Friday, April 11, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the E Street Band

I was reading the recap from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last night in New York.  This year there was apparently the need to induct The E Street Band, as if the induction of Bruce Springsteen didn’t cover that ground.  However, when all the real rock icons have already been inducted, you gotta find someone to fill the void.  When you get to the point of E Street Band or Firefall, which one do you think will sell more tickets?  That’s right, it’s time to trot Little Steven and Max up there and make the sponsors happy.  Old white corporate guys love the E Street Band.

I have always felt pretty ambivalent about the E Street Band.  This is primarily due to the fact that I never really “got” Springsteen.  The only album of his that I truly like is “Nebraska”, which I think is sensational.  In fact, every time I hear the E Street Band on his records I think, “Man, I bet this would be a good song without all that crap around it.”.   Is there a more dated sounding record than “Born In The USA”?  Those 80s keyboards and horrible guitar tones are all E Street Band.  How about those cringe worthy keyboard parts on those 70s records?  Brace yourself Springsteen fans…  I realize that people love Clarence Clemons, but why does every sax solo of his sound exactly same?  It’s like a porno movie.  You know how it’s going to end.  “Here comes The Big Man!”

I had been scolded for this anti-Bruce attitude of mine by people here.  “You just need to see him in concert.  He played for five hours last time he was here!”  OK.  I checked it out.  What I saw was four people on guitar (Bruce, Nils, Little Steven, and Patty), a piano player, an organ player, bass player, drummer, some percussion dude, and the dreaded Big Man.  I have no idea why he needed four people playing guitar for a song that probably needed one but could support two.  It was all a big wash of pompous noise that had little to do with saluting a Phil Spector Wall of Sound, Motown, or whatever other sacred cow rock iconic movement you want to toss in there.  It was bloated 70s rock excess that took away from any real song lurking in the mess.  While they may have played for five hours, I left after about 50 minutes.  I couldn’t take it.

There is no reason for any concert to last five hours, unless the entire audience is under the influence of dangerous stimulants and needs to be focused on pretty lights and sounds.  If Bob Dylan showed up at my house with Tom Waits and they wanted to play songs and tell stories in my living room, I’d tell them to wrap it up after 90 minutes or so.  Just because you can play for five hours doesn’t mean you should.  There is something to be applauded for concise thought and brevity.  I saw the Ramones do a 32 minute show that was maybe the best thing I ever saw.  I don’t think anyone ever left a Springsteen show after five hours saying, “I wish he woulda played more from side three of The River.”

The thing that I find truly odd when it comes to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is that when it comes to normal decorum in things like gala concerts and award shows, it all goes out the window when it comes to them.  For example, it took one hour and twenty five minutes to induct the E Street Band into the Rock Hall last night.  Holy shit, I would have wanted to choke myself on a napkin if I had been sitting there.  Those guys appear to be completely oblivious to the fact that they are Bruce’s backing band.  They get more leeway than the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, and The Clash combined.  It’s unbelievable.  And why doesn’t anyone ever mention how Springsteen laughs uproariously at his own “jokes”?  “Well ah… hahahahaha…I met Steve….hahahahahaha….outside of the Thunderbird Lounge hahahahahahaha…”  What the fuck are you laughing at dude?  Why is that funny?  It’s like hanging out with guys from a fraternity that do nothing but tell in-jokes from things that happened 25 years ago and have no idea that everyone else has disconnected.  Then when it’s time to actually play, they always feel entitled to more time because they are on some sort of higher plateau.  Whereas most inductees play a song or two, they played three extended songs.  When I saw them at the Rock Hall Grand Opening concert, every friggin’ rock legend you can think of played three of their big hits whereas Bruce gets the green light for an entire set.  What the fuck is with that?  I’m I the only one that finds this music boring? 

