is rumored that this song is about Steve Kannberg. I’ll go with that. Spiral Stairs – like most Pavement members – seemed to not be nearly as serious as Malkmus. SM tried to push that band as far as he could and they just dragged their feet. The band was great for so many reasons, but as I’ve written over and over, it always felt as if Malk had outgrown the band. Sure, in this context, the song comes off as cold, but that’s just how it’s played out.

Dark Wave
And now for a complete departure in the form of some New Wave, something you won’t see coming at this point in the catalog. I feel as if this song is about Miami Vice for no other reason than that’s just what it sounds like: ocean-lined highways, neon suits, fast livin’, cocaine, etc. You know, Miami Vice things.

Witch Mountain Bridge
I do love the Led Zeppelin-like, medievalist narrative. I get the sense that Malkmus is playing a bit with genre and aesthetic, much like the rest of the album. What really brings the Game of Thrones storytelling together is the extended jam at the end. I catch a lot of flack for liking Malkmus’ music while simultaneously hating Phish and their ilk, but songs like this hit just the right notes – all of them.

Craw Song
Want to demonstrate what Stephen Malkmus can do lyrically and vocally, point your friends to this track. Not only is it another narrative – a positive development over SM’s solo career – but this track actually captures some fantastic word play. First, there’s the love triangle (or is it a square) where one unrequited love is followed by another. The gem in the first verse is “he couldn’t commit to the mental jujitsu of switchin his hitting / from ladies to men.” The next verse finds two of the left-out lovers commiserating over dinner, wrapped up nicely with another great line – full of heart and humor: “they want to stay confined within the fortress of this day / stick that in your craw…check it out…” Yeah, he snuck in “crotch.” It’s one of the sweetest song in all of Malkmus’ oeuvre from Pavement on.

1% of One
The blues fest continues… I read somewhere that this song is about the Dutchman Remko Schouten, the sound engineer for Pavement. Much like his debut, it’s pretty straightforward: “Blind son man from Netherlands, he knew not what bands he mixed / They sounded a bit like a Zephyr and a bit like the Jicks.”

Us
The Grateful Dead thing that is hinted at throughout this record comes to fruition in the final song, “Us.” At moments, it reminds me a ton of Loose Fur, the side project featuring  Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, and Wilco collaborator Jim O’Rourke. It’s almost the Jicks theme song. I can’t remember how many of this incarnation stayed on, but it felt like they were writing their tour bio in the form of a jam. Lyrics are written to fit the space between extended jams that groove on and on. The song only clocks in at just over four minutes, but you kinda want them to play it out and see where it goes.

Bonus Tracks:

Dynamic Calories
This is the poppier counter to “Dark Wave” which paints a picture of high school days in the early 80’s. This song is dedicated to 80’s jangly guitars and John Hughes movies. Also, this was cute.

Fractions & Feelings
This song with the previous one and maybe “Dark Wave” are a bit of an 80’s trilogy. I can only imagine SM was studying his old yearbooks and zines while writing these songs. This is the weakest of the bunch, but it’s fun. (Later, “Lariat” joins the group but with much more sophistication in its message.)

Old Jerry
And back to the Grateful Dead. I deny the connection all the time to my wife, but it’s there – literally and between the lines. Aesthetically, I can’t think of another song like this in the catalog. There are the ever-Malkmus lyrical twists, but it has a danceable groove that’s almost conventional pop. Almost.

The Poet and the Witch” (live)
I only know of a live recording of this track. It hints at the direction Malkmus was heading, but I’ll save that discussion for the next post. Either way, this song is closely related to “Witch Mountain Bridge” in its attempt to connect with a flower child past with Led Zeppelin theatrics, or something. It’s fun and seems like a fun song to hear live.

Shake It Around” (live)
This is a real rocker and I’m not sure it’s about much of anything aside from rocking. Our mundane lives need shaking now and again and tracks like this do the trick.

