Beer and Pavement

Friendly Faces and Bill Callahan

Posted in Life, Live by SM on May 9, 2013

One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.

Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.

As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances,  friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.

You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.


Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.

I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances,  and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.


Posted in Beer, Intersections, Live, Records by SM 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.

Neil Hamburger

Posted in Live by SM on November 9, 2011

I saw Neil Hamburger the other night and hastily wrote it up for the Collective

Do you like comedy? If you do, you probably didn’t attend Friday’s Neil Hamburger gig at Mojo’s. The anti-comic’s anti-comic was there to makes us uncomfortably laugh with Britney Spears jokes, the clearing of his throat, and spilled drinks everywhere.

I don’t know what it is about Hamburger, brilliantly played by Greg Trunkington, but his act is so awful that it’s good. And you’re not laughing at him out of pitty. There’s a retro touch that takes you back to the days when lounge singers would drunkenly give comedy a try and fail miserably. Hamburger is the sad opener for Tony Clifton in his prime. I’m talking about the “real” Tony Clifton, of course.

Have I completely turned you off on Neil Hamburger? That’s not my intention as his schtick is genius. The timing always seems off, but its consistently off on purpose due to whatever is always stuck in his throat and the three drinks he cradles in his arm. A Neil Hamburger performance is unique in every way. It’s so bizarre and awkward, you’re forced to laugh out of a loss of any other reaction.

Hamburger brought his A-game Friday. Jokes were nailed. I rolled on the floor. The openers were forgotten. If you didn’t go, you missed out on a brand of humor you won’t find anywhere else. Or until Neil Hamburger graces our college town with his presence once again.

As hinted before, there were openers. Local Diggy Splash and his troupe put on some skits and a few individual bits. The jokes ranged from terrible to silly to groan-inducing. At times, this group really gets anti-humor in a way that the headliner’s get it, but sometimes silly just won out. Honestly, Diggy ought to change his moniker to something more Biblical and work on his Jesus-holding-a-drink routine, but what do I know? I like anti-humor.

Touring with Hamburger is JP Incorporated. JP sings awful songs about fictional sit-coms and consumer products, playing on the current retromania that’s all over the place. Loud graphics and semi-obscene imagery assist the man in the fake beard as he sings about Jazzbot Xtreme and Crap Factory. It’s an odd but entertaining act for sure. So, a perfect opener for a Neil Hamburger set.

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Posted in Live by SM on November 2, 2011

This is the all-too-brief post I did on Sebadoh this past weekend. It originally aired here. Honestly, there wasn’t much to say. They didn’t do anything new and the old was sort of nonchalant…as you’ll likely gather from my review. After the review, I have some related to Tweets to share.

Sebadoh: Just as I remembered them.

Sebadoh played Mojo’s as part of the endless stream of nineties indie rock reunions that have popped up over the past 7-8 years. I feel like I’m back in college as all the heroes of my youth come circling back onto the circuit. Of course, the real reunion took place a few years back and now the band is just supporting reissues of Bakesale and Harmacy, two albums that were originally released in Sebadoh’s prime. The material still holds up and represents some of their best.

The set was littered with songs from both records, resembling a set list they could have easily written 15 years ago. And with that familiarity comes a bit of nonchalance. Some may perceive it as sloppy or unprepared. I preferred to see it as something familiar, comfortable. As the band whipped through songs they had played hundreds if not thousands of times, the crowd remained glued and engaged even as the band played late into the night, shutting Mojo’s down.

If you’re not familiar, Sebadoh was created as an outlet for frontman Lou Barlow from his other band, Dinosaur Jr. DJ’s output was dominated by J Mascis whose master guitar work intimidated a young Barlow into submission until he was finally booted from the band. Sebadoh continued, releasing cassette tapes and touring New England. Eventually, the band, along with current member Jason Lowenstein, earned gigs opening for the likes of Firehose who toured through Columbia many years ago. This led to Sebadoh signing with seminal label Sub Pop. From there, Sebadoh did the indie, lo-fi thing for which the nineties scene was known. Now, they’re in their reunion/re-issue phase, much like contemporaries Pavement, Guided By Voices, etc.

