Category Archives: music

The Backyard Committee at the Huntington

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining my friends in The Backyard Committee for a few songs on lap steel guitar at one of our 35 Below parties at the Huntington. I’ve played a shows with them before, mostly on keyboards, and this was a fun, different experiment, as I don’t really get to play lap steel guitar out in front of people very often (it’s also a very difficult instrument to play by yourself). The band is essentially Mike Sembos, and whatever musicians he finds to accompany him. Even if I hadn’t been friends with Mike for 12 or so years now, I’d still love this band, because Mike is an utterly fantastic songwriter. So they’re always a blast to play with, and I’m hoping to do it again pretty soon. Did I mention that you can download both of their albums for free on their website?

…also there was Duck Hunt:

REVIEW: Polarity by Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho

Polarity

As much as I enjoy Say Anything (the band fronted by writer Max Bemis), I was hesitant to pick up this comic because, well, the premise sounds exactly like the pseudo-autobiographical premise of their first album “…Is A Real Boy,” which kindofsortamaybe chronicled Bemis’s descent into super-powered bi-polar disorder — except that, while recording said album, Max Bemis was actually diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and locked himself up for a while. But, the book was on sale for $4 on ComiXology, so I figured hey, why not.

While I tend to be the kind of person who connects with comic books more the writing than the art (although I do love a good collaboration), I’d first look to say that the artwork on this book is PHENOMENAL. It’s slightly cartoonish, but not a childish way, and accurately portrays hyperviolence, superhero action, internal mindscape struggles, and hipster culture. As for the story itself, it didn’t shy away from the fact that it was a slight variation on the story that Bemis has told several times already. The basic premise is that Tim is an artist and self-loathing hipster who suffers from bi-polar disorder, and after he’s institutionalized and begins taking pills, he can’t create his art. So he goes off his medication, and soon discovers that his untreated condition literally gives him superpowers. But maybe he’s too dangerous, and maybe there’s a Shadowy Government Organization trying to create an army of Bi-Polar Super Soldiers? Meanwhile, his art is getting better, and he meets a girl.

Overall, it’s a pretty enjoyable story, and while applying science fictional concepts to mental illness is nothing new, I actually think that Bemis does it in a pretty fresh way — by essentially saying that yes, mental illness IS a superpower, but the same way that traditional superheroes suffer from their extra-human abilities, maybe it’s still better if you take your pills and try to function like a normal person. That being said, I’m not sure how this book would read to someone who was unfamiliar with “hipster” culture. The main character spends a lot of the book criticizing everyone around him for being hypocrites and poseurs, and ultimately realizes that he’s just the same as the rest of them. If you’re familiar with Say Anything’s music, Tim’s rants are all basically pulled straight out of the song “Admit it!” As far as cultural critique is concerned, it is an interesting analysis of hipsterdom that I mostly agree with, even if it is a bit misanthropic (which works well in a loud rock song, but feels different as internal monologue).

That being said, I wonder how someone who was outside of or unfamiliar with “hipster culture” would feel about this book. It’s very insular, and some might even say that hipsters criticizing hipsters for being hipsters is THE most hipster thing possible, and while the story does acknowledge that irony (while also criticizing irony as the cheapest form of hipster self-defense), it never quite transcends it. I suspect that if you weren’t already aware of and/or immersed in that post-art-school-Williamsburg-landscape, you’d think, “Okay, so these are a bunch of Urban Outfitters asshole who are too cool for Urban Outfitters and this main character is kind of an unlikeable dick who judges everyone around him for being fake judgmental assholes — why should I care?” And if that’s you, I might suggest that you’re better served by listening to “Woe” and “Admit it!” by Say Anything, which pretty much sum up the book.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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This Blog Post Will Make You Understand Why Amanda Palmer Is The Worst

I’ve established a bit of a reputation for myself as a Professional Amanda Palmer basher, ever since I wrote an angry little parody poem in response to her “Poem for Dhzokhar” which ended up exploding onto BuzzFeed and The Guardian UK. I was never particularly fond of her, even before that — some of her music is fine, sure, but her Neutral Milk Hotel Jukebox Musical left a very sour taste in my mouth1, and her production of Cabaret at the American Repertory Theatre was the single worst (not to mention most masturbatory) professional theatre production I have ever experienced — but it wasn’t until recently that I really started seething at the mention of her continued existence on our shared plane of reality. That might sound a little extreme — she hasn’t, you know, killed anyone or anything — but the cognitive dissonance between the message that Amanda Palmer conveys and the things that she actually does fills me with such vehement anger, that I feel the need to articulate the ongoing problem that she continues to present.

I’m choosing to write about this now is because I’ve had a number of people bring my attention to her latest blog post about Justin Bieber’s arrest, all saying that they awaited my snarky response to it. And while sure, I could do that (hell, maybe I still will), I thought it would be better for me to take the Amanda Palmer approach and express my feelings in a rambling blogpost which I can then in turn proclaim to be “art” and thereby diminish any and all criticisms of my own shortcomings by blowing a raspberry at my detractors and say “IT’S JUST ART YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND I’M JUST TRYING TO EXPRESS MYSELF AND THAT IS BEAUTIFUL.”

