30Hz Bl-g

Ramblings at the frequency of 30Hz


A Fiction(al) Disillusionment


Posted By on Jan 24, 2013

I’m going to type this out in a flurry before all this alcohol wears off and I lose the  drive, the inspiration, whatever it is that drives me to spew disappointment. Pardon the typos and half-baked thoughts. They are what they are. The ramblings of a mad, semi-inebriated lunatic.

It was nice seeing you again tonight, old friend.

I sat at dinner tonight — I took my nine-month old out for pizza and beer (she did not care for the Irish fare on tap and elected to instead partake of whole milk). I sat there, watching my daughter mash puffs and pizza crust in her face and occasionally taking a glance up at the muted ESPN on the television. Per usual, ESPN was detailing the many reasons I should not care about either the Lakers or Celtics, yet continually devoting airtime to the very topic. But I digress. I spaced out for a minute, trying to think of the last word of fiction I’d written.

I couldn’t remember exactly.

I’d last left a story 15,000 words in. It had to do with teenagers running a haunted forest attraction. The fictional chainsaw wielder that the main character used as the mascot for the entertainment had apparently come to life, killing “innocents.” I’d tried to bridge literary fiction with genre horror. It has humor and gore and passages of great internal analysis. In short, unpublishable. 15,000 words describing a severed penis has more chance of getting published. And it has nothing to do with my quality of writing, which is, intermittently, of reasonable merit.

Dr. Chainsaw will rise again.

Dr. Chainsaw will rise again.

Since then I’d written a few short memoirs, thousands of words about James Bond, music reviews, blog entries, but no fiction. Why? Writing fiction has always fueled my desire to write. Fiction made me want to be a writer. Quite frankly, I write these short memoirs because they get published. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing them, but they aren’t my first choice in reading and they aren’t my first choice in writing. So why the fiction drought?

I’d been reading more One Story issues. I’d been reading more online Literary Magazines. I’d been reading magazines devoted to writing.

Some blonde on the TV with a Farrah Fawcett haircut is still talking about either the Lakers or the Celtics. Where’s Linda Cohn when you need her?

Oh hai, Linda.

Oh hai, Linda.

But why is all this reading a bad thing? Reading other published writing tends to convince me I’ve made rather poor decisions with my life. It is rare that I read something in a lit mag that inspires me. I consider 90% of the short fiction that gets published in these so-called proponents of creative thought to be more of the same old same old. I’m under no delusions about my own abilities. I also know that if I were to write fiction I want to read, I wouldn’t get published. I know this because I never read it.

I shouldn’t say never.

I should say hardly m’f’ing ever.

I get so excited when I read a piece of short fiction that really tries to be something different. People are writing them. I read quite a few in my MFA program. I read friends trying different things. I hold a grudge against the guy that beat my story in the monthly Bartleby Snopes competition but I sent him a tweet telling him so. I also told him I was jealous of his story and loved reading it. This kind of shit is rare. And it’s only getting worse.

This trend toward sincerity and earnestness, a refocus on the New Yorker ideal is only growing more pervasive despite the glut of new online literary magazines run by recent post-graduates. Pardon my following grand generalities but in my experience the generation following directly behind me, the children of the mid- to late-80s take themselves so seriously there’s no room for jest — even if through jest, you aim to reach a greater truth about the human condition. So these Literary Magazines are growing in numbers, offering more avenues for readership (a good thing) but they are also doing nothing more than perpetuating a status quo. They believe that their particular Lit Mag, little more than a Blog, is above reproach. That perfecting a kind of ultimate stasis is the only way to succeed. If that makes sense, huzzah. I’m still working the logistics out in my head. The problem is that many of the newly founded literary magazines don’t realize how frivolous they really are. They have little understanding of their place in this environment. Another magazine publishing earnest fiction. Be still my telltale heart. They claim to take the best of all varieties of writing. Sure, a few live up to this. But for most it’s lip service. They don’t want to explicitly limit themselves to Raymond Carver wannabees (but they do, because that’s what they see was “quality” fiction). Is this sour grapes? Hell yes it is. But it’s also a sadness that the ideal toward which I strive is little more than a Chance card in Lit Mag Monopoly. At least in real Monopoly I might get a $25 bank error in my favor.