The show Saturday may have been a casualty of Halloween celebrations all over town, but that was fine. The familiarity of the band and their material was never meant for everyone. I’m sure the band would like to see it differently, but that’s how it is. The intimate nature of the vibe as well as the laid-back demeanor of the band played out the way one would expect. The show wasn’t earth-shattering by any stretch, but it filled the evening as some of us got to spend some valuable time with an old friend. Don’t be strangers, Sebadoh.

Said Tweets are below. There are a few missing, but you get the picture:

There was more, but it all became worth it when this finally came through my Twitter feed:

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How I Got My Groove Back

Posted in Live by SM on January 31, 2011

The Foundry Field Recordings in warmer times.

It’s about time I got out to see some bands this year. I had pledged to get out more, but it just hadn’t happened. Due to weather[1], my dwindling bank account, and lack of motivation, my first rock show of 2011 didn’t happen until the last Friday of January. Lame, I know.

Still, I was excited to get out and see local heros The Foundry Field Recordings. I once likened them to a “boring version of Death Cab for Cutie,” which was a hasty assessment and not fair[2]. Now, if they’d only release that next record…but that’s another post for another time[3]. Friday was about a rock show.

There was actually room for me on the list at the door and I slipped in free of charge. A Lagunitas IPA later, The Foundry Field Recordings were on. It was a blistering set with nary a witty exchange between songs. All the favorites from previous releases were present as well as few of those tracks that have yet to be officially released. It was nice to ease myself into this local-centric mindset toward rock shows with an old friend.

And the FFR are friends of the Coalition for sure. Besides putting my name on the list[4], the guys showed me to the “green room” which used to be a kitchen for a Jamaican joint inside of Mojo’s[5]. Upon entering this back room, I discovered a TV and Sega Genesis with NBA Jams. I lost by one point to FFR’s Billy Schuh, but I was glad to represent well with the Cavs combo of Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. I returned the favor with a little muscle in moving some equipment to the band’s practice space[6]. One after-hours drink later, I headed home.

Friday night was not typical, at least in recent months, but to do it two nights in a row was even stranger. There was another local gig, this time at East Side Tavern, and Billy got me in for free for the second straight night in a row. Playing Saturday night was another local act, Richard the Lionhearted. Something about this band feels so familiar, but this is maybe the second time I’ve seen them. They’re serious about this band thing and it shows in their sharpness and professionalism[7]. I’ll be looking for more Richard the Lionhearted as I continue to get in touch with the scene, which should continue as the year progresses.

Speaking of which, I’ll be blogging elsewhere about said scene. There will be more once some details are worked out and my first post is up.

1Apparently, Middle Missouri is expecting 18 inches. That’s right. 18. Anyway, people were going ape shit at the grocery. Snowpocalypse III of the winter hits later today. Instead of a rock show, it may keep me from a cellared beer tasting to which I’ve been looking forward. Damn snow.
2OK. I was a little tipsy and eagerly anticipating the headliner, Spoon. So, that first assessment of The Foundry wasn’t even remotely fair. Plus, I’ve had time with the band’s material – released and otherwise – and consider them a pretty solid act.
3The “new” material is really good. It’s got hooks for miles and resembles the peppier music of The Shins. Seriously, the band needs to release this shit and yesterday.
4After everyone else on the list couldn’t make it.
5I do miss the goat curry.
6OK, so I didn’t really lift/move much, but I was there and I carried some stuff, nothing too heavy.
7Aside from a Doors cover.

When I used to go out…

Posted in Life, Live by SM on August 12, 2010

…I would know everyone that I saw. Now I go out alone if I go out at all[1].

Or so goes a popular lyric from a popular alt-rock track from a few years ago. It’s also how life turns out for the aging hipster[2]. We make choices to get jobs and have kids. Our bodies don’t put up with the stresses of late-night living and three or more beers in an evening the way they used to. Our attention span is not capable of reading Pitchfork and updating our blogs.

I used to go out fairly regularly. I’d go see bands, especially local bands. I did this whenever I could afford it in college[3]. I even did it as often as possible when I lived an hour or more from any city with the capacity for such things. I can remember several shows in which I fell into bed at 3 AM, only to get up around 6:30 AM or so to prepare for the day teaching fifth graders. The point is that I made a regular effort regardless of daily responsibilities to see local bands play music.

