Guided by raindrops

It’s raining and it has cooled off considerably and we’re standing outside the Fountain Square venue for this evening’s Guided By Voices concert.  The show has been postponed for one hour to allow for the foul weather to pass, but there are people out here hungry for rock and roll and lacking sense enough to come in out of the rain.  The stage is covered and the band is performing a soundcheck.  A few of us hearty souls are milling about in the alley, peering over the chain link fence, getting soaking-ass wet, and listening to the band warm up.  They run through Game Of Pricks.  They play a few bars of Good Times, Bad Times by Led Zeppelin.  Hanging on the fence nearby is a young gentleman who drove up from Nashville.  We learn that in addition to being a Guided By Voices fan, the 22-year-old is extremely passionate about Ween and has the band’s logo tattooed on his shoulder.  Just when you’re ready to write off this younger generation, you meet a promising young guy like this with a Ween tattoo and a Devo t-shirt and you realize the future is actually in quite capable hands.  Turns out he’s seen Ween over 40 times and frequently travels out of state to see similar nineties era rock bands.  One can’t help but be impressed by the youngster’s pluck and initiative.  As the hour approaches, the alley dwellers grow increasingly restless.  Any strum of a guitar or pounding of the bass drum coming from inside the venue is enough to send them scattering to and fro.  They can sense it is close to feeding time and they are ready to feast on rhythm, noise and feedback.

Eventually, others pour into the alley.  Something resembling a line begins to form and we are about six places from the front.  My friend is quite concerned with being first in the venue wearing a “Pollard throws no hitter” t-shirt, so he tells a guy in front of us to beat it to the back of the line and the guy complies.  The Ween kid continues to regale us with stories of recent adventures in rock and roll.  He tells us that at his last GBV show, Robert Pollard, the lead singer and creative force behind the band, halfway through the show, took several gulps from a bottle of tequila and then handed it to the Ween kid who was beckoning for the bottle from the front row.  The kid then took a long pull from the bottle and passed it along into the crowd where others also drank from it.  For reasons I can’t remember, I bring up the band, Mudhoney, and the kid tells us how he’d just the previous weekend, almost by accident, stumbled into a free Mudhoney concert in Nashville.  I continue to be highly impressed and a little envious of this young man.  He is basically living my dream.  So many these days complain about how hard it is to achieve success in this country.  However, this dude is living proof that you make your own good fortune, and that if you simply apply yourself and set short-term, attainable goals, people will freely shove bottles of tequila and premium quality cannabis in your face. 

The barbarians at the gates of rock and roll are beginning to protest quite loudly and forcefully, and it is unclear how much longer staff will be able to maintain peace.  Soon, however, the gates are thrown open and the barbarians present their photo identification and entry is actually quite calm and orderly.  Next, the barbarians pay $8.00 a can for locally brewed craft beer and take their places in front of the stage.  People are streaming in fast and we’re holding our positions in the front as space fills in around us.  The other guy with the “Pollard throws a no hitter” t-shirt comes ambling forward and my friend stops him and reminds him that he, my friend, was first inside the gates with the shirt.  The other guy seems a little confused and shame-faced, and for a minute it appears he might turn his shirt inside out, but he chooses to back away slowly into the crowd instead.  Pollard and his bandmates can be seen assembling offstage and the front row begins to call out to them.  Pollard gestures back with double alternating fist pumps and the front row knows its rock and roll time.  

GBV opens with a song from their new album.  The front row is pointing at Pollard and hurling his words back at him.  I know the lyrics to a lot of their songs, but not the entire catalog.  I begin to feel unworthy of my place near the front and slip back to the third row.  The band is quickly into Game Of Pricks.  Now the lid is blown off the whole affair and energy is released.  There is turbulence in the crowd.  Arms entangle and disentangle.  Feet leave the ground while hips and shoulders collide.  But patrons remain upright and voices howl in unison.  Between songs, Pollard talks about slowing it down for a few, “You can’t just beat them over the head with punk rock for 40 songs,” he says.  As the music mellows, the pungent odor of psychoactive compounds comes wafting rearward from the front row.  My buddy and the Ween kid are huffing away on their devices.  The only thing I recognize about this activity anymore is the aroma.  Everything else about the ritual has been updated for the new digital age.  Pollard fishes Lite beers out of a cooler onstage.  He is loosening up and beginning to perform some of his signature rock moves and poses.  Now in his 60s, he is still pretty flexible and light on his feet, routinely executing rock and roll high kicks where his foot reaches an altitude higher than his head.  Soon, they’re playing I Am A Scientist and the band really seems to be enjoying this one.  The bass features prominently, so he’s having a good time.  Gillard, the lead guitarist, is drawing some cool sounds from his guitar culminating with a burst of well-timed feedback as the song closes out.  I look to my left and Bobby Bare Jr. is strumming away while bobbing his head and turning in circles like a wind-up toy.  

As the set nears its end, the bottle of tequila comes out of the cooler.  Pollard walks to the front of the stage and takes several large gulps.  The Ween kid is reaching across the gap between the stage and the barricade for the bottle.  As if the kid has become a regular feature in this bit, Pollard heads straight over and thrusts the bottle towards him.  The kid grabs it and takes about four chugs before passing it to my friend who also takes a few.  Others nearby swig from the bottle, and then it’s like the crowd knows there’s a hardcore fan about fifteen feet away who really deserves a drink.  He’s been singing along word for word to every song all night long.   The crowd appreciates his hard work and dedication and rewards him with the remainder of the tequila.  As for myself, I’m feeling a bit ashamed that I’ve become too old and uptight to drink from a bottle that’s been swigged on by half a dozen complete strangers.  For the band’s “killer encore,” GBV performs Chasing Heather Crazy and Glad Girls, a couple of their more accessible rousing rockers.  A dude from deep within the bowels of the crowd comes forward for the encore.  I become aware of his presence because he’s holding onto my shoulder to keep from falling over.  Drunk as hell, he’s still trying to move to the music despite his obvious difficulties.  Under normal circumstances, I’d probably be a little annoyed.  But what the hell, we’re all having a good time here, so I’m happy to be of some assistance.

