Monday, November 27, 2006

They're not dead yet...

More accurately, not even close.

The Rolling Stones have had 3.5 million people plunk down big bucks to see 110 shows thus far on their A Bigger Bang Tour.

In addition (and let's be clear here, this is in ADDITION), an estimated crowd of 2 million saw the band perform at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro back in February.

I really don't care about how much money they made vs. U2 or whatever, but if you are you can see it all here.

Many have said, "The Rolling Stones this...", or "The Rolling Stones that...", "Corporate slaves blah, blah, blah, blah...". With figures like this, I'd say they're still very much a relevant act.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Day Thoughts...

Well, here we all are. It’s a mixed bag of feelings for me this year. Georgia Tech is poised to beat the University of Georgia this weekend for the first time in many years, I’ve been given my last day here at work (December 8th) with no real prospects at the moment, Army won a total of three games this season and will more than likely lose to Navy for the fifth year in a row, Rutgers has lost only one game this season, the Terps have found a way to bowl eligibility perhaps more, and the Democrats won both the House and Senate. There are so many things to be thankful for despite what one thinks of the before mentioned. For me, I’ve got a great family, good friends, good health, and better days ahead.

I look forward to the Holiday season more than ever this year. Me and my crew of two will be traveling up to the NJ/NYC area for the first time in a long time to see family and friends, I get to chill with my main man Jackson at S&M, we’ll be catching Tenacious D here in town, we’ve got our group of friends Christmas party, my sister’s family is coming into town, Christmas golf with my brothers-in-law and Dad, football and more football, etc… I will take the couple of weeks between my last day at work and New Years off for the most part to just sort of hang out with my girls, play some guitar, do some stuff around the house and apply for a few positions in between. I remain confident, humble, and truly thankful for everything in my life.

Lastly, as we all take our seats at the table I’d like to ask everybody to remember to raise a hearty glass for our men and women in uniform deployed in harms way. They are there and we are here. Let’s give them thanks for their and their family’s sacrifice. They don’t ask for it, but they most assuredly deserve it. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!

If you don't own this album or don't go out and buy it right away you're dumb, Part IV...

While Jackson's politics may be misguided at times, his rock and roll credentials are most impeccable (Saxon indulgences and all). A testament to his accreditation is this band and this record. I think it was Jackson and his friends who first put a Rose Tattoo album in my hand sometime back in high school. I flipped it over, saw the photo of Angry Anderson who happens to be a midget, and without listening to it said, “This is novelty crap worthy of heavy mockage”, or something to that effect. Jackson has blogged a couple of posts referencing Rose Tattoo recently and I had pledged to give them a second listen. Last time was a couple of months ago. I ordered a couple of discs from Amazon who had a hard time finding copies and they’ve been on back order for months. Well, this one finally showed up and let me say this: If you have any concept of what rock and roll is, then you will know that this album and band are the very dictionary definition. If you recognize AC/DC’s Dirty Deed’s, High Voltage, and Powerage as the baseline for all that is good, then you will understand the greatness of this album. Forget Angry’s vertical challenges. Forget the coincidental fact that like AC/DC, they’re from Australia (although, there must have been an entire scene going on in the mid to late seventies down there that I would have loved to experienced). This is kickass guitar driven blues rock at it’s finest.

For the last couple of weeks since all my employees have been cut loose, I’ve been taking advantage of the empty office to blast tunes on the boom box my warehouse guys left behind while trolling the job search boards for work. It’s been quite cathartic. It was also the perfect time to drop this disc in a give it a crack. After the first bars of “Rock & Roll Outlaw” I felt stupid for having missed jamming to this stuff all these years. What was I thinking?! By time the last chords of “The Butcher and Fast Eddy” faded I was crying under my desk in embarrassment for my snobbery back in the early eighties. Unless you have some strange aversion to guitars plugged into Marshall amplifiers (and if you do, I truly feel sorrow for your miserable wretched life) this band is the real deal.

Don’t fall victim to such rash snap judgment like I did so many years ago. Get this record now, because if you don’t then you are clearly dumb.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

11 Screws and NOT the good kind...

My old friend John Rogers checked in last night to let me know that he's doing alright out on the left coast. As you may recall, he's one of the Rogers brothers (along with the elder Dave) of the infamous Rogers Bros. Streetluge Team and esteemed downhill skateboard technologist. These guys were by far the most mad rippinest skaters West Point, and points elsewhere for that matter, have ever known.