That’s the first installment in the series. I hope to get the other albums covered in coming weeks. It’s already been tough to get blog posts out there these days. It’s way past my bedtime and I have…well, actually, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks tomorrow night (or is that now tonight?). Anyway, you can catch some of my thoughts as shared by an actual journalist here. In the meantime, stay tuned for the rest of the series.

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Kickstart Swearing at Motorists

Posted in Uncategorized by SM on January 27, 2014

I have never supported a Kickstarter project that didn’t achieve full funding and I’m not going to let that change. Swearing at Motorists recently announced that they would be releasing their first album in 6 or 7 years. To do this, they (read: “Dave Doughman”) opted to fund a new record on Kickstarter, which brings us to the purpose of this post: SUPPORT SWEARING AT MOTORISTS’ KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN!!!

To promote the campaign, I’m including a link to the Kickstarter,  video of one of the record’s tracks, some reposted content on the band, and a Spotify playlist. Do the right thing.

Swearing At Motorists – Groundhog Day (Damn The Piper) *OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO* from mike postalakis on Vimeo.

Swearing at Motorists – Postcards from a Drinking Town

And that drinking town is Dayton.

Swearing at Motorists rose from the ashes of Dayton, Ohio to produce a sound that was so Ohio, you’d instantly shit buckeyes[1] upon hearing one of their records or seeing the two piece live. I’ve written before about the band. I once told a story about the band while getting all the details wrong. Frontman[2] Dave Doughman set me straight. Sadly, I thought there would never be an opportunity to do so again as the band called it quits a couple of years back. That is, until they released a download-only collection this week of old singles and rarities called Postcards from a Drinking Town.

Before I get to Postcards…, let me tell you a little bit about Swearing at Motorists. The band was nicknamed “The Two Man Who” and that moniker fit, but it was only half the story. On record, the sound was particularly lo-fi, but like the other Who-like Dayton band Guided By Voices, SaM songs were bigger than bedroom recordings. Live, the band was like an uppercut to the jaw. Sparse instrumentation filled space between Doughman’s tales of breakups, boredom, and too much beer. Swearing at Motorists were so engaging that it was hard not to be drawn into Doughman’s never-ending sagas. If you missed Swearing at Motorists, you missed out on something pretty great[3].

That said, I was pleasantly surprised Tuesday afternoon when across my Facebook feed came the following post…

This had been on my radar, but I had forgotten all about it. I immediately followed the link and downloaded this fine collection of 7″ and compilation tracks not found on the band’s seven or so proper releases. These tracks are a fine artifact of life in western Ohio in the mid-nineties. I felt everything was lo-fi back in those days[4]. We made what we had work. We were DIY by necessity. A band like Swearing at Motorists could capture that time. Thrift store t-shirts, souvenir ashtrays, shitty tape recordings…Those were the days.

While I recognize that my bias toward anything SaM releases, I also think there’s something here to which you could relate, dear reader. You’ve been drunk once, right? You’ve been dumped and out of work. You’ve surely seen a bar band or two. Somehow, I think you could relate to Doughman’s everyman persona. And that’s all it takes to love a Swearing at Motorist release. This one, in particular, is more raw and authentic than most. These recordings define lo-fi, but the genius behind the songs is unmistakeable.

If you haven’t done so already, head over to Secretly Canadian and download your copy of  Postcards from a Drinking Town. And while you’re at it, go here and download the free two-song EP To Gem City with Love. Of course, that’s only the beginning as you’ll surely want to explore more of Swearing at Motorists’ catalog.

Update: It seems, judging by all the activity from Doughman online, that Swearing at Motorists did not call it quits after all. There are reports of new material out there as well as some hints of a tour. This is good news for sure.