 

The New Yorker, because sometimes cartoons don't need to make sense.

 

The New Yorker, because sometimes you don’t need to entertain to be published.

I asked a band this week in an interview: What does success mean to you? They didn’t really have an answer. Success changes as you grow older and as you accomplish new things. So what is success to me? I don’t have an answer either. All I know is that I don’t have it. And I’m not even sure I know how to get there anymore. It used to be so clear. If I write and continue to write, I will be successful. I don’t know anymore. Maybe it’s not even in me to begin with. Maybe I’m destined to limit myself in everything I do. The onus is on me. If I am to be a so-called “real” writer I need to write no matter the environment or external influences. I understand that. But the drive to create is fragile. And, perhaps to my benefit (emotion is good) and detriment (barriers = bad), I allow myself to get caught up in all that other noise.

When I look for inspiration, sometimes I just need to remind myself that Mel Brooks wrote this scene… and then I think, again, that anything might just be possible.

 

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Our Amorphous Identities


Posted By on Jan 11, 2013

I’ve been thinking about identities lately. The way we see ourselves. The way others see us.

It all used to be so much easier. Back in high school, we were assigned particular descriptors that we, in turn, also stuffed into our sack like snow globes from Jackson Hole and called them our own. But they were no more, or no less unique than any other snow globe from Jackson Hole. We liked these identities because they were as much prescribed as they were chosen by our own known strengths and fears.

For example:

On my very first day of middle school I was the “kid from Kalamazoo that lived in a motel.” That’s all anyone knew about me. I also happened to be the tallest kid in class. Which made me stand out, if just a bit.

On my very first day of high school I was “the baseball kid from Detroit.” That’s all anyone knew about me. I played baseball and I hailed from Detroit. How they knew this about me without ever having spoke to me I’ll never know.

These initial impressions may or may not endure. Until the day I left middle school and moved to Pittsburgh, most people remembered that I’d lived in a motel. My house was closing, whatever. But the thing stuck. In addition to being the dorky jock that got along with most everyone.

High school was more cruel. People became more cruel. And I became more cruel to myself as a result. I hung out with the “stoners,” but I wasn’t a stoner. I wasn’t a jock because although I was good at sports, my best sport wasn’t until the spring. Plus the jocks were punks and slackers and I didn’t want to hang out with them. The preps and cool kids didn’t accept new applications. Therefore I settled into a wonderful little circle of friends connecting the geeks and the stoners. Life is just one big Venn Diagram. Labels are wonderful, aren’t they? The way we can corral everyone in our lives into neat packages.

Point is, I went from being a dorky, amiable jock to being a guy that didn’t fit. As a result I was an angry, out of sorts, depressed teenager.

So I switched schools. I went back to a private school with fewer kids and genres of people became microgenres. I was the baseball and movie guy. I wrote movie reviews for the paper and a friend and I started an early movies reviews website on that spanking new internet. We even had a feature in a Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Movie guys. I watched a lot of movies. And I know a crapton too. Mandel and Patrick’s Movie Corner. We were featured on MTV’s Adam Curry’s entertainment page. True story. People used to consider my knowledge about movies extensive. Some might have called me an expert (though, it’s all relative to other 16-19 year olds).

The point of the rumble is this. Who are we now? Out in the real world? Do we even get to choose anymore? We could be twenty different things to twenty different people.

To one group I’m the dad that takes his daughter to school. And some of those people that know more about me might probably consider me the barely employed dad that takes his daughter to school because the wife has the big job. Oy. Others consider me a graphic designer because I do pro-bono stuff for a local non-profit. I’m sure some people consider me a writer. Others consider me a writer about music because of this site and my Twitter feed. If I’m lucky, my friends just see me as Jay.

But how do I see myself anymore? Father? Writer? Slacker? Coffee addict? Procrastinator? Compulsive smartphone checker? How far down the rabbit hole do we go before we just don’t like what we see anymore? I’d like to be “the prolific writer with two kids and a wife.” I think that might be nice. And I do write a lot. But I’m everywhere and nowhere at once. I’m churning out music reviews, Bond essays, fiction and creative non-fiction here and there. I’m copyediting and copywriting.