He sent me a link to some YouTube stuff he's uploaded that's pretty badass. The first one is the team taking a speedboard run down Dump Hill. It's accompanied by what John refers to as "old school rock" going so far as to appeal to me to not "hate" on it. My friend, the day I hate on some kickass Judas Priest is the day my friend Jackson has permission to put a bullet in my brain because aliens have more than likely stolen it.

Team engaged in some insane downhillin'...

This one is of John's momentous beef during some tournament in which he shattered his ankle (x-ray photo at the end of the clip)....

...and lastly, cause I'm a dad too and know the world needs to see her, this is Carly Ryann Rogers, John 13 month old daughter. Yes, I guess girls do rule...

Friday, November 10, 2006

West Point Elementary School Alum Makes Good, or Fear and Loathing at a Bare Naked Ladies Concert

Mrs. Alva and I along with some good friends of ours attended the Mike Doughty/Bare Naked Ladies show last night at the Gwinnett Civic Center.

Mike and his band delivered as expected. He’s got a great band, a great groove, and it would appear that the world is truly his oyster at this point in his career. He performed a number of tunes from his breakout record Haughty Melodic, couple of new ones, and a few from his two earlier releases. I’m a frequent reader of Mike’s blog, so I’m aware that this road jaunt with the BNL’s was sort of a spur of a moment thing. He’s in the midst of finishing a new album of material with Dan Wilson (singer, guitarist, song writer of Semisonic) who also produced Haughty Melodic. While it never detracted from the overall performance, the haste to include him on the bill was apparent to this old concert veteran. I wish he’d had played “Tremendous Brunette’s” (one of his best in my mind), or his ode to our shared hometown of West Point “Grey Ghost”, but since he was given LESS THAN 45 MINUTES I can surely understand why he couldn’t accommodate. Nonetheless, I thought the show was truly a triumph.

Before launching into his last tune, Mike announced that he’d be out front signing stuff during the break. We all headed out to the lobby when the lights came up and was surprised to see a decent sized line forming to shake hands, take photo’s, and exchange pleasantries. I was also delighted to see A LOT of people buying a copy of his Haughty Melodic CD (That right Fred [and Bob "Music Thief" Lefsetz for that matter], a CD. And you’ll never believe what hundreds of fans were doing while standing in line: They were opening the CD and READING the liner notes and checking out the info in the booklet! It seemed quite instinctual really. What a surprise!) I’m not sure, but I think they ran out of copies at the stand which I think great. I got hooked on Mike’s music via Haughty Melodic and it is a very nice recording, but there were many who had only heard his stuff for the first time last night and were buying it on the strength of his live performance which was without the benefit of multi-track filler to help prop the arrangements up. This is a true accomplishment for a musician. I would really like to hear his stuff acoustic solo sometime. I believe my little sister has had the pleasure of hearing his music this way. For that, I am quite jealous.

Standing in line as we approached the table, I pretended to say to Mrs. Alva while purposely avoiding eye contact with Mike, “Hey, isn’t that Dr. Zenu over there?” (Dr. Zenu being the West Point Elementary School principal when he attended). Mike looked over at me and kept talking and signing. As we got closer, I leaned over and said, “Mike, Mrs. Pullium (high school English teacher and warlock) called and has a few issues with your lyric, ‘You snooze you lose, Well, I have snost and lost…’”, to which he replied, “Where do I know you from?” I filled him in and dropped a few names of some friends we have in common. "You were a Skateboard Gang member, right?" I told him that my wife and I would more than likely be in the NYC metro area for his dates at the Mexicali Café in Teaneck NJ. and perhaps we could talk more then since the impatient Civic Center security guy with the headset was pushing us along much to both of our annoyance. He poised for a picture while flashing West Point Elementary School gang signs and we were off. It’s a good feeling connecting with a hometown guy who’s actually making it in the shitty business of music playing stuff that is true to who he is, even if our prior personnel connection is twice removed so to speak. A real “Good for you” type of thing from me to him.