Notes:
1Or horse chestnuts. Whatever you want to call them. Either way, they’re a poisonous nut.
2I use this term lightly as Dave Doughman is really all of Swearing at Motorists. It’s typically him and a guy on drums. I checked the Wikipedia page just to see how many dudes have played drums for Doughman. It looks as if three different guys have played drums. While on Wikipedia, I also found this nice little tidbit…

Doughman mixes trace amounts of his own blood into the ink used in the disc printing process, pioneering the concept of the GrisD. Rumors persist that there was confusion over the term “serious chops” in his contract with Ol’ Scratch, and after some antics over semantics, can now grow sideburns to equal any cartoon samurai at will. Doughman’s documented penchant for sleeping in a topknot may be the source of such speak.

3This is why it’s so great that these tracks were reissued. That and something was said on a Facebook thread about playing in Oregon. Could there be a tour in the works?
4Seriously, our soundtrack was one shitty tape after another. Everything seemed muffled by tape hiss.

Swearing at Motorists

I was recently on a long drive from a workshop when I found myself with no new music in the car of which to listen. After searching through piles of CD’s, I stumbled upon a mix of songs by Swearing at Motorists. There were 35 songs on just one CD to be exact, and they filled my need for intensely exposed yet personal indie rock that invites you to sing along while traveling down long stretches of I-70. (I don’t know if this is a genre yet, but it should be.)

I began to sort out in my mind just what made SaM so important to me. Was it that they originated in Dayton before moving to Philly before moving to Berlin? Was it the great name? Was it their beautifully erratic live act? Was it the sudden impact of guitar chords followed by pain and silence only to repeat? Was it that they had opened for U2 in Europe but could barely fill a dive in their hometown? Was it the “average Joe” lyrics of hard times and even harder relationships? As I thought about the reasons why I love this band, I rocked out all the way back to COMO.
Dave Doughman is the primary player in SaM. His lyrics hit hard and mean something to anyone who has ever grown up in Ohio, has probably had too much to drink, and hasn’t always had the best of luck with life in general. His sharp-witted lyrics, deep-throated delivery, and sparse instrumentation make up the SaM sound. Like the White Stripes (whom he’s literally challenged in rocking out), SaM sound primarily involves voice, guitar, and drums. However, unlike his more successful counterparts from up north, the songs often are filled with space, and each instrument takes its turn to make a point.
I remember seeing Doughman for the first time at tOSU’s Springfest. His set was the highlight of the day. A friend-of-a-friend talked me into staying around to check their set. He had the experience of a lifetime being a roady for the band at South By Southwest and convinced me that they were worth the wait. They were. (It should be noted that the headliner of that show was the White Stripes, way before they hit big.)

Doughman came out in a blue corduroy FFA jacket, Welcome Back Kotter mustache, and a bushy ‘fro. In addition to his non-hipster appearance, he spoke so fast and incoherently that you giggled at the sights and sounds before you. His speak consisted of the type of “here-ye, here-ye’s” you’d hear at the circus or from an old-timey traveling medicine man. He was manically selling his band, and then he played. What came out was this deep, suffering wail between aggressive guitar licks and a slow drum beat. The man sold his pain, and I was buying.

My brother told me a story of a Dayton show that only confirmed my feelings of pure delight and intrigue felt that day. Many of Doughman’s songs are about his continuous relationship problems. Apparently, one of those break-ups was rather public in the Dayton scene and eventually carried out at a SaM show.

The Dayton set began as a rival for a certain love interest of Doughman’s walked through the door. Doughman suddenly stopped in mid-song yelling for the guy to turn around and leave (in so many expletive-filled phrases). He then took off his guitar and leaped through the crowd to chase the guy down. After a few punches were thrown and mamas insulted, the guy was given his money back and left, and Doughman returned to the stage to continue his show.
The impulsiveness of Doughman’s actions in the Dayton story best illustrates his general demeanor on-stage and the feel one gets while listening to his songs. You sit back to relax and enjoy some heart-on-the-sleeve poetry with the occasional humorous quip when he abruptly throws you from your chair with a cry for help and intense strike to his guitar strings.
The music is a slower, more mature version of emo. It’s on the blue-collar side of lo-fi and the road-weary side of indie. Conversely, Doughman and co. are considerably more exposed and artistic than the most working-class of the bipster set.