I know that I am not allowed to even think like this.  It’s downright un-American.  The potential wraith that will come my way from middle aged dudes and working class cigarette Moms is very real.  His music touched them in a way I can’t understand.  Frankly, I don’t think I ever will.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate St. Louis

The Missouri suburb of St Charles is so predictably Midwestern, it seems like a reverse San Francisco.  This is the living breathing definition of “average”.  Remarkably non descript people drive pick up trucks and domestic cars going to bland restaurants and chain store driven strip plazas.  The bars pump out a steady stream of “hits” from the past as if nothing has happened culturally since 1988.  Michael Jackson “The Way You Make Me Feel” gave way to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  A young man with cheap plastic sunglasses perched on his head pumped his fist to emphasize the chorus as he waited at the bar for his Bud Light.  Everyone was having a great time as I looked on like I was observing wildlife.  The bachelorette party was busy dancing, having just set down their fruity drinks in plastic cups complete with plastic penis straws to announce how wild they were to all onlookers.  One of them, dressed in her “Saturday night jeans”, came over to hustle me for Mich Ultras for her and the gals.  She was emboldened by their big night out mentality and decided I looked like a sucker I suppose.  The night ended predictably badly for the gals as the bachelorette went outside to throw up on the sidewalk, her maid of honor offering comfort by stroking her hair and repeating “It’s all right.  It’s all right.”  They left as a pack, maintaining their strength by their unity.  Moments later, they were replaced by yet another bachelorette party, almost completely indistinguishable from the first.  No doubt they would all be entering into the same marriage, complete with 2.2 children, a four-bedroom cookie cutter house, and hosting holiday meals with such delights as green bean casserole and ambrosia.  Their boring male counterparts would be dressed in Bass Pro Shops sportswear watching the Rams game, drinking Bud Light and ignoring their equally unbelievably boring wives. 

There is a particular look to the people here.  The men all look like they shop exclusively at Sears and Cabelas. They appear to all aspire to either own a Harley or being able to afford to add extensive auto aftermarket crap to their trucks.  Those that don’t fall into that group are miraculously anonymous, spending their lives hiding in plain site. The women have a hardiness to them that suggests no interest in the fashions and cultural expectations of the Coasts.  When I look at them I know exactly what their brothers look like as they vaguely maintain a slight whiff of masculinity.  The whole population is so plain it’s really remarkable.  Everyone looks like everyone else.  It’s like being in a Target where the experience spreads out beyond the confines of the store. 

Suddenly, things took a turn.

Three friends of mine had been missing for hours.  Their plane had landed at 9:30 in the morning and they immediately hooked up with a local friend, a man that had been the 5th Beatle version of a highly successful boy band from the 90s.  Apparently in St. Louis proper there are bars that aren’t quite strip bars yet are way more sleazy then Hooters/Twisted Kilts where the waitresses are topless and in panties while serving drinks and deep-fried raviolis.  It is also not considered to be wildly inappropriate to be firing back shots and beers in these places at 11:30am with the waitresses, or so the photographic evidence I was later showed would testify.  This would explain the condition of one of these missing men that arrived alone staggering into this horrible sports/dance bar where we had scheduled to meet each other.

I have seen large men intoxicated, but rarely a man so large so intoxicated.  His hulking mass surged from one side of the room to the other like the bar was an adrift schooner on the Atlantic.  He breathlessly tried to tell us the story of how he had arrived here, none of it making any sense.  He had that particular inability of the shockingly drunk to position events chronologically or add in the key details to allow the story to make sense.  “Oh my God!  I had to take a piss, and I saw these bathrooms, so I jumped out of the car while it was still running!  I don’t know where those guys are!”  I had to have him repeat it over and over again to try and piece it together.  None of it made any sense.  If he was to be believed, he had been at the wheel.  That in itself was a stunning admission as if he had been pulled over by the police he would have been shot on sight for the brazen disregard of public safety laws.  Then from what I could gather he had leapt out of the moving car to go to a public bathroom while his one friend was helpless in the passenger seat and the other passed out in the back seat.  Making matters more interesting, the bathrooms he was referring to are located next to a park by the banks of the Mississippi River.  If what he had said was accurate, there was a good chance this would be the lead story on CNN on Monday.  “Two Men Helplessly Sent To Watery Deaths In Car”

