Beer and Pavement

Black Lives Matter at Beer & Pavement

Posted in Activism, Intersections, Life by SM on June 29, 2020
Drawing by Ben Chlapek and I forget what the beer was. It was good. Pic is from my IG.

I couldn’t bring this blog back without at least addressing all of this [erratically motions in the general direction of everything]. Specifically, I’m talking about the current Black Lives Matter movement.

“Why would a blog about beer and indie rock write about race?” you might ask.

Let me reply.

I started blogging as a way to express myself. Now, I’ve veered here and there and back, but a constant part of that expression has been been my love and – shall I say – my need for music. It’s a somewhat niche obsession, but I love independent rock music. (I’ll address beer later.)

Any lover of rock n roll must at some point – willingly or begrudgingly – admit that rock music was appropriated by white people from Black culture. It’s fact. It can’t be denied. Some will try or simply ignore history, but most come around at some point.

I decided a long, long time ago that I was cool with this. I mean, it’s shitty that Elvis and every white dude after him have profited greatly from Black people, but isn’t that what white people do? We profit off the work of others, particularly Black people. We white people are the worst.

As I said, I was okay with rock music being Black music, not necessarily the stealing part. No one epitomized rock music for me more than Prince. For dudes 5-10 years older than I am, it’s Bowie, but for me, it’s Prince. Who could have heard “Little Red Corvette” or watched their first R-rated flick by the title Purple Rain and not want to be Prince or at the very least follow him to the ends of the earth?

In Prince, I found a performer that took on sexuality, race, the status quo… He was weird and he could play guitar like a mother fucker. I listen to primarily guitar-based music because of Prince.

I have not always been so well-versed or even comfortable with race and racism, but Prince opened me up to learn. Prince demonstrated that there was culture and perspective way beyond my nearly all-white hometown. Not only did I search out new and different kinds of music because of his influence, but I searched out film (Spike Lee) and books (Malcom X) to feed my appetite.

All this is due to Prince. Prince taught me about humanity and that included Black people.

I recently read that there’s a push to put up a statue of Prince in Minneapolis in place of Christopher Columbus. Yes, there is not already a statue of Prince in Minneapolis, his hometown and there’s one of Columbus. I was shocked to find this out as well. Hopefully, this is rectified.

On to more important things.

So, Prince was my gateway to weird guitar music, but he was also my path to being open to discussions of race and racism. Do I get it right? Usually not. But, as I explain to my children, we (white people) are all racist to some degree because we have benefitted from from racist institutions in some way or another. However, we have a choice to ignore this fact or do something to change it.

I’m trying my best to change it. I’m trying to change me and I’m trying to change the system, because it’s rigged, yo.

Now, there’s nothing all that insightful in this post. I’m just a white guy trying to do what’s right. I’m a white guy who recognizes the humanity of Black people and that they deserve all that we white people take for granted on the daily.

Now I’m just rambling.

Look, remember that if you’re reading this, you probably love rock music. Rock music is the music of Black people (along with hip-hop, jazz, etc.).

Or you’re reading this because you like beer. Apparently, having a beer with someone as you talk about important issues is a thing. Go here and buy some beer brewed by Black people. Then, donate to these organizations.

There. I covered beer and indie rock, but now I’ve got you thinking about race. Join me for a discussion in the comments.

#BlackLivesMatter

(I’m not fooling myself. 1-2 people will comment at most. This blog has been idle for two or three years.)

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5-10-15-20

Posted in Life by SM on August 4, 2010

Pitchfork recently started does a cool little feature[14] where they ask an artist to identify their favorite songs at the ages of 5, 10, 15, etc. The first in the feature is the incredibly hard-rocking Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney fame. I’ve done something like this before[1], but I wanted to do one of these features for this blog. Of course, I don’t get to interview cool indie rockers. So, you just get me. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments or write your own post in response.