I love this music for its realness. Doughman knows best how to capture the pain of relationships, failure, and the resulting depression. In addition, he can contextualize his message into something that resembles growing up in western Ohio. Oh, and he puts on a great live show.

Buy Swearing at Motorists now!

Photo of Doughman flying stolen from pandora 1251.

Dome Sweet Dome

Posted in Live by SM on October 10, 2012

This was posted elsewhere. I’m thinking I might get rolling again…

drumming hipsters in a geodesic dome

Cloud Dog in The Dome

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.

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I’m Just a Curator

Posted in Book, Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on August 15, 2012

It seems my role in the world is shaping in front of me. Aside from father, husband, instructional designer, etc., I’m beginning to see myself as a curator of sorts. This blog is ground zero, but I have and will venture out from time to time to curate craft beer and indie rock cultures.

I bring this up because my  gentleman dabblerhood has me prepping for more DJ gigs. No. I am not that kind of DJ (nor this). The kind of DJ I am is the kind that plays his own records between bands at a Hairhole benefit and once again for Monday Vinyl at Uprise (September 24th). In this capacity, I’m not really creating anything. I simply present what I think is good and worth preserving.

How can this translate with my craft beer enthusiasm?

Well, it has with my involvement in the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. I helped create and manage their online presence while doing my part to create events that promote craft beer to all of Middle Missouri. I’ve even been asked to host some beer/ice cream/record pairing events, but that’s still top-secret. I’ll let you know when this materializes.

All of this curating comes together in written form on the blog you’re reading right now. Hopefully, it will eventually materialize on actual paper, but that’s a work in progress. I may have to back off and curate some other writers to accomplish this goal…

Anyways, the point is that if we can’t create, we should curate. Consuming thoughtfully is good, but it barely contributes to the cause. Curating promotes a culture to the masses, encouraging others to join in or at least appreciate said culture. Maybe I should just change the blog’s name to Curating Beer and Pavement

Or not. Thanks for reading once again and participating in the conversation.

On Cans and Vinyl

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Rock vs. Beer by SM on May 31, 2012

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the first of the three summer holidays most noted for BBQ and beer. (Well, and remembering those who died in war, our country’s “independence”, and labor’s many accomplishments.) Much of the beer I consumed came from a can; a little bit of beer nostalgia delivered the good stuff to my gullet.

In recent years, BPA-coated, aluminum cans have become the container-du jour for craft beer fans and brewers. Cans keep out more sun than bottles and arguably more oxygen. While some only see cans as a hipster novelty, most of us realize the importance of these vessels to the portability and preservation of our favorite brews.

I, like most beer geeks, prefer not to drink my beer from cans (nor bottles). I often say that one would never attempt to smell a flower through a straw. So, pour that beer into a glass, let it open up. However, for the holiday, I succumbed to drinking my beer straight from the can without shame.

There are certain contexts for which such pretensions over drinking beer not from the prescribed glass are called. Poolside, floating lazily down a river, camping, and bicycling are a few of these moments. Considering the conditions of the holiday, I enjoyed my Tallgrass beers from the cans, coozy included.

Context dictates how we should consume beer and even the kinds of beer we drink. I don’t feel guilty for drinking from the can. I was in the midst of a 60-mile bike trip with a night of camping in between. Cans were were a practical drinking option. Even bottles were unwieldy and potentially dangerous. The can is much like its close relative which is used to house such camping delicacies as beans or corned beef hash. Enjoyment of the moment was wrapped in an aluminum cylinder. I was not about to soil the moment with a glass and make the beer more important than the enjoyment of the event and those around me.