I asked him where the car was.  He didn’t know.  I asked if he had any idea.  He said he would go outside and check.  He was gone for ten minutes.  “I don’t know where they are man!”  In theory, I should have immediately gone out to get involved in the situation, but it had the electricity of bad craziness that it’s always best to keep at arm’s length.  However, the fact that he had no idea where they were or where the car was seemed a bit extreme.  I cautiously went outside with him to scope the area.  It wasn’t hard to find them…

The small crowd that had gathered around the Chevy Malibu partially sunken into the Mississippi River all stared at the vehicle, some offering potential long shot solutions to retrieve it from the river involving tow trucks and winches.  No one was making eye contact.  They all just stared at the car.  It was a hell of a thing.  The entire front hood of the vehicle was now submerged, the passenger escape door still open allowing water to seep slightly into the interior.  “Hey man!  What the fuck!  Hahahahaha!  That was fucking crazy!”  His friends, not even close to being annoyed, treated the incident the same way you or I might treat being hit with a water balloon at a picnic.  It was inconvenient, but all in good fun.  They all laughed uproariously as the onlookers stared wide-eyed, trying to make sense of this completely unexpected reaction. 

There was a slight slurping sound as the Mississippi finally claimed the car.  It slipped quietly below the swollen brown river, being pushed along by the strong Spring flow.  “Holy shit man!  Oh well, fuck it!  It’s a rental!”  The three of them had no misgivings about how this had ended, somehow convinced that all would turn out in their favor with the rental car company.  Personally, I had grave concerns as I would imagine that Avis, Hertz, or whatever fools had rented these guys a car would be quite upset at learning their fleet now contained one vehicle that was somewhere at the bottom of the Mississippi.  There is no way you can position it was OK that the car you had rented was now filled with channel catfish eating the Dorito remains from the back seat.  How on earth would a fuckup of this magnitude just go away?  What’s the play here?  “Mr. Smith?  We have in our records that you did not return the 2013 Chevy Malibu to the St. Louis Airport branch of our company.”  No, you are mistaken…  Check your records again.  Have a great day.  Goodbye.  Click.

They just didn’t care.  The three of them laughed it up. It was all backslaps and belly laughs.  The onlookers slowly dissipated into the night, not truly grasping the insanity of the events that had just transpired.  The guys walked from the riverbank, walking towards the bar. The last I saw of them that night, they were buying Bud Lights for a Bachelorette party.  They actually blended in quite well.  Strange town that St. Louis… 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Unicorn

I knew this guy named Les Brown.  Everyone knows a guy like Les.  He was the guy that tried every possible drug and alcohol combination with a fearlessness that seemed brave at the time, but now seems insane.  While I assume that we all know someone that took too much acid, or smoked a pound of pot while drinking tequila, Les is the guy that really stood out amongst those mere amateurs.  I remember being at a party on the beach on the shore of Lake Erie.  The sun was just setting in that calm pink/orange sky that is so specific to August.  A group of us had just arrived from the parking area a half mile away, just far enough to provide an inconvenience to the overweight park rangers that were employed primarily to hassle people actually enjoying the lake’s shoreline.  As soon as I walked up, I realized something was amiss.

A small bonfire had been started, and the people sitting in the sand nursing Molson Golden bottles seemed way too intent on watching the fire working up through the gray driftwood.  Our friend Bruce was alone, way down the beachfront, walking slowly back then stopping.  Walking towards us then turning back.  Stopping and staring at the calm water lapping the shore.  The sun continued to set and Bruce was gradually disappearing from sight.

Hey Les… What’s going on man?

“It’s all good bro.  Get yourself a Molson.  It’s soooooo cold.”

None of the others spoke.  Les returned to staring at the fire with the others.  We all shot looks to each other wondering what the hell scene we had just wandered into.  That was when Bruce returned, his face twisted in desperation.  He didn’t say anything, but just held out a single shard of a broken mirror as if it was an explanation.  Suddenly a single tear rolled down his cheek and he let out a small cry.

Hey Les… Um… What’s wrong with Bruce?

“Oh, he took too much acid.”

How much did he take Les?

“He only took two, but he didn’t know they were nine way unicorns.”