5
I turned five in 1980. It’s honestly very hard to remember music when I was five. I do know that my parents were Rolling Stones fans. Mom was a huge fan and my dad saw them in the ’60’s at Dayton’s Hara Arena, the same venue I saw Nirvana many years later[2]. A particular song that resonates throughout my life is “Satisfaction”. It was so raw and powerful. That song was the opposite of sunny, top-40 pop. There’s a direct line from that track to the garage rock-turned-punk of the 1970’s and beyond. Whenever I listen to the Replacements or the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Titus Andronicus, I think of the raw dissatisfaction of that one song. I took special notice when PJ Harvey and Bjork once performed “Satisfaction” together, Cat Power remade the song for a covers records[3], and even when I found myself singing the song to my infant daughter. That song will stay with me forever.

10
In the summer of 1984, my brother and I discovered Prince (and his/the Revolution). The little rocker from Minneapolis released a movie, Purple Rain, we were not yet old enough to see. Then, right after my tenth birthday, my mom went on this trip to visit family in California. Dad let us see some rather racy movies[4]. Purple Rain was one of them. We had the LP since September when my brother turned 8 and we quickly gathered as many of his records as Columbia House would allow[5]. Among those purchases was Prince’s classic 1999, another great album loaded with killer track after killer track. Among all the Prince songs we listened to over that two or three year period, I’ve gone back and forth as to which song made the biggest impact, but I’ve somehow landed on “Little Red Corvette”. It had the hook, a story, and well…It was all Prince. From the 1982 album by the same name, this was the hit we played more than any other.

15
Truth be told, my introduction to indie/alternative music was not Nirvana. That came a year later. No, the shit hit the fan in 1990 with Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual. That record came at a time when I was listening to a lot of classic/hard rock. Radio stations had picked up “Been Caught Stealing”, a track I was all over. I mean, it had dogs barking. However, even my gateway track was not the most memorable off the album. “Ain’t No Right” which might not even be the best track on the record touched on  a lot of anger I had stewing beneath when I was 15. It was the punkest thing I had at the time. Anything remotely punk was a rare thing in those days in West-Central Ohio. Somehow, Jane’s Addiction combined hippie-like politics, heavy metal heroics, and punk grit to everything they touched. It would be another year before the inaugural Lollapalooza and another three before I’d start even going to shows, but this was the track on the record that sent me on my way.

20
In 1995, I saw Pavement for the first time. I attended the third of three Lollapalooza’s. It was the middle of my college years, years that were greatly influential in shaping my musical tastes. Although Wowee Zowee was in full rotation for much of the year, I discovered another band on Matador that had been around for a while who was also playing Lolla that year. The band was Yo La Tengo and the album they released in ’95 was Electr-O-Pura. The track that has always given me a tingle was “False Alarm”. I saw the band twice that year[6] and “False Alarm” was easily the highlight of both sets. Ira Kaplan just seemed to fall all over his Hammond B-3 organ, choosing to play with his elbows or chest rather than the more conventional fingers. The song is so loaded with angst and lust and jittery goodness that I didn’t hesitate when I hit my 20th year on this list.

25
2000 was a strange year for me, musically. Pavement was out of the picture for a year, a reunion a long way off. I struggled to find that groove in the scene within I used to fit so comfortably. Modest Mouse was leaving their indie years behind and fully embracing their major label selves[7]. My music collection needed a swift kick in the ass. Enter The White Stripes. De Stijl was not a wickedly popular album at the time and Jack and Meg were still siblings/married couple. My sister turned me on to them. I still remember picking up the record in a tiny basement record shop in Athens, OH where she was living. “You’re Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)” was the opening track that pulled me in[8]. Despite the fact that it’s nothing like the rest of the album, the song made the rest, which was the jolt I needed, so much more approachable for me. Anyway, say what you will about Jack White, but he made some pretty amazing music back in those days[9].

30
Thirty may have been the year of the greatest change for me. Within a week in July of 2005, I passed a Master’s exam, supported my partner as she successfully defended her dissertation[10], closed on our first house, married said partner, and moved 500 miles from the only state in which I ever lived[11]. It was stressful to say the least. I needed some music to address this uneasiness.