Vinyl records, like cans, have their own ideal contexts when their less-than-ideal delivery trump advancements in technology and actually add to enjoyment. The context in which a vinyl record is preferable to more digital formats are times when devouring an entire album in the confines of your home is paramount. When I am relaxing in my finished basement with a record, very purposefully spending time with the music, a record that requires me to drop the needle and flip sides now and again is better than simply pushing a button. Vinyl engages the listener physically while delivering a soft, familiar sound.

Unlike cans, vinyl is less portable and arguably auditorily inferior to its digital counterparts. It’s not easy to take a record with you. Digital music is so much more portable, like canned beer. The sound debate is a good one, but I won’t get into that here. Simply, for sharper, more precise sound, go with digital. However, vinyl feels different. It’s softer, warmer, and preferable for those of us who just prefer a more analogical existence.

Both cans and vinyl had good runs that ended too quickly. Newer and better technology arrived. These creature comforts of our fathers became obsolete. Then, retromania hit. People found ways to improve upon old technologies while recapturing lost nostalgia. The can never really left, but craft beer’s adoption has bumped its cred. New can lining technology hasn’t hurt either. Vinyl is better produced than ever and many new records come with digital downloads, giving you both the high quality sounds and artifact in one, neat package.

The comfort and sentimentality of beer cans and vinyl records just feel right in the right context. It’s hard to put a finger on it (as you can probably tell from the rambling above), but they just feel right in the right situations. I don’t always go can or vinyl. However, it’s nice to know that they’re there and are ready for the perfect situation.

Speaking of vinyl, if you’re anywhere near Middle Missouri, come out to Uprise on Monday to see/hear me play some records. The set list will be posted here, but you should come and have a beer with me while I play the “hits.” Also, both images were totally lifted from the great Tumblr better known as Dads Are The Original Hipsters. Go read it now.

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Mash Tun Reject

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on May 21, 2012

I submitted a piece for the new craft beer journal Mash Tun and was all-but-assured that it would be included. Apparently, it was rejected. I say this because there’s no way for me to actually see the journal, but my name is nowhere on the announced list of authors. Plus, the editor quit replying to my emails. Oh well. I don’t have time to be a writer anyway. Below is what I thought would be a first draft, one that would develop after some suggestions from said editor. No hard feelings, just disappointment.

Update – The editor got back to me and explained that the piece didn’t fit with a few of the historical pieces included in the journal. Some assistant was supposed to respond to my emails but never did. Maybe I’ll try again.

Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement

We live in a world of turmoil and uncertainty. Economies are tanking. Tensions are rising with threats of terror and violence at every corner of the earth. Folks arbitrarily take sides. It’s a distressing time to be a human.

So, we look for escape. We take up hobbies to pass the time or alter our minds with chemicals in order to forget all of our troubles. Our daily lives are consumed with activities and interests that help us ignore the unrest all around us.

I have taken up a few hobbies in the interest of helping me avoid dealing with the chaos of our times. One such hobby involves beer, that of the hand-crafted, artisanal variety as well as the kind I brew in my kitchen. The other hobby has to do with my obsession over independent music, better known as indie rock, although no one really calls it that anymore.

On the surface, these two interests have very little in common, aside from the fact that they’re both my interests. However, I have found that one interest tells me more about the other every day and vice versa. Here we have two industries that defy the current downward trajectory of our economy through continuing expansion, improving distribution, and breaking into mainstream markets. Plus, they bring people together. All this is done by breaking from the status quo, suggesting that whatever is mainstream is maybe doing more harm than good.

There’s a coalition here to be built, a coalition between the craft beer world and indie rock community. You see, these two industries have more in common than they realize. It all comes down to the descriptors I and many of you use to describe beer and music. Craft beer is hard to maintain and develop without its independence while indie rock is nothing without a musician’s craft. This is where indie and craft meet.

I have explored the intersections between craft beer and indie rock for some time now. One aspect is simply the fact that we all love beer and rock music. The other aspect is the intersection between those descriptors “craft” and “indie”. For me it’s obvious, but for others, it’s a stretch.

