Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Beach Country

I'm not exactly sure when this happened, but I am alarmed. When did the unholy marriage of beach culture and popular country music happen? As if Jimmy Buffet wasn't bad enough, now I have to endure pre-fab rubes in jeans and cowboy boots singing light-rock-with-a-twang on the beach? I am assuming everyone reading this has been to the beach at least once in their lives. Question...Did you ever consider wearing a pair of jeans and cowboy boots on that outing? Nothing like wading trough the surf and building sand castles with a pair of Wranglers and snakeskin boots, eh?

I think this whole thing started with Jimmy Buffet. Now, I hate Jimmy Buffet, and you should too. Is my position too strong? Well, please consider...

1) His music is awful. There is no debate necessary on that point.

2) That whole "wink of an eye, let's sweet talk the leathery gals smoking the Marlboro's and drinking the Miller Lites at the Sand Bar" culture is without any redeeming qualities.

3) Nothing is more depressing than the 45+ suburban Parrothead crowd that pretends to be "crazy" on their annual outing to the 20,000+ capacity Music Shed. Like sheep in their matching "wacky" Hawaiian shirts, they'll drink a gutful of $9.00 Coors Light drafts until they pass out with their chunky wives in the back of their rented limos on the way home to pay the babysitter before her midnight cutoff time. News flash...Walking around a corporate sanctioned event with a light beer buzz doesn't make you "crazy". It makes you a typical American consumer.

As if that situation wasn't bad enough, this whole Kenny Chesney thing has exploded. Clearly some experts did their market research and discovered that the same jackasses that went to the Buffet shows would probably go to a different version of it, and if you gift wrapped it in a slight twang and dumbed it down even further (although you would think that was impossible), you could make even more dough.

Just when things looked like they couldn't get any worse, the sewer lines break at Browns Stadium during last week's Kenny Chesney Lame-O-Rama. 50,000 fans of this horrific music were forced to wade through their own excrement in their party flip flops as all the sewage drains overflowed. And you thought there was no Supreme Being?

Random Notes: That Sierra Nevada Summerfest sure is tasty...I've got to hand it to the people that put together Ottofest, a public party in rural Western NY. Plenty of good live music, food, beer, and the freedom to do what you want to do. People have come to this party for years, and compete with each other on costumes and intricate campsites. It's great to see people being creative and participating just for the sheer joy of doing so. Mark it on your calendar for next year. You'll thank me for it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate Favorites

Through a horrific turn of events, I found myself driving around today in a Ford Focus without a sound system of any kind. Sometimes it is darkest just before the dawn. I was able to put that terrible experience behind me just long enough to bet against Julian Taverez and the Bosox and Bartolo Colon and the Angels. Baseball is a great game to bet. Even the worst teams win 40% of the time. You just have to pick your spots. Colon is clearly not back from injury at 100% yet, and Taverez is a 6 inning pitcher at best. How often do you get to go to sleep with two winners in your pockets as huge dogs? Even better, how often do you get to cash in on betting the Royals and Devil Rays? I'm gonna feel like "The Man" in that Focus tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Bob Dylan Concert

On Saturday we had started the night at Lago in Tremont for some pre show dinner before going to see Bob Dylan. I strongly recommend going to eat there immediately. I’ve been there twice and both meals have been superb. In fact, I might have had the best salad I’ve eaten in a couple years with their pear salad. The special that night was a papparadelle and scallops with spicy red pepper cream sauce. It was a terrific meal, and the ambiance on the patio was just what you are looking for on a lazy Saturday early evening.

Shortly after leaving the restaurant, a solid wall of blue gray clouds approached that set the perfect backdrop for the horrific task of parking on the west bank of the Flats. The term “clusterfuck” must have been invented to describe the situation that unfolded. Vehicles were all being funneled into a dead end street that ended into a parking lot that had been long since filled up. Making the grid lock even worse was people’s inability to recognize the situation, and then turn their vehicles around in the limited space. Dust that had been kicked up by the oncoming cloud line cast a film on everything. In short, just another delightful evening here in the Lord’s Paradise that is Cleveland, OH.

While turning around in the Christie’s parking lot, we got unbelievably lucky and stumbled onto a recently vacated space. Before the attendant got wise to our not paying, we abandoned the vehicle and made our way to the venue. The Nautica, Plain Dealer Pavilion, or whatever the hell the “Corporate Sponsored Mega Entertainment Tent” is now called is an OK venue. It sits backed up to the Cuyahoga River, and offers good sight lines from almost any seat. The down side is that the impossibly small plastic chairs on the floor are ratcheted impossibly close to each other. You drop $67 for your “gold circle” seat (with the $13 “convenience charge”), and you would believe that you would have more comfort than this. It’s like if you flew coach on an 18 seat across row on Wal Mart Airlines from Sydney to LA. My shoulders touched the person on either side of me. To my left was my girlfriend (no problem). To my right was a guy that looked like Paul Giamatti. Not as nice…However, our seats were close enough that I could have hit Bob Dylan with a beer bottle (if I were so inclined).