At heart, I know who I am, but do I have the courage to be that person in the real world? Or will it forever be a character that I’m more comfortable writing about, expressing on the page than I am living it. But then again, I suppose that’s a plight many writers must face. The notion that writing about regrets is easier than initiating real change. That writing more and more without ever really writing towards a goal is just another way to avoid the hard stuff. The stuff that, in your mind, really matters. If you’re even lucky to know what that is.

Then again, maybe I’ll just go back to being a movie guy. It was all just so much easier then. Let’s all do it for a week. Let’s go back to being that “guy” or “girl” we were in high school. As an experiment. I’m going to do nothing but watch movies and hit in the batting cage. This time we’ll do it without the teenage neurosis.

Will we find relief, knowing that we fit again?

 

 

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Today I launched the first of a 23-part essay about the James Bond series of cinemas over on the Sundog Lit Mag. I encourage everyone to journey over to the Sundog Blog to read,  comment and join in what we hope to be an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction, etc. The entire project will be collected on the Of [In]human Bond[age] Tumblr.

Of [In]human Bond[age]: Skyfall and the Question of Spacetime
originally published on Sundog Lit

Daniel Craig in Skyfall

The Bond film franchise, now aged fifty, has endured long enough to have had the luxury of multiple reinventions and course corrections, informed, directly, by the rapid shifts of the sociological and political tides. Bond is both a reflection of our deepest fears and of our guiltiest aspirations. Women want him and men want to be him, so the saying goes. Or went, perhaps. Our modern cynicism and over-intellectualization has re-rendered that phrase. James Bond has become the man that women want, in theory… if he weren’t such a serial womanizer with a thrill-addiction. He is still, however, the man that men want to be, no caveats. Draw your own assumptions about how the collective male id has evolved over the last fifty years. Bond has become a character in our modern commedia, played by six different actors (all informed by the original on-screen Bond, Sean Connery) and parodied and re-imagined the world over, no more or less human than Pierrot the fool.

Taken at face value, however, James Bond’s cinematic escapades in international espionage are a collection of stories taken from the career of one man. Independent scholars John Griswold and Henry Chancellor have taken it upon themselves to assemble the original Ian Fleming novels into chronological order based on the events contained within. The films, however, prove more problematic. If the latest, excellent entry into Bond’s resume, Skyfall, has cemented one notion about chronology it is that the Bond films cannot be treated as isolated escapades along an individual timeline. Not even suspension of disbelief can atone for Skyfall’s temporal incongruities (even within the movie itself). Must we then consider the Bond series as multiple serials distinguished only by the actor playing the role? (Also made problematic by recurring, self-referential leitmotifs.) Or is it something more complicated, like the intertwining plots of a collection of linked short stories with no particular start or finish?

To offer a simple comparison, consider the various cinematic iterations of the Sherlock Holmes character, widely considered the most prolific character in the history of film. Holmes has been played by Ellie Norwood, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch among many others. None of these film series extend beyond the character playing Sherlock.

What director Sam Mendes has wrought with Skyfall forces a re-interpretation (or at the very least encourages a more scholastic examination) of the Bond film chronology. The first Bond film, Dr. No, offers no origin story of the character. Bond is, already, an experienced and expert British intelligence agent with a weakness for the ladies. It is, per say, in medias res. It is only in Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd film that we are offered a glimpse into his past with any clarity. And it wasn’t until Daniel Craig assumed the role in Casino Royale (the 21st movie, but 1st Fleming novel) that the Bond character was considered a newly minted and irresponsible rookie agent with more significant depth. Bond has been irresponsible for decades, but only now was he considered a “rookie.” The fact that audiences simultaneously balked and swooned at the novelty of James Bond falling in *gasp* love and then seeking revenge for the death of that significant other, speaks volumes about the character development up to this point.