Craft is generally considered a type of skilled work. Historically, craft has been judged not only on quality but also quantity. In order to maintain a high level proficiency, production had to remain small, manageable. Larger production tends to remove the craft, creating product with increased simplicity and often more defects. As more artisans or workers were needed, the craft was diluted. When craft is increased, volume tends to shrink, but the quality of the output grows exponentially. Independence from corporate interests can insure that the craft remains paramount over profits.

Indie is short for “independent.” To be independent, one must be self-sufficient, free from the tyranny and limitations of corporate decision-makers more intent on making a buck than putting out a good product. Independent rock music and music labels are considered such as they are not a part of corporate owned music factories. There are only 3-4 of these major labels left, but they are huge and deeply connected in corporate industries that have nothing to do with art or music. Still, as these major labels deal with the handcuffs of corporate profit margins, indie labels are free to let their artists create and hone their craft.

Craft and indie need one another, feed on one another. Indie labels happen to demonstrate a fair amount of craft among its artists. This focus is lost in the craft at the majors as the shift is toward making music that satisfies corporate bottom lines takes precedence. And craft brewers are the most independent of beer industry as they provide a higher quality alternative to the three or so corporate beer producers. One could really call them craft rock or indie beer if it was desired and neither would lose meaning.

Now, don’t get me wrong, both indie rock and craft beer have intentions to make money. How else would they exist in a capitalist society? The difference between crafty and independent heroes and their corporate counterparts is that they won’t put profit ahead of the craft or their independence. Sure, some indies and crafties have sold their souls to corporations, but they are the exception not the rule. The indie and craft movements are about small scale and high quality. Corporations don’t know how to do this.

And we’ll gladly pay for whatever indie labels and craft breweries are selling despite higher prices. Even during this recession, indie labels (as well as the stores who sell them) and breweries have seen steady growth. Craft beer especially is growing at an incredible rate. Even during economically hard times, we’ll find the money to support independent, craft producers of our favorite goods because we know that their products are worth it. This is no truer than it is for indie rock and craft beer.

Despite the success indie/craft producers are enjoying, our corporate overlords still rule the markets, but their share is shrinking. The large, corporate breweries are watching their sales drop as is the industry as a whole. However, craft beer continues to grow. The music industry is suffering as well. Yet, more and more indies are popping up all the time and they continue to put out music. If there’s room for these smaller players in their respective industries, then they must be doing something right.

So, the indie and craft markets are what’s king these days. They may not own high percentages of their markets, but they have found sustainable business methods that feature slow, controlled growth and a focus on the craft. They maintain their independence through their success. This is where they intersect. I think there’s a lot we can learn from indie rock and craft beer. That’s where the coalition comes in. Here’s to building international coalitions through beer and Pavement and here’s to indie beer and craft rock.

Now, how did I ever come to this place? How have I made a connection that seems trivial at best and absurd at worst?

There are stories to tell that explain my epiphany. The stories are numerous and varied. Few occurred where I felt this deep connection between both craft beer and indie rock. However, the accumulation of these experiences have led me to this great cause of my life: building international coalitions through beer and Pavement.

Honestly, my first epiphanies happened in the 1990’s and they involved music more often than beer. There was a giddiness I remember feeling waiting for my first Pavement show in the Algora Ballroom in Cleveland, OH. A few weeks prior, I experienced an electrical sensation getting pummeled by Archers of Loaf in the old Columbus venue known as Stache’s. There were the hours pouring over records in my favorite record store, Columbus’ own Used Kids. These moments are etched in my mind forever.

Why did this music mean so much to me? There was an urgency, a hunger, a passion missing in the corporate sludge clogging the airways. These musicians were working stiffs like I am. They were doing something I could have done and they did most of it on their own with what little cash they could scrape together. It was accessible. It was authentic. It was ours.