Coda and Editorial

I’ll be honest here, I really didn’t have an opinion one way or another regarding the BNL’s going to this show. I will say that the BNL’s were VERY complimentary to Mike and mentioned Mike’s name many times during their own performance. I think this is a VERY cool move. It’s a display of musician solidarity and anybody who is even remotely familiar with the business of music knows that true altruistic support is a rare thing. As for the BNL’s music, I actually can’t think of an adjective to describe them other than to say that I don’t dislike it, or like it either. They seem like guys who cut their teeth on the North Country and Canadian college circuit, were embraced for their quirkiness, and cut some very unusual sounding hits. I don’t really like the “Brian Wilson” tune, and am not big on that particular guys’ voice, but they really dig what they’re doing, are certainly having fun doing it, don’t take themselves seriously at all, and managed to play two tunes which I had never heard before that I quite enjoyed. I’m also pretty sure TWO HOURS of BNL is too much for even their fans, but what the hell, they seem like cool Canadian’s who more than likely play a decent game of pick up hockey. They sure as hell look like hockey players. The strangest fan base I’ve ever seen at a concert in my entire life by a long shot. As my wife observed, you could tell that for many of the male members of the audience, it was a SOFiE night out (Significant Other Forced Event).

Since I was only marginally interested in the BNL performance, I took the time to employ my reporter's eye so to speak and want to address an age old concert experience issue that was certainly evident last night as it has been at almost every show I've every attended since the beginning of time. While gazing at the soundboard pit, I was stunned to see a fully automated, software driven, live mixing console being used. I don’t know shit about digital software driven live mixing desks, but I’ve got a few ideas about how they make life of for soundman a great deal easier (during sound check, mix songs individually, recall the mixes by song during performance, etc…). With that in mind, why is it STILL impossible for the opening act to get a fucking headliner quality sound mix? It’s such bullshit. What? Do you you not have enough good mics or something? Mike Doughty’s band had a small drum kit, electric piano, synth, up right bass, his guitars (two of them), and two vocal mics. What the fuck? This genius working that console couldn’t give Mike and his band twenty more minutes during sound check to write some automation and give that little drum kit a better EQ? I'm not asking for more or better choreographed light show, but how 'bout giving us the fucking sound THEY and WE deserve? With concert ticket prices hitting the roof and as a consumer, we should demand an end to the practice of dissing the opening act on their sound. They should sound as good as the headliner, period. Do headlining acts really want to purposely make the opening act sound less good just to make themselves sound that much better? Those who understand the complexity, or lack there of, of a live PA set up know that giving good sound to an opening act is NOT a hard thing to do and the fact that the practice exists at all is nothing but pure playground top dog shit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, It's a New Day...

The elections are over and as I’ve felt after so many other elections before this one, I don’t feel that much different other than to say I’m a little bit more hopeful about our future Iraq policy, driven primarily by the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. I’m even glad that the elections were what made it happen. I’m also glad that we won’t have to hear the GOP talk about ID, stem cell research funding bans, Terri Schivo, gay marriage, etc… all of which they had wrong. The new Democrats should remember this as they move their stuff into their new offices: While I may not have voted for them, they still nonetheless represent ME. Something those they replaced did a poor job of.

The sole issue that has thrown my vote towards the GOP for so long is that of our national security and with the recent Democratic victories, they now have a whole lot to prove. I am deeply concerned about the Democrats ability to comprehend our enemy since so many Democrats I know personally seem so clueless as to their true nature. They just don’t understand the determination and inflexibility of a religious zealot and the dangers their societies produce. They seem to think that there is some diplomatic tactic that doesn’t include the threat of force that will somehow magically smooth the way towards peaceful coexistance. They are wrong. Islamic fundamentalism is a cancer, a cancer that needs aggressive treatment, not touchy feely band-aids. A society build on religious fueled hate of non-believers is not to be negotiated with. If Bill Clinton’s failed North Korean policy teaches us anything, it’s that our ENEMY is not to be trusted, and Kim’s game is socio-political vs theocratic (note: I was a proponent of the Clinton/Carter nuke accords and hoped they would ultimately succeed, but the bastard went ahead and build them in secret anyway).