*Skyfall spoilers ahead*

Furthermore, Skyfall introduces audiences to a James Bond with deceased parents, motivation for joining the British Secret Service, to his childhood home in Scotland and the underground pathway in which James Bond hid after the death of those aforementioned parents. James Bond has a childhood home!?! Inconceivable. But these facts aren’t problematic for the character’s chronology, necessarily. They are only problematic because of our external assumptions that James Bond is immune to emotions that would detract from A) womanizing and B) eventually, complete his assigned mission. If Spock had any desire to chase tail, he might be closer to our collective understanding (or previously held understanding) of James Bond.

Skyfall’s specific chronological schisms occur, however, because he is allegedly a bit of a green agent. Bond has been given his first big break, two films earlier, in Casino Royale and spent the entirety of Quantum of Solace as a bit of a vengeful rogue. A major to-do has been made in Skyfall that James Bond may or may not be forced into retirement because he’s lost his edge. After a particularly botched mission to open the film, James is alienated, lost and considered dead by British Intelligence. In reality he’s experiencing a kind of mid-life crisis and drinking himself into oblivion somewhere along the Turkish coast. When Bond at last returns (somewhat reluctantly) to defend Britain from a mastermind cyber terrorist, he’s a shell of himself and the film dances around (albeit rather eloquently) the “I’m getting too old for this shit” over-the-hill hero catchphrase. The notion has traction because as an audience we have knowledge of Bond actor Daniel Craig’s age (44) but it runs contrary to the earlier assertion of Bond’s greenhorn status. At this point I’m not even prepared to acknowledge the chronological disturbance brought about by a sprightly 58-year-old Roger Moore appearing in A View to a Kill. But how are to reconcile that even within 143 minutes of Skyfall Bond waffles between being a unpredictable rookie and a potential retiree?

Follow me further down the rabbit hole. Bond fans are then treated to the return of the Aston Martin DB5, the vehicle most identified with James Bond, the vehicle that first appeared in 1964’s Goldfinger (starring Sean Connery). It is unveiled to the audience as if Craig’s James Bond has a pre-existing relationship with the car. In truth it is not Craig’s Bond that has a relationship with the car, but us, having brought our collective knowledge of the entire Bond oeuvre into the theater with us. The same principle functions when a supporting character in the movie, an agent that has followed Bond on his globetrotting, reveals herself (after resigning from field duty to a clerical position within MI-6) to be none other than Eve… Eve Moneypenny. A character played by Lois Maxwell in the very first Bond adventure, 1962’s Dr. No.

The temporal mischief makes almost your brain hurt more than the time-travel narrative in the Terminator series. Almost. But we are rescued from certain brain cramp by the above-stated notion that these Bond movies are interweaving and unlimited, bridged, almost seamlessly, by our own pre-existing knowledge of the character – a proto-prescience perhaps. This proto-prescience encourages James Bond filmmakers to break the fourth wall with nudge-nudge-wink-winks that make no sense in the isolated conditions of the individual film. Not only are we carrying around the baggage of all other Bonds, but so too are the filmmakers.

That Skyfall succeeds at being an excellent film despite gleefully throwing about the requisite Bond baggage is no small miracle. Of the recent films, say from the Brosnan-era forward, only 1995’s Goldeneye really succeeded at being both. If you go back further you’d be hard pressed to find a film that qualifies, objectively, as both solid filmmaking and a solid Bond film (according to the standard set by the Connery-era) until arguably On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. The entire Roger Moore-era can largely be chalked up to a shift in aesthetics brought about by a response to the cinematic trends of the 1970’s, nevermind the challengers and parodies threatening the Bond status quo.

That’s a lot of baggage in between and a lot of baggage left unsaid. And based on the small examples taken from the latest Bond films, that’s a lot of incongruity. The notion of a infinitely recursive character with increasingly larger baggage has inspired me to go back and re-watch these movies in order from the very beginning to see what threads might evolve from movie to movie, to see what kind of specific evolution of the character (internally or externally imposed) I might have missed by watching them out of order. It’s possible there might be some thread to reconcile and bind all of these different Bonds and temporal anomalies under one roof. It’s also possible that we’ve all just been duped by our own over-intellectualization of a fundamentally two-dimensional character. Either way, it’s an excuse to watch a lot of Bond movies and wax philosophical.