Craft beer came much later. I suppose I had as much experience with music when I discovered Pavement and Guided By Voices as when I gave up corporate, rice adjunct lager for a Stone Ruination for good. I still remember that night I grabbed a sixer of something bland and a bomber of that epically bitter brew with the menacing gargoyle staring back at me. The night I cracked open that beer, it all changed for me.

There were other beer epiphanies. My first Russian Imperial Stout challenging my ability to finish a single beer in one sitting. The beers from Jolly Pumpkin and Russian River awakening parts of my taste buds I had long since neglected, never once thinking I’d rediscover them in a beer. Then there was the first time I tasted my own brew, realizing that I never learned to play guitar at the same level I learned how to properly dry-hop a beer.

Through all of these discoveries and sensations, the value of craft and independence stood out. From the ashes of DIY movements past rose artisans who create beer and art unlike anything corporate money could ever hope to emulate. Craft beer and indie rock share these values. In this, I find comfort in the human condition that encompasses an authentic even intellectual appreciation for a good beer or ear-shattering album.

So, as you enjoy your next finely-crafted double IPA, dry-hopped on unimaginable amounts of Simcoe or tongue-splitting sour ale, aged in Chardonnay barrels and infected with yeast strains formerly considered unacceptable for human consumption, drop the needle on that Guided By Voices record from your college days. Or when you attend the next Pitchfork-endorsed rock show among the PBR-wielding hipster set, order that imperial stout hidden in the back of the cooler. A coalition is being built through beer and Pavement, a coalition dedicated to craft and independence. It’s time to join us.

It’s All Relative

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life by SM 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?

Hiatus from the Hiatus and other things

Posted in Life by SM on April 9, 2012

Not too long ago[1], my wife noticed that I know a lot of young women. She’s right. I probably know more ~college-aged women at this moment in time than I did when I was in college. When she made the observation, several of these friends and acquaintances had stopped to say hello while we were out on the town. I had been telling of other encounters in clubs and online with these women. So, she noticed a pattern in my social circle.

I’m not bragging. It’s just that when one partakes in oodles of social media socializing and goes out fairly regularly for beer and live music, it’s easy to know a lot of young[2] people (male and female). Also, there’s probably something non-threatening for these women about the married guy with a kid, talking music and such while not hitting on them. Trust me. I’m not bragging.

This is not about titillation or some adulterous contemplation. My partner is not jealous, nor should she be. This town is small enough that there may be whispers. I know I’ve heard them about other married guys my age or older who I see out and about, but that’s not me and that’s not why I’m writing this.

There are things that separate me from the young. These things might even be what make me such a nonthreatening novelty around town, but these characteristics clearly keep me from being seen as a potential suitor at best or stalker at worst[3]. Of course, these things are what I write about almost exclusively on this blog: craft beer and indie rock[4].

At times, there are things I do or preferences I have that can cause me to be perceived as cooler or unreachable than I actually am. For example, a few weekends ago, I participated in a casual tasting of beers that featured an extraordinary number of rare and insanely big beers. You can see for yourself on my Untappd feed for March 25th[5]. On a musical note, I just received the new Lee Ranaldo solo record[6], of Sonic Youth fame. What these two facts might tell people – particularly young, hip women – is that I’m on a higher plain with my consumption of beer and music.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. That Sunday afternoon of beer revelry nearly did me in. I didn’t wake with a hangover, mostly because I fell asleep before dinner. The fact that I’m so into Sonic Youth that I even buy their solo records is really pathetic in that the one time I had an opportunity to speak with Lee Ranaldo, I chickened out like a typical fan-boy. The point is that I’m not nearly as cool as the things in which I consume.