Bob started out on guitar with the full band for “Cat’s in the Well” to get a groove going. Things looked very promising as he appeared to be engaged and in strong voice (for him). Now, let’s have a frank discussion about Bob Dylan’s voice. In 1966, it was referred to as “an acquired taste” like scotch or truffles. Now it’s a bluesy croak with what may be the most limited range in the history of popular music performance. But, Bob is smart. Unlike a band like the Rolling Stones who continue to prance around in tight little outfits and try to be their version of “current”, Bob has played it right. He works with the cards he has been dealt, and has transformed himself into some kind of barnstorming 1930’s song and dance man. (Which is always what he jokingly referred to himself in early interviews.)

Since I am on the subject, it has always befuddled me why bands like the Stones don’t do what the blues greats they first emulated did in the early 1960s. When Howlin Wolf played with them in London, he didn’t step on stage in a mod outfit like some dandy. No way. He showed up in clothes that befit a man of his age and stature. He walked out on stage like I’m HowlinMotherfuckinWolf and did what he did. When Bob Dylan stepped out on stage last Saturday, he was dressed in a suit befitting a 1920s gangster complete with a fedora. Did it work? All I know is the Paul Giamatti guy said, “There he is! There he is! That’s Bob Dylan!”. (By the way, when I see Keith Richards, I think “That guy looks like a scarecrow that’s had a tough season out in the old punkin’ patch.” I think that he thinks he looks like a rough and tumble pirate.)

Dylan has once again shown his uncanny ability to redefine himself. He has actually turned that bullfrog croak of a voice into a strength. His current blues and Americana song book structures make his songs sound like they could be from 1918…or last week. By using what are really the only options open to him, Dylan has made himself “current” and relevant. Why don’t these other guys get it?

Dylan then went through four classic back catalogue songs, rearranged to fit his current strengths. “Watching the River Flow” was especially strong (and timely with the show on the riverside). The band really locked into a strong groove, and Bob’s vocal was of the moment. “It’s Alright Ma” suffered with the new arrangement though, as the melody (and hook) were lost in a rather tuneless reading of one of my favorites.

The band is different than the last time I saw him. Danny Freeman plays lead guitar, and Stu Kimball is almost invisible on rhythm. Freeman appears to be still finding his way in the band, and seems tentative at times. It’s as if he’s afraid of getting in trouble by stepping on Bob. On the more “rock” numbers, the band doesn’t kick nearly as well as his old band. It seems like they are all looking for Freeman to take charge, but Freeman is unwilling to do so. On the “Modern Times” and quieter “Love and Theft” material, this band really hits their stride. Bass player Tony Garnier acts like an onstage QB and lets the tasteful leads shine. These guys are all ringers, and I’m sure in time they’ll find their way with all the material.

Bob switched over to keyboards for the rest of the show from “The Levee’s Gonna Break”. It was a great start, as I thought that particular song was the high point of the show. Bob sang confidently and strong, and the band gave searing solos throughout. It was almost a revival like groove, as several otherwise placid audience members got up to shake their asses. The material slowed down as they ran though a really nice “My Back Pages” and some “Modern Times”/“Love and Theft” material. Especially well played was “Spirit on the Water”, as the delicate changes were handled playfully. Bob’s organ playing veered from tasteful to “hockey rink”, but through this part of the show he was right on.

The only real clunker of the night came on a turgid “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” that suffered from Dylan’s primitive organ in place of the classic “Blonde on Blonde” lines. The sluggish tempo, inability to drive the changes, and a horrible vocal chorus by Bob doomed this from the start. I think they even bailed out on it early as even the band realized it was awful.