Please visit Sundog Lit to leave comments and join the discussion. Sundog will be hosting a regular screening/live tweet series for each of the James Bond movies starting with Dr. No. Details to come. The result of those live tweet conversations will inspire my subsequent essays on each of the films.

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Hell hath lukewarmed


Posted By on Nov 28, 2012

I’m not prepared to say that Hell has frozen over, but there’s definitely been some cooling, some arctic caps have melted and it’s no longer the fire and brimstone it once was. It’s more equatorial.

By the way, shout out to the good people of Hell, Michigan, who probably have to put up with a lot of “Hell has frozen over” jokes every winter. That’s got to wear on a person.

Hell, Michigan

But to the point of the rumble. Those few stalkers that keep up with my tweets know that I purchased a Macbook Pro recently to replace my four-year-old Dell laptop. Some backstory. Ten years ago, I was a huge Dell supporter. I wouldn’t have dreamed of ordering a computer anywhere else. I rolled my eyes at Mac people who told me that I needed to spend twice as much on a computer with roughly the same innards. For what I needed, writing, editing, web browsing, I didn’t need the half-step forward. I paid $600 for my laptops. And that was how it was going to be.

Fast forward ten years. My wife has a bricked Dell laptop with a screen hardware problem that I can’t bring myself to fix. My former Dell has required three wipes in four years and it shut down permanently when I bumped the front left wrist pad with my elbow (this happened before, but after a couple of weeks, it miraculously started again). I’ve had two faulty HPs (one desktop, one laptop) and another Dell desktop at work, functions more consistently, as a boat anchor. The fucking facts of the matter are thus. I am perfectly capable of repairing and fixing software flaws. But it takes time. And every single one of these machines failed before the natural life span (permanently or temporarily) because of hardware. It’s aggravating. I used words to describe these machines that I never knew existed. The ones I had in my lexicon weren’t harsh enough.

With two kids, I hardly have any time to myself. The last thing I want to do is spend it returning my computer situation to the status quo. A computer’s only job is to work when I need it to work. Am I asking too much here?

So after months of deliberation, literally months — two weeks without a laptop at all — I bought a Macbook. Something I swore I’d never do for a number of reasons. The foremost of which was my assertion that you can get a better computer for less money. I still believe this. HOWEVER, I must add a caveat. You can get a better computer (speaking in terms of power under the hood) for less money, but the PC you’d be getting has probably pretended to be a Macbook anyway. Everyone wants to make the Mac and sell a brand like Apple. They are, after all the master of marketing. I didn’t buy all of these PCs because I secretly wanted a Mac. I wanted PCs.

Or did I?

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5skuYPa_fY[/tube]

An open letter to PC manufacturers: Stop making multi-touch pads that don’t work. Stop off-centering the touchpad so that you can fit more crap on the keyboard. If I’m typing and my palm is resting on your touchpad and making it bounce all over the screen that’s a design flaw. Make the keys responsive but not stiff or, conversely, without any response whatsoever. Bottom line: just make your computer pleasant to use: a very nice keyboard and touchpad is an excellent start. And a start that would have allowed me to remain a PC user.

So here I am, with my overpriced laptop (almost three times more than I’d ever paid for a laptop)… writing a bl-g post at a coffee shop. I’m such a fucking caricature it makes me sick. But just a little… and a little less each day. I set up my Macbook to run Windows through BootCamp for some necessary Windows programs. I thought I’d still live in Windows land. I’d planned to put a Windows ’95 sticker on the back of this thing as a last act of defiance. But I started to look at myself more closely. I have two iPods, an iPad and a Macbook. It would be pretty hard to stage a resistance against the institution when you’re bathing in their propaganda. It’s just hypocritical.

So you know what?

Fuck it.

I’m a goddamn Apple guy now, indoctrinated into the empire. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid with cookies, I’ve got my earmuffs on and I right click with two m’f’ing fingers.

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The Slide Into Meh


Posted By on Nov 20, 2012

I doubt that you’ve read this bl-g from the beginning. So to recap. I began writing about music and life and everything else because my therapist recommended that I journal. I started journaling but just didn’t keep up. The bl-g went up because by posting these entries, there were good people out there to hold me accountable. Well, you might be good people (wholly debatable) but you haven’t held me accountable. So it goes. The bl-g morphed into something more about music than therapy as I grew “healthier.”