This is only the second live rock show I’ve been to since the onset of the pandemic.  For me, there is simply no substitute for live music, or for that matter, live theater, sports, church, etc.  You can’t gather on Zoom or a livestream and simulate the experience.  An event like this isn’t just the sum of the performers plus the audience.  The gathering itself becomes its own thing and the participants are carried along.  With music at the center, this particular gathering brings out some of the best features of its participants:  goodwill, respect, joy, friendship and camaraderie.  Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time online, but it hasn’t been my experience.  All I know is I could handle more of this in my life and maybe others could too.

Ageing rock stars suffering under Covid rockdown restrictions

Rockdown restrictions appear to be taking their toll on some of our most beloved ageing rock stars.  Most recently, a cantankerous Neil Young insisted Spotify remove his catalog from its service saying he won’t share the platform with the likes of Joe Rogan.  In a letter to his management team, Young wrote:  “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

In the letter, the “Rockin’ in the Free World” composer reveals the source of his displeasure with the popular streaming service.  “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them. Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

Some say Mr. Young’s frustration with Spotify has even spilled over into his music.  According to fans at a recent event, Young took aim at the streaming giant when he altered some of his lyrics to sing, “We need a kinder, gentler speech ban hand.”  

Then there is Eric Clapton, for whom it all came into focus, when he first discovered mass formation hypnosis.   “I didn’t get the memo, whatever the memo was, it hadn’t reached me. Then I started to realize there was really a memo… It’s great, you know, the theory of mass hypnosis formation. And I could see it then. Once I started to look for it, I saw it everywhere.” 

Not you, Slowhand and Shaky.  Gentlemen, the politics of this shit is poison.  It’ll destroy your brain.  Please, do something constructive.  Snort a few lines of blow, pick up your guitars and get back about the business of rock and roll.  “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…”

Researchers discover more than one way to rock

Since rocker Sammy Hagar’s breakthrough announcement back in 1982, there has been a long held scientific consensus that there is only one way to rock.  Numerous attempts to uncover additional ways have invariably met with failure, and each time some researcher has come along claiming to have discovered additional means and avenues by which to rock, their claims have ultimately been proven false.  

That may all be about to change as a team of researchers in Munich, Germany have turned the rock world on its head with their new discovery.  In a lab, under very specific conditions, researchers were able to briefly observe what they feel is a yet undiscovered way to rock.  

“Keep in mind, these are not conditions typical of the everyday world,” said Dr. Irmin Schmidt, head researcher at the Deutschrock Institute.  “We constructed a lead chamber with walls four feet thick.  Then we elevated the rock and roll pressure inside the chamber by pumping in Raw Power, Sister Ray, Voodoo Child, Sweet Leaf, and so on.  We kept cramming the rock and roll into the chamber until the pressure grew so great it produced a reaction in which we were able to briefly observe a novel way to rock.  I mean, we’re talking about a nanosecond here, but we’re confident we evoked something no one has ever seen or heard before.” 

“Yes, we must go back and examine the data, but there was definitely something,” agreed fellow researcher, Holger Czukay.  “We are pushing the very limits of rock physics.  We had no idea what would happen.  Indeed, as we are increasing the density of rock inside the chamber, forcing in Scorpions, Slayer, Iron Maiden and Dio, we considered whether we might be creating a fissure in the fabric of sound itself and unleashing something demonic.”  

Schmidt theorizes that not only might there be additional ways to rock, but their research may eventually prove there are infinite ways to rock.  “By observing rock at its most fundamental, we are encountering strange new worlds of rock music, extra-dimensional drum beats and spooky guitar solos at a distance.  Herr Hagar’s theories have proven quite useful for the past four decades, but now we know there is almost certainly more than one way to rock.” 

Sting, Summers and Copeland address calls to “Defund The Police”

Members of 80’s rock band The Police issued a press release Thursday addressing growing calls in the United States and Britain to “Defund The Police.”

“There seems to be a lot of chatter in the media these days about defunding or even abolishing The Police.  So far, we’ve remained silent as a growing number of activists, public officials, journalists and even fellow entertainers have called for the dissolution of our band.  While we’re totally clueless to understand what we’ve done to deserve their scorn, we’re committed to making whatever changes are necessary to win back the public trust. 

“Additionally, we’ve been a little dismayed that in this era of social distancing our 1980 hit, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” has not enjoyed a greater resurgence in popularity.  Our management has contacted the CDC and NIH on multiple occasions, offering our song to be used in public service announcements.  Thus far, no response has been forthcoming.

“In these difficult times, we’re making a good faith effort to do our part for the greater good.  However, not buying our music benefits no one.  Imagine a world without “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle,” or “Every Breath You Take.”  Is that the kind of world you want to live in?  We think not.  Without these timeless classics to bind us together, our world would almost certainly descend into chaos and anarchy.

“So, unless your wish is to replace civil society with some joyless, dystopian hellscape where the music of The Police has been permanently abolished, and “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” become merely the words of sputtering idiots, instead of the inspired lyrics of an immensely talented reggae rock trio, please consider funding The Police by purchasing some of our music.  Civilization may depend on it.”