That doesn’t happen anymore. For one thing, I moved to a much smaller market with fewer good bands. So, it took me a while to catch on with these locals. And even when I did catch on, I found it difficult to make it out to shows where bands didn’t go on until 9 or 10 at night. Sure, I was invited out or promised to see a friend’s band, but occasions when that actually happened became few and far between.

This week, I had no familial responsibilities to keep me in. Work is relatively light in the summer and there was actually a show. So, I made the choice to see a local band for once.

Nonreturner is an outfit on local label/co-op Yards & Gods. The band, and most of the bands on their label, are quite prolific. But it’s not just quantity they produce, it’s also of a high quality. This is pretty amazing considering that they rarely tour[4] and they’re giving away their music for free when it’s worth way more than that[5].

Of course, these facts just make them candidates for favorite local band status. I went through several local bands back in the day. None of them toured really. They were all on tiny labels that were labels in name only. They all made a lot of great music. While not all of it was free, it certainly was cheap. Sometimes, if you would buy a cassette tape, they’d fill it for you[6].

Anyway, Nonreturner had the unfortunate honor of opening for an act that didn’t even bother to show up. It was a hot, Monday night in the summer in a college town. Plus, before the venue reduced the cover, it was $8, a rather steep price for such an event. Well, I showed up anyway. Zach and Carrie[7] of Nonreturner have been regulars in my blogs’ comment sections and I owed them at least $4 and a late bedtime[8].

I’m glad I did go out. Despite there being maybe 15-20 people in attendance and the bad metal band that played after them, Nonreturner were pretty good. Bands like Broken Social Scene and anything Bradford Cox came to mind as textures of drums, samples, guitar, and keyboards[9] held together over Mojo’s shitty-ass soundsystem. Funny thing is, I sort of knew Nonreturner was this good. I didn’t need to see them to confirm this opinion. It was not the most inspired performance[10], but it was certainly worth the night out, making me think I should do it more often.

1Sorry, I know the Walkmen are passé for some of you and the sentiment of “The Rat” is a bit clichéd, but I couldn’t resist. This is a post going on in my head every time I go out or choose to stay in.
2This sort of points out why it’s so absurd that I use the term “hipster” so often. There was a time when the word would have applied to me. I’m just too old for that now. Or too boring.
3Which, strangely enough, was quite amazing. I gave up meat so that I could have more money to spend on such things. I remember choosing to smoke at a bar because I couldn’t afford as much beer as I could afford cigarettes. It’s funny how money would appear just so that I could go see a band.
4Well, they might have toured, but what I’m talking about are 1-2 month stints on the road. That’s how bands become nationally known. They tour the shit out of their material. Even then, it’s not guaranteed.
5So, at this very moment, there is no excuse for not going to the Yards & Gods site and downloading everything you can get your hands on. Start with Nonreturner, though.
6I once misread some liner notes that came with a 7″ and sent a guy two 90 or 120 minute cassette tapes to fill. He filled them both even though the offer was really only for one tape’s worth of music. I played the shit out of those tapes. They were so good.
7OK. So, Carrie is not an “original member” of the band, but she is taking the bassist Clint’s place in the lineup. Apparently, Clint knocked up his wife with twins. Babies get in the way of a rock ‘n roll lifestyle, but twins will destroy it.
8And I have promised fancy beers in a public forum. Twice now.
9That and Carrie plays a mean tambourine. She can also take the tambourine and do a figure-eight between her legs Harlem Globetrotters-style.
10This is not a complaint. There was no crowd and their drummer took a 10-minute shit right as they were to go on. So, it was no big deal. The music was good even if the feeling wasn’t great.

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Port O’Brien

Posted in Live by SM on March 25, 2010

I saw Port O’Brien tonight open for Portugal, the Man. I didn’t stay for the headliner as I have a plane to catch in the morning and Port O’Brien filled my needs. The bass player selling t-shirts was a nice enough fellow. Their set was everything I wanted it to be: raw, emotional, authentic, rockin’. I feel bad that much of the crowd of high school kids did not get it. Here’s a pic. It’s no Carrie Wade, but it’s something1.

When I get back from my trip, I plan to tell you how Pavement has single-handedly taken down the Boomers and this Port O’Brien show was great. I may even have something to say about the beer. Stay tuned.

1It was shot three or four beers in with an iPhone.