Pi, the man with the drill

The problem with mental health is that it’s not entirely unlike physical health. Mental health waxes and wanes with much less predictability. My daughter comes home with hellfire disease from preschool, physical illness is just around the corner. Guaranteed. Mental illness is tricky and always in flux. Some days are better than others, some weeks are better than others. Only now I’m more aware of these little slides up to the edge of a “funk.” We’ll call it “funk” in lieu of “depression” because I have been clinically depressed and I no longer throw that word around lightly.

Lately I find myself looking over into that pit. And I’m becoming tired, tired of preventing myself from falling in.

It was two years ago when I first slipped into depression proper. I remember coming home after watching Black Swan, a shell of myself. Movies seemed to have affected me more deeply in recent months. Inception had caused a panic attack. Black Swan forced me to recognize that what I was feeling was not normal. I’m not prepared to draw connections between the content of this movie and my own revelation, but I’m sure there’s plenty of material. Sappy movies induced real emotional pain. I experienced similar results from dark, depressing lyrics. Instead of observing from the outside looking in, I was on the inside looking out. In the thick of it.

These feelings are flowing again. But I’m able to confront them because I’m aware of the possibility of what lies below. For me, it was six months of pervasive emptiness. It’s extraordinarily hard to put into words. I no longer found joy in the things that I loved. I could get out of bed and I could take care of my daughter, go through the motions. I didn’t care to watch movies and music had lost its joy. These activities just seemed so frivolous. After getting my daughter to bed I just wanted to go back to sleep. I had no energy to write or enjoy my wife’s company. Or anyone’s company, really.

This rumble has no point. I have no great revelation to impart. I’m merely journaling because it’s what I need to do. And I’m not doing enough of it. I’m turning to consuming myself in writing and work and movies and music and video games and Twitter because I see these activities as guardians of the fortress, but they’re terrible guardians. They’re probably drunk and take just about any bribe you offer them. I’m taking a weekend with a friend at the end of this month to get away for a bit. A nice Sears mail order home (heck yes) on the Chesapeake. I’m taking my typewriter and my computer and a lot of beverages. Lots and lots of beverage. I see two possible outcomes. I’m looking forward to both.

THIS:

The Shining, Jack Nicholson happy

OR THIS:

The Shining, Jack Nicholson CRAZY

BUT EITHER ONE IS BETTER THAN THIS:

Jack Nicholson, The Shining

 

 

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Passion Pit @ Stage AE 11/6


Posted By on Nov 8, 2012

Passion Pit

This is my first concert writeup in what feels like forever. I had a long break between shows and I neglected to write up the two shows prior to that. I feel refreshed, like I could spill words all over this page like my 3yo spills, well, everything. And they might make just as much sense. Or maybe I’m just here to let my bl-g know I’m still alive.

Champion Fist Pumper

Imagine this dude, the fist pump champion, in the first row at Passion Pit. And then multiply him by five dozen.

Passion Pit last night at Stage AE. As always my preoccupation with the chemical makeup of the crowd became a foremost concern. An oddity last night even as “dudes” fist-pumped gleefully to Passion Pit’s breed of bubbly-electro-pop ear candy. And by “dudes” I mean guys I would have placed more readily at an Arena Football League game. Stage AE crowds, in my experience, have been the most energetic of concert goers. By and large, they are barely old enough to drink and therefore hammered as a direct result. Hence the energy. This portion of the crowd mingled with the teetotaler portion of the crowd whose eyes shared time with the TVs above the bar, eagerly awaiting election results to come pouring in. It was a house divided. There was also a guy in grey suit wearing a massive cardboard Romney head. He appeared without a bighead Obama for equal representation. This solo appearance just made him seem desperate.  And then I, instead of tweeting about the show I was watching (at the time Youngblood Hawke), per my normal concert routine, became far too concerned about the Massachusetts Senate results and scrolling twitter for confirmation of the false confirmation results which then lead to confirmation of the official results. Or something. You know how Twitter goes.

Political map tapping set to Passion Pit just can’t be beat.