A nice “Nattie Moore” got them back on track for a pretty strong “Highway 61” set closer. As with most of the tour, they encored with “Thunder on the Mountain” coupled with a Dylan war horse (in this case “Blowin in the Wind”). At that, we hit the exits to try and avoid the traffic situation and catch the Arturo Gatti fight. In the 10 times I’ve seen him since 1986, this was a top 3 show. The set list was strong, and it was really a great representation of where he is right now as an artist. A night very well spent…

Set List

Cat’s in the Well
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
Watching the River Flow
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
To Ramona
(Bob on guitar)
The Levee’s Gonna Break
My Back Pages
Honest With Me
Spirit on the Water
Things Have Changed
When the Deal Goes Down
Stuck Inside of Mobile
Nettie Moore
Highway 61


Thunder on the Mountain
Blowin in the Wind

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Dog Days

A lot of weird shit happens this time of year. I think it might have something to do with the fact that some people think it's a good idea to combat 95 degree heat and 60% humidity by rifleing down 17 beers. Inevitably that leads to thinking it over and loading up that revolver that has been laying around. Next thing you know, you're in an orange jumpsuit and all over the news you see the same video clip of some hillbilly crying her eyes out saying, "He told Billy Ray to turn that Molly Hatchet down, but Billy Ray said "Not until Bobby Ingram's guitar solo is over I ain't!", and that was all it took. He went crazy and shot up everybody."

You gotta stay in your shoes this time of year and not let things bother you. Things like...How this October (let's say) the Dodgers won't get the home field advantage in the World Series over (let's say) the Angels because 3 months ago in an exhibition game (a.k.a. the All-Star Game) Victor Martinez of the Indians hit a two run jack off of Mets closer Billy Wagner to give the AL the win and home field advantage. Sure, over a 162 game season the NL team may have earned a better record, but one pitch on a July night between two guys not otherwise involved negated that half year of effort. That's the kind of thing a fella might get stuck in his craw while sitting in his 115 degree attic apartment.

...Or maybe it bothers you when people don't understand the concept of the left lane. Maybe you're going to have your scrotum ripped off by your boss and nailed up to the bulletin board by the copier to serve as a warning to others that dare to be seven minutes late to work. That might have you in a bit of a hurry. Normally you would be able to utilize "the passing lane" in the left. For some reason though, many citizens do not understand the very concept of this lane. Let me clear up the confusion once and for all. If you are traveling in a 55 mph zone at exactly 55 mph and a car behind you is traveling at 55.00008 mph, you must clear the left lane and let them pass. Let's say you are traveling in the left lane in a 55 mph zone at 213 mph, and someone approaches at any speed greater than yours, you must move to let them pass. Why is this a difficult concept for people to understand? Why must I pass the puffy, open mouthed, dimwitted humanity to the right almost every morning? And why is it they drive next to each other jamming up traffic for a mile behind them? (Often in a Buick I may add...) This is exactly the kind of powderkeg of a situation I am talking about...It's the kind of thing a guy might think over while trying to beat the heat.

When you get down to it, you have two choices. Get rid of that nasty revolver or switch to Beck's Light. (The beer that appears to have less alcohol than a case of Sharps. In fact, the Beachland Ballroom has appropriated our speculation on this fact, and has had many employees take the Ken Miller created "Beck's Light Challenge". The challenge is to see how many you can drink and still have no alcohol take effect. Many have taken the challenge, and as far as I know none have beaten Beck's Light at their own game. It's the perfect beer for guys that work with metal stamping equipment. I think that Walenda fella used to knock back a couple before walking those tight ropes of his. He eventually switched to Erie Brewing Company "Railbender", and we all know how that worked out.)

Random Notes: I picked up a whole bunch of new (to me) music lately. If you're a fan of the Drive By Truckers/Uncle Tupelo, check out the Dexateens "Hardware Healing" CD. The Cogburns "Pay Up Sucker" is perfect for you if you like the real rock n roll of the Mono Men/Mudhoney/Hate Bombs/Cynics. I have to tell you, speaking of cynics, I was one in regards to Amy Winehouse. You don't very often see that much hype on anything that turns out well. She's the real deal. Imagine if the Detroit Cobras wrote their own songs and were not talented with a good voice but blessed. Her voice is unbelievable. Some of the songs are a little dodgy, but Wow...that scrawny little brat can sing...I read a review of that Built To Spill show last week that said the sound sucked. Before anyone jumps down the Grog Shop's sound person, I'll bet the guitars were turned to 11 as the band is used to playing in much larger rooms. "Hey man! No one can hear anything except the wash of your guitar! Turn it down!....No way man! I don't want to lose my tone." So to those of you that couldn't hear anything except that wall of noise, be comfortable with the fact that the guitar player maintained his tone for your ticket price. Party. ...Kistler wines are so good, but they have really gone overboard on the pricing. Their current release price for single vineyard chardonnays is $70 a bottle. They were (an already expensive) $50 just a few years back. Making matters worse is the snotty attitude they maintain from whoever it is that heads up the mailing list at the vineyard. Look, no one is doubting the quality in the bottle, but no need to treat me like some creep while you are cashing my check. I think I'm out. Damn, it is good stuff though...We're off this weekend, so I'm going to check out Bob Dylan. I'll give a full report afterwards.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate Erie