We do not have the luxury of having the Democrats learn this hard truth the hard way with our troops deployed across the line from the enemy. There is NO appeasement option to the war on terror. It sucks that we have to fight this war and that soldiers have/will die, but fight we must. I will wait with the patience of Jobe for the new house and senate to show signs they understand the fight we’re in and hope they can see past their partisanship and naivety to provide the protection our country needs at this time.

The most overused phrase which held the most truth this election season: It’s all about Iraq (it certainly was for me). On this, at least to some degree, the Rumsfeld move is a win. As for the current situation in Iraq, it would appear that everybody got it wrong, some more than others. Those who thought we’d be welcome with open arms got it wrong, as did those who thought the U.S. is and has been the Iraqi peoples public enemy one got it wrong, even those who thought that the idea of a protracted war was something all Iraqi’s would want to avoid after having suffered so badly under a despot for 50 years (I include myself in the last classification). Nope, it turns out that Iraqi’s hate each other more than the desire for peace. They seem driven to carry out revenge on each other more than live prosperously. In many ways I don’t blame them, on the other hand standing back and letting them kill each other is not a very attractive option either.

I’ve always thought it strange that during debates over the future of Iraq for the last couple of years, specifically speculating on results of all out civil war, that I would hear and (continue to hear) the notion of a three way confederation of Iraq states as an option. To this I say, “What dope are you smoking?”. I finally found at least one guy who agrees that if an all out civil war were to be fought in Iraq there would be but two survivors: The Kurds and the Shia. The Sunni’s would be dispatched within a year (again, if the Sunni’s had killed 30 plus members of my family during Saddam’s reign I’d probably line up for a rifle of my own too). But alas, this is NOT a desirable state either.

Having said all that, and with all the news of late I am prepared to fully endorse Fareed Zakaria’s policy 110%. I beg any and all of you to read it. Fareed Zakaria has always told it like it was from the beginning when it comes to the war in Iraq. He has shared my optimism and my disappointment, but he now offers the best solutions and policy I’ve read in the last 160 days of trolling poli-blogs from the left and right.

The Shia dominated Iraqi government MUST begin to offer a contrition path to the Sunni’s and funnel some desperately needed construction money towards the Anbar providence. The oil revenue must be shared. At some point, there MUST be amnesty for all, otherwise complete ethnic cleansing will be the sure result. The Sunni’s MUST realize that coalition forces are the ONLY thing keeping them from being buried in big pits in the desert much like their former leader used to do to others on a regular basis, that we offer them the ONLY choice to remaining alive in Iraq, much less a political power of any concern (Zakaria indicates that this is sinking in to some degree with the Sunni’s already). The U.S. and the U.K. must make this these equity positions fundemental to continued troop/money support.

Bottom line is that Iraq will not turn out like anyone would have wanted, including me, but there are severe consequences to not doing the right thing going forward. With the new players on Capital Hill and with a new Secretary of Defense on board my sincerest hope is for a plan like Mr. Zakaria’s be given serious consideration.

As far as the rest of the election hoopla goes, I think my man John Cole says it best here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Election Post...

Another reason John McCain should be our next president, he's got a hot wife! Check her out with Republican Sen. John Kyl in Phoenix, Arizona. Maybe having a hubba hubba first lady is what we need to heal our divided nation.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Guitars: A Personal History...

Last night as I fought off another bout of insomnia, I was giving some thought to blog posts and reflected on the week gone by. I got a great email from an old friend of mine and Jackson’s from back in the day. Jackson mentioned during one of our typical political sparring sessions that, no matter how heated our debates get, we always find common ground. The common ground: Guitars. We both remember EVERY guitar we’ve ever owned and remember all the one’s our friends have owned. There is nothing cooler on this earth than guitars. You may need to study and practice to be a great player, but ANYONE can learn play enough to to satisfy the soul with just a little effort. Once you've figured out your first song you’re hooked.

I was a late comer to guitar playing. I was a singer in my high school band days, and not a very good one at that. I got much better when I finally picked up a guitar and made myself learn to play it. I’m not a very good guitar player, but I have a good ear and it has helped me learn better pitch and many other countless things.

Learning to play wasn’t easy for me. I’m dominantly left handed, which means there was no hope of me learning guitar right handed, so I learned all the major and minor chords backwards on my friend's righty guitars. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I traded a case of beer for a Harmony ES335 knockoff that I was able to flip the strings and play a true lefty set up guitar. It opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve also been blessed my whole life to have had a lot of friends that played guitar very well. I seem to pick up a great deal from just watching and listening to people play.