Les, what the fuck is a “nine way unicorn”?

“Oh man, it’s the best.  It’s nine hits of acid on one little tab …”

Bruce was having a bit of difficulty in dealing with the fact he had unwittingly taken 18 hits of acid in a single sitting.  I think this was understandable all things considered.  I’m sure Bruce was trying to be a bit of a tough guy and push the limits by taking two.  I can only imagine the panic that set in when someone said, “Dude!  You took two?  That’s 18 hits of acid man!  Oh man!  You’re NEVER COMING DOWN!’  Why Les never thought that it was worth mentioning to Bruce that this drug was 9X more powerful than he was expecting is interesting to consider though…

Once again, this is extreme behavior, but certainly not unique.  Hell, Roky Erickson took acid every day for two years.  Sure, he ended up in an insane asylum for most of his life, but there are risks in this type of lifestyle.  The thing that really separated Les from the pack was his willingness to take anything without any real concern for his long term welfare.  For example, he would routinely take meds from his grandmother’s medicine closet, trying new combinations each time to search for his elusive “maximum buzz”.  It was one night standing outside, his back to a big oak tree dragging on a cigarette, when he announced to a group of us “Dude, have you ever eaten one of those Vick’s inhalers?  You puke for 24 hours straight at first, but then you trip for TWO DAYS!”.

I don’t know how someone comes to the conclusion it would be a good idea to eat the inside of a Vick’s Inhaler.  The argument can be made that some brave soul was the first to eat a raw oyster, but I think the key difference is that the alternative to that would have been starvation while the alternative to Les eating the inhaler would have been another six pack of beer. Then we get to the point of where he threw up violently for a full 24 hours without seeking medical attention.  If I eat a dangerous chemical, and then begin to barf violently, I’m calling the Poison Hotline.  Not Les.  He just rode that shit out so he could hallucinate for two consecutive days.  Then, after surviving such a hellish ordeal, he repeats it a few times because he enjoyed it so much.  He even promoted this course of action to others in much the same manner you would a pork chop recipe.  Who the hell does that?

I haven’t seen this guy in years.  I’m going to be in his hometown in a few weeks.  I gotta look him up and at least see if he’s still alive…    

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Kentucky

What could be better than waiting around for the snow to melt on the last weekend in March?  I seem to recall a time when I routinely walked outside and didn't have to prepare as if I was leaving an igloo and about to battle polar bears.  It seems so long ago when I wore shoes that were not constructed primarily of rubber.  I do have evidence that such a time existed as my closet is filled with lighter weight clothes I apparently no longer need.  I just can't remember when it was that I wore them...  Are Jams shorts still in style?

That leaves me trapped in the house left with nothing else to do but gamble wildly and listen to my new Dex Romweber and Sham 69 records.  I am aware that this is almost rock bottom, but I'm not there yet.  Not as long as I can take Michigan +2.5 over Kentucky.  I won with a couple of underdogs yesterday (Dayton +10.5 and Wisconsin +2) and really feel pretty good about this game.  I really didn't have to think about it, and instead let my mind wander to the possibilities of re-arranging "Action Time Vision" as a 60s pop song.  You see, what makes me so carefree is that The Public has jumped so far onto the Kentucky bandwagon, there is no other possibility except a Michigan victory today.

Every national media outlet I saw over the last two days has been loudly proclaiming "Kentucky Is Back!".  I honestly had no idea who they were even playing until this morning when I specifically looked.  The Sports Press has already penciled in their beloved Wildcats into the Final Four, not really remembering that Michigan is a legit basketball team.  At this point the train has left the station and everyone is on board.  WooHoo!

This seems like one of those classic games that make Las Vegas casinos say "Fuck, let's do a .99 cent shrimp cocktail.  We can afford it as long as we get enough Rubes in here to bet that Kentucky game. Maybe they'll stay and play some slots too!"  It's why there are gigantic lakes in the desert.  It's why they build rollercoasters on top of twenty story hotels.  It's why they put a light on top of a faux Egyptian pyramid that you can see from outer space.  Every dipshit in the United States is going to be all over Kentucky today.  I urge you to get on the other side of that line.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate "This Is Cleveland!"