If you want to know what it was like in the United States in years past, you don’t need to invent a time machine. Just take a quick drive to Erie PA. You’ll see clothes and hair styles from days gone by with shocking regularity. For example, last time I was there I saw a guy in a mesh football jersey with coaches shorts. I saw a woman with hair teased up like she was going to go to a Ratt concert. And this was at about 6:30pm in a strip plaza parking lot. Don’t even think about the non ironic Members Only jacket with scary porn mustache I saw on the guy pumping gas into his Trans Am. (Maybe he had driven that Trans Am so fast he drove in from 1985. Who the hell knows…)

But Erie is more than a home to a disproportionate number of people trapped in the past. You can have a real good time in Erie. But you have to play it smart. If you make the wrong turn, you can be drinking a pitcher of Miller Lite, eating “Buoys” (a horrific creation Satan himself created of a breaded deep fried egg served with some sort of “dipping sauce”), and smoking packs of cigarettes with brain dead locals in some joint with a pool table and plenty of Bob Seger on the jukebox. Follow these rules, and you can enjoy a decent little town with some wonderfully eccentric free thinkers (if you know where to look). But be careful because there is only about 120-150 of these people in the entire city. The rest of them look roughly like Ron Ashton does now. But with really uncool clothes.

1) Visit Erie between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I cannot stress this enough. Erie is a very pleasant place in the summer. It is a terrible Hell Hole to even drive through from Nov 1-May 31st. It is cold, wet, nasty, inhospitable, and depressing. The only things to do are drink and smoke while wondering what the hell went wrong. In the summer? Hanging out on the water with a cool breeze wafting in from Canada? It’s friggin enchanting!

2) Drink Erie Brewing Company beer. This time of year the Presque Isle Pilsner is the way to go. Light and extremely quaffable, it has way more character than than the typical macro brew. If you’re feeling up to it, go for the Railbender Ale. It has 9% alcohol, so it can give you an attitude adjustment in short order. If for some reason you find yourself marooned there from Jan 1-April 15, turn to the Red Rider. That’s sort of like malt liquor for people that don’t live in a ghetto. I’m not sure what the alcohol content is, but I think it’s roughly that of a bottle of decent Puerto Rican rum. It’ll help you forget….

3) Stick close to the water. If you don't have a boat, rent one. There isn't much in the way of nightlife unless a good band is playing at The Beer Mug. Sure, there's always a chance to see cover/tribute bands in clubs with dart boards and NASCAR beer promo posters, but is that really any way to spend your leisure time? Of course not. Sitting on the beach with a big bonfire after a day of bobbing around in Lake Erie? Now you've got something...

4) When going out to eat, try to eat Italian cuisine from an independently owned restaurant. Erie has some pretty decent little Italian restaurants. Everything else in Erie is served deep fried in a plastic basket. I think if you ordered oatmeal, you'd get it deep fried in a nacho bowl. It is common in Erie restaurants to put french fries on top of salads. No shit, I am not making this up. Also, if possible, bring your own wine and pay a corkage fee. As far as I know, it is not possible to buy good wine from a public restaurant there. Unless you consider Black Opal to be good wine. If so, bon appetit.

5) Leave after 2 days (maximum). You have done it all. It's time to leave now.

Random Notes: Boy that new Stooges album sucks. Did Iggy put more than 10 minutes into the lyrics? When you are going to be compared to Raw Power, you might want to give it at least 50% or so...The NBA draft is the least compelling event ever...Any adult that goes to watch "The Transformers" movie should not be allowed to vote in any upcoming election (unless they are there to accompany a child aged 14 or under). How can anyone that chooses to spend their time going to see a movie based on a toy going to unravel the complexities of Iraq, social security, the environment, corporate lobbyists, etc.? And don't even start on me for being some kind of elitist. Let's say some guy comes up to you and says, "I went to see Transformers last night with my girlfriend, and I gotta tell ya, it kicked ass!". Would you put that person in charge of your savings account? Would you even put them in charge of buying a pizza? I didn't think so. Admit it. I'm on to something here...Underrated pitchers: Paul Byrd, Aaron Harang, Kelvim Escobar, Derek Lowe. Overrated pitchers: Jon Garland, Barry Zito, Curt Schilling, Scott Kazmir...I pussed out and stayed home instead of going to see Built To Spill in the Grog Shop tonight. As Bill Walton would say, "Terrible Decision!". If you don't put in an effort, life will pass you by...