Conversely, I’m probably not as boring and dad-like as a few of my other choices would suggest. Alongside the Lee Ranaldo record, I’ve been listening to new records by The Shins[7] and White Rabbits[8]. One (The Shins) smells of dad-rock[9]. The other shows an aging hipster grasping at newer indie bands that aren’t all that new nor indie. Of course, I like variety and have followed these bands before they were ignored by the likes Pitchfork and Hipster Runnoff. These records making it to my regular rotation have less to do with me being an out-of-touch dad than they have to do with habits, loyalty, and a general interest in how music develops over time.

I also have some mainstream tastes in beer. There was a recent crawfish boil in our neighborhood. These gatherings are often an opportunity to pull out some nice beers to share. However, I opted to be one of the group[10], bringing a selection of a variety of APA’s, amber ales, and other less-extreme brews. It didn’t show me softening since that epic tasting the weekend prior, but it showed that I can have craft beer that fits any situation. Craft beer is for the people, not just the beer geek set.

I don’t know what I’m really trying to say here. It’s just an attempt to bust my slump and work out of this hiatus. I realize that the post comes off as conceited, but that’s not how I meant it. My point is that I am perceived a certain way that is both attractive and somewhat banal. The pressures of living up to perceptions that I’m something more than I am can crush my creativity at times. Additionally, the normality of drinking beer and listening to rock and roll isn’t always that inspiring, hence the hiatus.

Sorry for coming out of the hiatus with such a rambly mess. It can only go up from here. In the meantime, enjoy the return of footnotes. Look for some regular series[11] of posts and hopefully less rambly ramblings.

Notes:
1 Yes, it seems the hiatus is over. There’s not much of a focus just yet, but I have ideas. I’m cutting back on beer and music expenses. so, this should be interesting. Stay tuned. And, yes, the footnotes are back for the time being. Also, as long as it has taken me to write this post, it has actually been a long time ago, but I digress.
2 Of course, “young” is relative. I’m 37 and anyone under 20 is young to me. Anyone under 25 is a kid.
3 I do worry more about being perceived as a creepy old guy more than a target of affection. The potential whispers about my fidelity do not bother me, but being seen as a stalker does. Hopefully, that’s not how anyone perceives me.
4 Yes, young women (and men) enjoy craft beer and indie rock. However, the craft beer of which I speak is often beyond the average income of a college student. So, PBR or their ilk are often the preferred option. Also, the kids don’t really call it “indie rock.” I’m not sure anyone really does anymore. Additionally, the particular brand of indie I discuss is more closely related to my college days than theirs. Go, back and quit reading the footnotes for more on this.
5 Again, not bragging. I just happen to know some incredibly generous beer enthusiasts in my own age group.
6 It’s poppier than I would have ever guessed. Plus, it sounds as if Ranaldo is trying to drop his deadpan, spoken-word-style vocals for singing. It actually sounds like he’s trying to sing. It’s a bit of a mixed bag overall, especially when he slips in some slide guitar here and there. It’s a fine record, I guess.
7 This record has been growing on me. It’s bigger and showier than past efforts. One can hear the difference professional musicians make. I suspect The Shins will improve as James Mercer figures out how to write songs for/with this new crew of Shins.
8 White Rabbits hail from right here in Middle Missouri, but they apparently didn’t learn to play instruments until they hit Brooklyn. They’ve moved from sounding like The Walkmen to Spoon, now they sound like themselves, perhaps. It’s a talented group, but I’m not sure I’m digging the bigger vibes at the moment. It might grow on me, but I have doubts.
9 Dad rock is basically anything that might have appealed to dads during their college days only it’s friendlier. See: Wilco.
10 Often, I show up to neighborhood parties and get-togethers with fancy beers that only I drink. So, rather than getting drunk in the afternoon sun, I opted for some safer selections that I could have left behind had the day gone too long.
11 For me, describing them as series means that I won’t have to post them on any kind of schedule. I’ve tried schedules and they just don’t work for me. The following are what I’m considering. You can decide what they mean: Indie-Craft Interviews, Stupid S*** I Wrote, BICTB&P Hall of Fame, Key Party, I Can’t Sing It Strong Enough…