But I digress politico. And that’s not why anyone’s reading this shit.

I’ll skip discussing Youngblood Hawke in depth, except to mention that if I had been Tweeting last night I’d have gone overboard describing the lead singer’s plaid track suit. I couldn’t figure it out. Regarding the music, the set sounded disjointed. Their “radio hit” felt gleefully manufactured next to the freeform nonsense of the rest of their jams. In a word, frenetic and forgettable. They reminded me of The Format, without the fun. But not like the band fun. Because I don’t find fun. much fun at all. (Format’s lead singer is now the lead singer of fun. if you didn’t catch why I became obsessed with that nonsense just now.)

Youngblood Hawke’s “We Come Running”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH1caVBApj4&feature=relmfu[/tube]

But Passion Pit surprised me. I have been wary of electro-based live acts for some time. I don’t want to denigrate electronic bands’ talent as musicians but something is often lost in translation. The artifice of the music undermines the guise of spontaneous creation. M83 dominated his/their show earlier this year. Yeasayer’s more-electro tracks from their latest album underwhelmed compared to their early jams. Michael Angelakos turned the stage into his own personal treadmill. And while he engaged in the typical histrionics of most voice-only frontmen, his particular and dynamic vocal range played like an instrument. The band had a live presence, driven by a tight band — perhaps most notable was the metronomic precision of Nate Donmoyer on drums that occasionally played cadence that was drum machine on the record. The instrumental accomplishment, perhaps, shouldn’t have been a surprise considering the Cambridge-born band (with the exception of Angelakos) attended the Berklee School of Music in Cambridge, MA.

The set began with the tub-thumper and current hit single “Take A Walk.” The near capacity crowd salivated, perhaps a Pavlov’s dog response, craving Taco Bell. (You know, because “Take A Walk” is featured prominently in a Taco Bell commercial.) Really, you know you’ve made it when your single’s selling grade-D taco beef on a Dorito shell. A true American success story. I thought it was an odd choice to lead with the song on everyone’s brain.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euDlcNQDUYw[/tube]

The setlist choice paid off, however, in spades. I waited, perhaps too impatiently for “Sleepyhead” as we navigated a number of humdrum also-rans from the new record Gossamer . “Sleepyhead” is the beginning and end of the conversation about “Best Passion Pit track.” If you have another opinion, you’re probably wrong. I’m not being facetious. As the synth from the penultimate track bled into the immediately recognizable “Sleepyhead” synth, the members of both opening acts joined Passion Pit on stage. I hadn’t seen an on-stage clusterfuck as impressive since a Wu-Tang Clan show in 1997. When the beat dropped, on-stage performers showered streamers and confetti out over the crowd. The paper fireworks remained, suspended, overhead as the cacophony of performers burst to life. Many beating drums, some just dancing or singing along with Angelokos. On a night stepped with bi-partisan politics, the swollen collection of performers writhing among confetti created a hopeful parallel. It’s not really a reasonable connection to make. A bunch of like-minded musicians joining together on stage to play one killer song. …but consider this. Passion Pit shared the stage with Hollerado and Youngblood Hawke for the song everyone wanted to hear. It’s pretty common for bands to share the stage with other acts on the bill, but I can’t remember the last time I saw this brand of camaraderie during a band’s biggest song. The idealist in me wants to see this as something greater. I’m a writer. I like to draw parallels. So I choose to draw them here for a lack of anything else to discuss.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkBdJ728Sa8[/tube]

The act of sharing in the spotlight, fostering joy, just for the sake of it — is inspiring. It makes me want to believe that we can find inspiration in greater quantities moving forward. Even if it’s just a five-man band from Boston and their barely-known opening acts, there’s something to take away here. Music can and always will inspire hope. It is good. And it is natural, even if it’s largely false and misguided… and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an NHL season this year if those bastards learn to share, like Passion Pit. Hrm? What’s that? Did you think I was talking about the deadlock in government caused by bi-partisan shenanigans and Republican held House of Reps? Pfft. I could see why you’d think I was going there with the whole election thread, but there’s no hope for any reconciliation there. Don’t be ridiculous.

NHL Lockout

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