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Guys & Concerts: An Education

Red stage lights

Randy from Baton Rouge

Randy from Baton Rouge who was a great dancer not so great kisser took me to the Propaganda concert Fall semester which I thought was a date but asked me after to reimburse him for the ticket not that I would have minded if the evening had been prefaced by this request and if the band had blown my mind instead I resisted paying for weeks and was relieved we weren’t running in to each other on campus until I heard he’d taken medical leave before finals due to emotional issues which my roommate said was despair at being outed by a Classics major who’d broken his heart and he ended up transferring anyway so that I never did pay him back and we truly stopped running in to each other, Randy from Baton Rouge I’m sorry.

1984

Consider seriously if I really wanted to get back together or did I say yes because he had sixth-row seats to David Lee Roth’s first solo tour and I was curious to see if Diamond Dave was going to be better or worse than the Sammy Hagar-led Van Halen which I’d seen less than two weeks prior with my best friends not that either of those bands were my absolute favorites not even top ten but it was almost summer and I missed having a boyfriend and I thought maybe just maybe those old feelings would return but in the end what I realized was obvious, nothing could ever be as good as Van Halen circa 1984.

That Velvet Jacket

You try going to a Bryan Ferry concert where the theater is Art Deco and the cocktails are strong and Bryan’s singing in a maroon velvet jacket and not feel something for your date who happens to be the consensus best-looking guy in the graduate film program what with his dark ponytail and the way he wears a tool belt and gloves when he’s gaffing though you know you shouldn’t even call him your date because he has a girlfriend and you’re practically engaged and you’re just going together because you both love Roxy Music and no one else can afford tickets or wants to skip that night’s seminar on Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, did I mention how strong the drinks were?

A little flash (absolutely) fiction on a Friday night.

© Jennifer S. Deayton

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Slaying the Dragons of Sarcasm

Take a ride on a sea of light (photo by therockmom).

Check your cynicism at the door and take a ride on a sea of light: Imagine Dragons in Hong Kong. (photo by therockmom)

You are merely auditing this class. You are not in control. You are here for the ride.

This is not your party.

You know that going in. You barely know any Imagine Dragons songs. They’re a young folks’ band. But so what. There’s no need to criticize the band name (which is kind of kids’ cartoon silly) or get all snarky about their connection to the Transformers movies. They work hard and deserve to earn a living, don’t they?

However, try as you might, the atmosphere at their concert makes you feel old and cynical and angry – angry mostly about the lack of anger. A rock band with songs called ‘Tip Toes’ and ‘I’m So Sorry’? Whose lead singer never utters a four-letter word? Where’s the edge? Your memory takes you back to a scrawny, strung-out Guns N’ Roses opening for The Cult. Now that – that felt dangerous.

You grump about the sea of smart phones and the ADHD tension this creates. Documenting is not experiencing. But then you find your own self, posting a snap, and you vow to put away your phone and enjoy the show. Let the music wash over you – close your eyes, come on. They’re a tight band, and their live experience and skill shows. They’re not bad. Yet you can’t quite relax and embrace the spectacle due to the random thoughts in your head, such as:

  1. Did he just sing: Dream maker / Heart breaker*? Because that would be a total crib from Pat Benatar.
  2. I blame Coldplay for this aggressive earnestness. They’re all so sweet! Jeez, for all their higher power positivity, at least U2 wrote ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’.
  3. Rock guys don’t take off their shirts anymore, do they?
  4. All this man-bun lead singer needs is an indie film girlfriend and vegan cookbook tie-in.
  5. ‘Forever Young’ is a truly lame cover tune.

What’s happening? Have you really become some misanthropic music snob? Let go, let go, let go. Lose the sarcasm. Swim with the spirit of the band’s 2.5 million Spotify followers, the 300 million plays of ‘Demons’.

Behind you, six true believers bring hope. They wave their glow sticks in solidarity and sing the words to every song. They are sweet, undaunted, and they’re having the time of their lives.

So is your youngest one, who hip bumps you and hugs you and stands arm in arm with you during the slow songs.

It’s then you realize why you’re here. This is her party.

But you’re still invited.

*The line is actually: Dream maker / Life taker from ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. I heard what I wanted to hear. A little imagination 😉

Do These Ads Make My Blog Look Big?