Spencer Krug’s “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” hit me like a ton of bricks from the first listen. My sister had pushed Wolf Parade on me, citing the fact that Pitchfork loved them and they were from Canada, which at the time was a winning combination. Anyway, that song still gives me goosebumps. Instead of flipping the record on that first go around, I simply moved the needle back to the beginning just so I could here that song with that drum beat, those piano blasts, and those lyrics. Man. Goosebumps.

35
Oh, that’s now. Well, I’ve decided not to over-think this one. Easily, the song that has it’s stamp all over this year is “I Won’t Lie to You” by Let’s Wrestle. Again, my sister is to blame[12]. She put the track on a CD for my daughter. We played that thing into the ground for most of this year. Then I bought the Let’s Wrestle album and it was all over. The song is still the standout track[13], but the entire album has captured my longing for days gone by and that giddiness I used to get at rock shows or in record stores. The opening lines say all you need to know about me: “No matter how many records I buy, it still won’t fill this void.”

Those were the most meaningful songs to me every five years of my life. What were/are yours?
Notes:
1OK. So, it was nothing like this post. That older link is to a post where I picked an album for every year of my life using my current experiences and perspective. This list takes into account what I was into at each age.
2Normally, this would have been a footnoted item. Oh, wait. I did just footnote it.
3Which was OK, but way better than her last covers record, Jukebox.
4In retrospect, might have not been the best move. It wasn’t perverted or anything. We watched Purple Rain, Up the Creek, and Revenge of the Nerds. These films are pretty tame by today’s standards, but they did have an effect on my perspective of sex and women. The good thing my dad did throughout the weekend moviefest was remind us that none of this was real. It was pre-AIDS can infect straight people. It was a simpler time for sure. Where was I going with this footnote?
5I don’t know how many times we joined one of these clubs. It was always a penny plus shipping for something like 10 or 12 records/cassette tapes. We would just stock up, buy a few records over the course of the three year commitment, quit the club, and join another. The best was when one of them started offering Matador albums in the mid-nineties.
6The first was on the second stage at the aforementioned Lollapalooza. The second was a great little show at Stache’s in Columbus, OH.
7However, Modest Mouse did release Building Something Out of Nothing, a collection of rare EP and 7″ tracks from their indie label Up (RIP). I had all these songs on the original EP’s or vinyl, but it was a nice collection all together and helped expose a lot of major label Mouse fans to their earlier work.
8Very popular with the lesbians. I ran around with a lot of lesbians in those days. Of course, I’ve been called a “lesbian” before, but that is another post/footnote for another time.
9It could be argued that Jack White still does make good music, but I’m not the one to make that argument.
10Actually, I had very little to do with her successful defense and possibly less to do with her finishing her book earlier this summer. However, whenever she feels the stresses of the academy, I feel them too and remind myself why I never took that route.
11This does not count the summer I spent in Seattle. Of course, does a summer spent anywhere really count as living there?
12Actually, my siblings and I have influenced each other’s music collection than is normal. I love Swearing at Motorists and other Dayton, OH bands because of my brother. I still remember my sister sneaking my CD’s in high school and college so that she could dub tape-after-tape of her own mixes. Music is a huge connection for the three of us, maybe even more than that whole blood thing.
13Although, the version my sister sent us was from an earlier release which is superior to the one on the proper album. It’s rawer, more immediate, livelier.
14Thanks to Carrie the Wade for setting me straight on this one. Sometimes in my old age I get the facts mixed up or am totally out of the loop as to what all the kids are into these days. Had she not pointed out this grave error I would totally look like an out-of-touch, aging hipster. Just to be clear, Carrie Wade reads the P4k all the time, a pursuit my frail old body cannot handle anymore. For more information I am too old to share with you (I mean, I’m thinking of writing an Arcade Fire review next. What am I? NPR?), go to Carrie’s blog where she covers way cooler music than I do. See you at Pavement, Carrie!