The campaign has begun.  It’s all different now.  Can you feel the change in the air?  “This Is Cleveland”  I am amazed that an ad agency could present that campaign with a straight face and charge whatever the hell they charged.  “Stan, this is nothing like the “This Is Buffalo” or “This Is DeMoines” campaigns we cooked up last year.  This is fresh crispy creative that is gonna make those millennial hipsters cream their jeans to get into C-Town to drink some organic free range IPA and eat some stone ground locally sourced mustard!  This is the new Brooklyn baby!” 
See what I mean.  Click on this: 

Seriously, the agency must have come up with that idea on the plane ride home and then tried to figure out how to sell it through for the weeks leading up to the presentation.  “Chad… There is no way they pay our fee for “This Is Cleveland”!  You can’t make me step into that room with that bullshit!  I don’t care how many grainy pictures you take of shit to make it look “gritty” and “real”, they ain’t going to buy that!”

But they did.

The “This Is Cleveland” video shows that living in Cleveland is exactly like living in a Miller Genuine Draft commercial from two years ago.  It’s all about having a grainy photo experience with fellow hipsters drinking microbrew and eating out at really expensive restaurants while being thrift store cool.  While this might be the experience that white people from an ad agency on an expense account have while they are here, and that probably mirrors the experience of the Positively Cleveland people that they are selling this concept to, that might be an experience that is almost entirely limited to the tiny population of unmarried college art school grads with no kids. 

I’m a guy that plays and inhabits some of the clubs they show on that video.  I can identify every location in that thing.  You know how many people I run into from my neighborhood or workplace (i.e. “normal” people) when I go to the Happy Dog?  None.  Zero.  You know why?  Because like the rest of America, the General Public doesn’t give a fuck about The Futurebirds playing at the Tavern, or that the Greenhouse Tavern is doing an organic Belgian Ale tasting.  They want to go to Giant Eagle, buy some pre-packaged foods, and maybe watch Transformers 2 at the Mall before stopping in at Menchies for a Reese’s Pieces sundae.  While it looks cool to show cool people doing cool things, is that really going to move the needle?   The Cleveland Music Scene that is being portrayed in that video (i.e. individuals making cutting edge original music reasonably well that can put 50+ people in a room when they perform) numbers about 200 people, and that’s being really optimistic. 

The problem about trying to trick the 17 people in every city that actually make up this target market is that those 17 people are aware enough to know that they can buzz into Cleveland for a weekend to see a show, but if the tour dates line up, they’d rather see that same band in Chicago or New York.  Hell, I would too.  No matter how many shots of East Fourth St are recycled, this café culture that is being presented doesn’t actually exist.  This video can literally be made in any city in the Rust Belt as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit etc. etc. all have a few really cool places to go.  It’s just sort of ridiculous to market to a tiny demographic, 11% according to an earlier interview given by the organization, when it isn’t really what Cleveland does best.

Like it or not, Cleveland is all about families.  Here’s a test.  A new guy starts at work, and then is asked “Are you originally from Cleveland?”.  If that answer is not “Yes” or “I have family here.” that guy is moving away in two years.  I have seen it time and time again.  I love it when the New Manager Guy starts and bullshits about how excited he and his family are to be here and how they plan on setting down roots.  Hey, did you buy a house or rent?  “Oh, we rented…”  Of course you did.  Adios amigo.

Cleveland is dorky families going to the Lake and having picnics.  It’s about day trips to Cedar Point.  It’s about watching the Browns get pasted together.  It’s about walking around at the Zoo and the IX Center.  It’s about our teams losing, our weather sucking, and people from out of town giving us shit.  It’s about friendly people that don’t like pretension, or really spend any time doing what that video suggests.  It’s a “we’re all in this together” mentality that a bunch of carpetbaggers from Kansas City couldn’t have possibly picked up having pints at Great Lakes or standing around on East Fourth by the Positively Cleveland offices before an Indians game. 