Dear readers,

I’m looking for a little advice here and I’d appreciate your help. As you know, therockmom blog has been trucking along for five years now. I started it as a way to establish a writing routine for myself and share my passion for music. Since then, it’s morphed in to a half music / half motherhood vanity project blog, with the parenting posts generally garnering the most attention. Along the way, I’ve tried to expand my audience by linking to various blog collectives and mummy and expat sites, none of which offer compensation or any kind of ad-sharing opportunities. That’s been fine with me, as I never expected any money from this gig. But now, I guess I’m getting enough eyeballs and I’ve been approached by an Australian outfit that would like me to become one of their (get ready for it) ‘social media influencers’. It sounds a lot fancier than it is, as it’s basically me agreeing for them to host ads on my site. Some smallish ads and vids would start appearing and maybe I’d get a bit of money. Sounds pretty good, right?

So why do I feel like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby?

Would you think less of me and the blog if say an ad for Lady SpeedStick appeared next to my post about the awesome vocal power of Joan Smith from Little Foot Long Foot?

Would I be selling out to The Man?

I don’t know why I’m so naturally suspicious of these things. It’s not like I was raised by socialists or anything. But I’m confused. So now I’m asking you – because I feel like we’re in this together – for advice, thoughts, suggestions, the phone number of a good lawyer 😉 jk. Who knows? I could make enough money to hire Black Joe Lewis for my next birthday party. Or not.

Let me know what you think! And while you’re doing that, listen immediately to the awesome vocal power of Joan Smith from Little Foot Long Foot. New EP WOMAN comes out next week.

Thanks for your help!

Sincerely,

therockmom

Happy Rock Dads’ Day!

Father’s Day is this Sunday, so in honor of rock Dads everywhere I thought I’d talk to some actual musician Dads and get their take on music and parenting. I sent them some questions and was amused, surprised and most of all honored by their heartfelt answers. My guests are from all over the world, but briefly I’d like to welcome:

San Saba County, a gem of a band from Austin. That's Tyler second from right.

Tyler lives in Austin, but hails from Moscow, Idaho. He plays bass and sings for a band called San Saba County. I’d call them a very Texas band; they use the term: post-alt-country. You can check them out on their MySpace page. Tyler’s daughter, Evie, is almost two, and she’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. Tyler’s married to my good pal, Christie, whom I’ve mentioned before as one of my main music-loving resources.

Click here for San Saba County’s website.

Kevin lives in Hong Kong, but is originally from the U.S. His son, Jonah, will be three years old in July. By day, Kevin works as Asia Business Editor for CNN.com International and at night he plays bass in a couple of local bands, including Transnoodle. He describes their music as “original ska, punk, funk, Russian folk music “. For proof, you can check them out on YouTube:

and

Kevin also plays with the trio New Tonic Press, featuring singer-songwriter Sue Shearman. You can listen to New Tonic Press at:

And last but not least is Bill, my brother, who lives in Paris and has twin boys – Felix and Louis – aged eight. Bill works a very white-collar job as a management consultant but also plays guitar in a cover band called The Outliers. He’s as fanatical about music as I am. And he’ll be pleased to know that after many years, I finally have a keen appreciation for Paul Simon.

That's my brother on the right. Kind of a continental T-Bone Burnett, n'est pas?

There were so many interesting and honest answers to my questions that I’m going to post this in two installments. So read on for Part I of my Q&A with some way cool RockDads:

Do you have any specific memories of what music your parents listened to?

Tyler: There are three bands that stand out from my childhood and they all were mostly played on a cassette boombox on the beach during our summer camping trips: ZZ Top, Huey Lewis and The News and John “Cougar” Mellencamp. My parents were always music listeners but not music lovers and I would never say they had a taste of their own. It was always whatever was American Top 40. They divorced when I was around seven, and I remember soon after the divorce my dad buying me John Cougar’s “Scarecrow” album. He looked me in the eye, handed me the cassette and said, “Listen to this, son,” as if it held the answers of the world. I’ll admit that I have tapped my foot to one or two of the ‘Coug’s’ songs.