Continue reading This Blog Post Will Make You Understand Why Amanda Palmer Is The Worst

“I’ll Fight A Whedon For You,” My Newest Nerd Rock Single

A few years back, my friend Jeremy and I were joking around and discussing our adoration of Maurissa Tancharoen, a TV writer on Dollhouse and Spartacus and now one of the showrunners on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., plus an occasional actress in her own right on Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-ALong-Blog. On top of all of that, she’s also (sadly) married to Jed Whedon, brother of Joss. And she’s just super cute and lovely, so Jeremy and I talked about writing a nerd rock song called “I’ll Fight A Whedon For You,” a sentiment which in our circles is pretty much considered the pinnacle of romantic sacrifice.

Well, I finally got around to actually making that song happen. I wrote the lyrics up for a Five By Five Hundred post a few weeks ago (and I’ll include the annotation below, after the jump), and recorded the entire song at home over the last week or so. I play everything on the tune except for bass, which comes to you courtesy of the inimitable Jake WM. (okay I didn’t technically so much play drums as I did edit and re-arrange pre-existing Logic Pro drum loops but it’s pretty much the same thing.

Please feel free to download and share with your friends!

(follow the jump for annotated lyrics)

Continue reading “I’ll Fight A Whedon For You,” My Newest Nerd Rock Single

Just Dance, Mother&$%#ers!

In case you missed out on seeing Boston’s premiere all-male hard rock Lady Gaga cover band at the Midway this past weekend, you’re in luck: we got the whole thing on tape! Well, technically on built-on digital flash hardrive but, you know, whatever. The audio quality is a little rough (because isn’t it always?), but you get the gist. You can watch a playlist of the full set over on YouTube, but here are a few gems from the night:

“You & I”

“Bad Romance”

Plus we had a few surprises this time in the form of non-Gaga female pop artists (because frankly, Gaga’s catalog is kind of limited, and we needed new material). Like this:

New Lady Gaga Song!

In anticipation of this Saturday’s Alejandro & the Fame show at the Midway Cafe in JP, we put together another quick demo of one of our songs. So, sorry, this isn’t a new Lady Gaga song, but rather a better version of an already existing Lady Gaga song, done by us.

This isn’t the final mix or master, but it’s a good idea of how we rock (and if you really feel like bringing the mosh and punching someone in the face, fast forward about 3 minutes for the breakdown ’cause it’s awesome)

How To Kill The Poor With Irony

As I’ve mentioned before, I had this idea for an album of punk rock covers done in a folk / bluegrass style, which I kind of gave up on but recently re-invested myself in (it’s amazing what some nice recording mics can inspire in a person). So naturally, while I was snowed into my house this past weekend, I used that time productively to revisit one of my “Folk In Drublic” tunes. This one is the punk rock classic “Kill The Poor” by the Dead Kennedys. Basically, I thought it would be hilarious to be ironic about an already-ironic song, and turn an ironic punk song into a genuine-sounding country hick right wing anthem.

So, uh, you’re welcome. I guess.

Turn It Up, Folkin’ Loud!

About a year and a half ago, I had the idea to record an album of classic punk cover songs, done in a folky / bluegrass style. I got most of the demo / scratch tracks down, but then of course, life got in the way, as it often does. But now that I got some fancy new toys in my musical arsenal, I decided to revisit it.

And so without any further ado, here’s the first track of the album that would (and someday might still) be called Folk In Drublic: “Radio” by Rancid. Except, ya know, with less growls, more banjo and lap steel.

(Banjo by my buddy Andy Michaels)

I’ve Been Waiting

Scene: 8pm, Saturday night. Meeting up with the fine folks at Vagabond Theatre Group (who produced True Believers) at a bar later in the evening. I finally open up the tube preamp that I bought to accompany my the new recording mics that I received for Christmas. Instead of just setting it up in my recording studio, I decide to, you know, actually try it out.

2 hours later, I’m late for the party. But I did this:

So you’re welcome.

Punk Rock Archaelogy

While combing through my parents’ basement to find my old Warhammer models (shut up), I stumbled across a CD-R with my name written on it in someone else’s handwriting. Of course I was curious, so I popped it into the computer and discovered two demo recordings of songs I had written in high school. The playing is sloppy, the lead parts totally unrehearsed (and foolishly undubbed), and the vocals are much whinier than I remember my voice ever being, but they’re fun enough. This, in addition to my MORTIFIED performance last Saturday, and the further basement discovery of VHS tapes from my high school band’s performances (coming soon!) have made this a delightfully nostalgic week.

Anyway, for your laughing/listening pleasure, here they are:

Continue reading Punk Rock Archaelogy