Mount St. Curtis

May 18, 1980. 38 years ago today the world seemed about to end for me. I was in central Washington state when Mount St. Helens lashed out with ominous roiling volcano fury. Spooky swirling ash clouds, mid-day mid-night, trapped, detached from the world. Much later, once I got to know what was important to the cool kids, I learned that Ian Curtis of Joy Division ended his life also on May 18, 1980. I only just recently made that connection.

I have been reading a book by Peter Hook, “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division,” which has brought the dark legend of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” down to earth. They were lanky young music nerds, with families, and they just wanted gigs and an identity (and a drummer for the longest time, until they lucked upon Stephen Morris). And Ian was suffering his own roiling turmoil with epilepsy, fundamentally facing electrocution each time he stepped on stage.

It’s amazing to think they were affiliated with Happy Mondays via Tony Wilson of Factory Records. Had they ever met, it seems like Peter Hook, bassist, would have smashed something heavy over Shaun Ryder’s mop head for being such a degenerate wanker. Did Ian hear on the news about the volcanic eruption building up in the Pacific Northwest? Did he have something to do with what it unleashed?

Coachella Logistics

Reaching Coachella weekend mid-April means a lot to me: getting past the dark, dreary Winter and connecting with the sunny warm festival world again. The live streams from sweltering Deep Desert, California help me feel it might be safe to crawl out of my alpaca underthermals and that I should empathize with all the brave beset concert-goers suffering sunburn and dusty dehydration. I dream of attending in person again, but I end up thinking about what a pain it would be to pay, travel, traffic-jam, camp, and be stuck out in the vast, barren polo fields over several days with a quarter of a million other humans rather than just flannel pajamas streaming it. I can comprehend how it’s worth a fair amount of grief as an attendee for the experience, but what is it like for the performers? How on earth does Goldenvoice pull off such a huge project? I presume each of the acts are basically already on tour and they have their own set of roadies, transport/party vans. But with ~160 acts over the two weekends, how do the bands lock into the logistics months ahead and is there a glut of hundreds of tour trucks and buses on the I-10 from LA? Do the bands make a profit or to they take a loss for the exposure? Do they have to actually pay to play? Are any acts banned from Coachella? Like Cage the Elephant 2014, clearly tripping mental balls. Continue reading

Sequenced Soul

Imagination fixated upon whether a machine can have a soul. Enhance. The Maschinenmensch in Metropolis, Rachel in Bladerunner, Data in Star Trek, Caprica Six in Battlestar Galactica, Delores in Westworld, Agent K in Bladrunner, and Roland TR-808 in practically every cool electronic beat since 1980… Manufactured from components, programmed, sequenced, predictable, yet so creative and versatile, it’s hard to think of it as just a toaster. The 808, analog drum machine and rhythm composer, did not set out to sound like a real drum kit. It was originally intended to serve as a handy, artificial accompaniment for when the human drummer was indisposed. The sounds it produces are unmistakably fake from an array of hardware electronic sine-wave circuits, as opposed to digitally recorded samples. Seeing a recent documentary about 808 beats made me realize how the sounds completely pervade the spectrum of my musics. Rare, collectible and pricey, you can play with it here for free. The creators didn’t envision all that could be done with it, its sub-bass and crickety cymbal sounds are ubiquitous. Dare I suggest, it has a life of its own. For example: Continue reading

Desert Island Streaming

I have been schlepping around a massive collection of musical media for decades, ranging from vinyl and cassettes from when I was a kid, CDs from teenage to medium-adult years, and iPod MP3s onward from there. Over the years I accumulated more plastics and bits. At some point in the last few years it seems like that collection has become obsolete; I realize it has been a couple of years since I bought any CDs or digital downloads, or powered on my iPod for that matter. Come to think of it, I haven’t even pirated much of anything in that time either. (Ironically, I recently got a new turntable, more about that next time.) Practically everything is ready right now to queue up for online streaming. This revelation must be obvious to the rest of the world. I’m a late adopter and I take a long time to decide on things. From another perspective then, if it has won me over, it’s pretty solid. Continue reading

Rumble in Baton Rouge

Ready or not it was time for me to pack up and move out of Georgia. I wanted to arrive in El Paso by the first of February, but to stop a few times along the way to better know the mysterious (to me) South. I thought I’d get a quick look at New Orleans, but to be honest, I wasn’t up for the challenge of navigating through the hustle-bustle. I got a total of 0.75 seconds viewing time of the Superdome as I dashed by on the freeway. After another couple of hours through the swamp forests I arrived in Baton Rouge, pulled off into the city, and found things were crazy there too. A parade route was roped off and the streets were lined with a lot of happy, enthused people. I know, this isn’t a travel journal, so I’ll cut to the chase. I discovered a (family-friendly) night-time Mardi Gras parade, featuring high school marching bands like I’ve never known before. Louisiana schools must take a lot of pride in their music programs. Continue reading