Kevin: My parents were teenagers on the wrong side of the 50s — Dad listened to classical and Perry Como, Mom liked easy listening, so the radio was often tuned to muzak. That changed for me when John Lennon died when I was 12 and suddenly all the stations were playing The Beatles: I had heard every song before in lame elevator form, but never actually heard them do it. I listened to the Beatles non-stop for a full year. My dad and I connected more on music in high school when I studied music and he was surprised to hear Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” on my stereo.

Bill: I have many, many memories of Dad’s music: Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” and the other Tijuana Brass LP with the airplane are primal memories because of the A&M Records logo. Dad was keen on the 50’s-60’s white jazz guys like Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Stan Getz and the funky instrumental space age bachelor pad records he had. Later, when I began playing saxophone and got serious about jazz, he would bring home bargain records of these guys that he remembered from his college days. He got me Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits (with Dave in the world’s greatest horn-rimmed glasses), which has been a very important record to me. He got me an obscure Bud Shank record that I played to death. All sorts of curious things. He also got me my first Charlie Parker record (a Verve collection), which opened up a world that has been absolutely fundamental to who I am.

What’s funny is that I don’t recall him listening to many of these albums in his free time. I don’t know that he really connected to this music in the way you and I have connected to our music. My memory is of TV at home and talk radio in the car.

Who are the top three artists you want your children to know/listen to?

Kevin: Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane — great composers (though John and Jimi were also virtuosos). Listening to them at 18 is different than listening to them at 42, but somehow the music grows with you. It’s music we could listen to together.

Bill: I am very, very proud that Louis and Felix have a) responded so well to music I love and b) have surprised me by exercising their own judgment on what makes their bedroom playlist. They are huge Beatles fans and love “Help!”, “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”. They could stop there and I would feel my work is done. But Lo! and Behold! they have jumped on my copy of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Greatest Hits Vol. 1”, my Buddy Holly collection, Lemonheads “It’s a Shame about Ray”, REM “Green” and all sorts of things. They are only eight years old but they already have their own tastes and their own agendas in terms of why they listen to music. Louis is very rhythm-oriented, likes to dance and wants a physical rush from his music. He instantly connected to the opening riff in The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. Felix also likes a good hook, but is more sentimental and lyric driven. He is the frustrated romantic who needs another to sing his heart. He’ll be living with The Beatles all his life and will no doubt be passionate for bands that “stand for something” — a U2 or REM ten years from now.

So, to answer your question, here is the list:
1) The Beatles — check
2) American R&B and Blues — they’re deep into Motown already and I am optimistic that this will lead to blues and the rest of that wonderful world of black music that I believe is their best anchor to American culture.
3) Miles Davis, specifically “Kind of Blue”.

Tyler: In a perfect world, my little girl will like every band that I push onto her. I do know that this will never be the case. I would hope that she could at least respect bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Neko Case for their classic guitar and vocal-driven song craft.

Performing in bands can offer all kinds of temptations that go hand-in-hand with a late-night lifestyle. Would you encourage your child to pursue rock-n-roll? Why or why not?

Kevin: I’ve gone down that road and did a U-turn. I quit drinking a week before I learned I was going to be a father. For me, the partying part of music just became boring, depressing and dangerous. Still spend time in bars, but it’s Coke (Coca-Cola, that is) for me now. If my son picks up the guitar I’m sure I’ll worry, then remind myself what I was doing when I was his age. Then worry even more.

But I met my wife by playing music — she asked me out after seeing me at a gig. So in a way, Jonah owes his existence to my nightlife pursuits. I suppose I’ll need to give him room to make his own mistakes. I mean, really — do I have a choice? But if he falls into that trap, at least I’m better equipped now to help him get back.

Tyler: If you’re referring to drinking, smoking and the like, I cannot condone it but I know what kids will do. I’m still a kid myself. But playing music is much more than getting loaded and banging on an instrument. It’s the one constant in my life that I will always love and never quit so if my kid can have a focus like that in her life I will never stand in her way.

Bill: I would encourage them to pursue rock-n-roll. Drugs scare me, but they will pass that gauntlet no matter what. What’s important is that they have something meaningful and enriching to their self-esteem. Plus, it may help them get girls to a degree that I could only dream of as an adolescent.

Stay tuned for Part II where we hear the Rock Dads talk about their favorite lullaby’s, how listening to music will be different for their kids, and what they would do if their son brought home the 18-year old incarnation of Chrissie Hynde.

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