By the way, what happened to all the black people?  For a city with 53% African American residents, as far as I can tell the only black people that live here shop in record stores, dance in the streets, or play guitar on street corners.  Oh well…  In my mind Cleveland has always been a plum anyway…

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 3

I came plummeting back to earth yesterday.  This should come as no surprise.  I don't know anything about what is going on with these NCAA games.  That won't stop me from going back to the well today.  While I am waiting to play a rock show tonight, I want to be able to obsessively check my phone for scores.  I feel as if I have begun a project and I need to see that project to its inevitable conclusion.

I am going to take San Diego State -3 today over North Dakota State.  My blogger guy says they have much better defense, and that will be the difference.  I just think that these tournament upset feel good stories usually last about 48 hours.  The story arch appears to be team wins big upset, kids at small school live it up and can't believe all the national media people that want to talk to them, and then forget they have another game the next day.  It's a harsh world to go from Erin Andrews wanting your attention to hoping someone takes your Taco Bell order in North Dakota in less than 2 days, but that's life kid.  This was your moment in the sun.  That's over now.  Have a good life in Fargo.

Alert!  Alert!  What a great time for an ill-advised two team teaser!  Saturday night?  What a perfect time to make a sucker bet.  How about if we take Syracuse -4 and Oregon +9.5.  Everyone thinks Dayton is a big deal because they beat a weak ass Ohio State team.  Syracuse is a legitimate basketball team though.  They'll get to the Sweet 16, right?  This is admittedly very flimsy logic.  Regarding Oregon +9.5, I think that this game will be close.  Wisconsin likes to slow it down and play low scoring games.  If that's the case, 9.5 is too many points to give in a tournament game against two relatively close teams.  No one ever sees Oregon, so the logic is they must suck.  The Pac 10 or 12 or whatever the fuck it is now is a monster conference.  What could go wrong here?    

Tournament record= 4-2-1

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Tournament Day 2

Yesterday worked out very well.  I went 3-0-1 against the spread, pretended to know a few things about college basketball, and had a few Stone Go-To IPAs.  This is what is referred to as “a very successful day” in Western Society for an adult male.  Have I set my sights too low on what success means?  Yes, I probably have, but I won’t let this bring me down.  Instead, I will take the money I won yesterday and chase further triumph by wagering on more games that I really have no rational reason to bet on. 

First up, I am taking Duke -13 over Mercer.  Betting on Duke is sort of like taking Darth Vader over the scrappy loveable Jedi Knights.  I realize it is bad karma to hitch my wagon to these elitist creeps.  However, it seems that there’s a lot of shit talk coming from so called “experts” on sports talk saying that Mercer might win this game.  As far as I can tell, that is because there were a couple of upsets yesterday and these people have caught the fever in trying to predict yet another surprising finish.  Assuming Duke goes out and tries to score a shitload of points and turn this into a scoring contest, I think Mercer hangs in through the first half and then looks dejected on the bench with 8:34 left in the game down by 22.

I am also taking Kentucky -6.5 because of the sheer amount of pre-tournament talk about how disappointing that team has been.  Make no mistake; this team is really a professional team of 19 year olds that will be playing in sparse minutes of forgettable NBA games next year.  The expectations that they would win almost every game they had just by showing up is probably fair.  Today they play Kansas State who my blogger friend pointed out has only won twice (2) games on the road all season.  That doesn’t give me much of a reason to believe that they will suddenly show up on a neutral court that probably traveled 11,000 Wildcat fans and punk Kentucky.  This is also probably a bad karma wager, but what the hell…        

I’m taking Virginia Commonwealth -6 over Stephen F. Austin.  There is no way a guy named Steve can possibly play well enough on his own to beat a team of five motivated college kids from VCU.  Granted, I know nothing about Stephen F. Austin.  There is the slight chance that this might not be an individual that somehow won enough games against full teams to qualify for the tournament and may be an actual university.  I don’t have a lot of time today, so I couldn’t look it up.  Even on the off chance this is a school, I can’t believe a school founded on the guiding principles of The Six Million Dollar Man TV series on ABC in the 1970s could attract top tier basketball talent.