I can’t be sure, but I think that old Harmony guitar is in a closet at my brother’s house in upstate NY. I gave it to him after I bought my first real axe. I taught my brother how to tune it and showed him how to play barre chords. From there, I showed him that you could play EVERY Ramones song there is with the knowledge he now possessed, and he proceeded to learn every one of them.

Every guitar I own has a story, some long, some short. Other than the Harmony I gave to my brother and an Ovation acoustic I sold I have every one that I’ve ever owned. So, since everybody else has done a post on their collection here my twist on the subject. A historical and personal walk through my collection of guitars…

1967 Gibson ES330

This guitar was the first real instrument I bought. My father made me turn over all my paychecks in the summer of 1984 to save for my pending year away at the University of Maryland. The last check I received, I slipped into my pocket and jetted up to Alto Music in Poughkeepsie NY to pick it up. It is the older of the ES line of hollow body guitars. It’s distinction is that it is fully hollow vs it’s younger semi hollow brother the ES335. This is a great guitar. It was certainly a factor in me not doing so well at UM that year. Fitting that it’s red.

1985 Fender ’62 reissue Telecaster

A check showed up in my mailbox at UM one day (some scholarship money of some sort) and I immediately had Jackson take me to Venemen’s Music in Rockville MD to buy a Tele. Because of the lefty thing it had to be ordered. I waited months for it to arrive and grew impatient as the lame ass music store guys would blow me off when I’d call about it. Out of the blue one day, Milkyum called me from NYC to tell me he was in Manny’s Music Store and they had four lefty tele’s in stock but Elliot Easton of The Cars was in the store playing them and might buy them all. I had him put a salesman on the phone right away and I begged the guy to hold one back for me. The dude acquiesced and I collected my refund from the assholes at Venemen’s and two weeks later I was pretending to be Keith Richards.

1969 Gibson Les Paul Standard

When I finally managed to graduate from college, my mother was asking me what I wanted for a graduation present. I really wasn't in need of anything at the time, but one day at work I over heard my supervisor, who I knew played in wedding bands, say he got a new Carvin guitar and he was happy with the fact that they had built him a lefty and shipped it to him within a few weeks. I asked him what he was replacing with the Carvin and he said, “…an old Les Paul that won’t stay in tune. I’ve left it in the basement for a year now because it sucks so bad”. Needless to say, the dude was not very bright. I asked him what he’d take for it and he seemed surprised I was interested in it at all. I said I give him $350 for it sight unseen. My folks gave me $300 which I turned over to my supervisor and told him that I'd give him the other $50 on payday and to bring the guitar to work that Friday. The guy seemed so shocked that I was giving $300 for it that he said, “…I’ve got it in the car, you don’t have to give me the other $50, the thing plays like shit”. It did have a few issues which I fixed easily, but I got a great deal on it. A guitar player for a band I recorded last year took in to his luther for a full set up and it plays like butter now.

1985 Ovation 12 string

Bought this with the first credit card I qualified for. Jackson hates Ovations and for good reason: they don’t really sound that good. I think they can sound good, but a twelve string is very limited sonically. Good for playing REO Speedwagon songs. When I hit the lottery, I’ll pick up a Guild 12 string to replace it.

1991 Guild JF-30 Jumbo Acoustic

Right after I moved to Atlanta I knew the severance package that my former employer had given me would not last that long, so the smart thing to do was to blow a crap load of cash foolishly on a guitar, right? My friend Brain took me downtown to Rhythm City and I decided to have a lefty JF-30 custom made for me. When the dude stepped away to go get the paperwork for me to fill out, Brian says to me in a hushed tone, “Dude, you know who that is?” “No” I said, “That’s Derek St. Holms from Ted Nugent’s band”. And sure enough it was. I of course asked him a crap load of questions about his life in Ted’s band which he seemed a little annoyed about having to answer, but I was dropping more than a grand on this guitar so he couldn’t tell me to fuck off. I did shake his hand when I closed the deal and four weeks later this beauty showed up. It is my all time FAVORITE guitar and has probably been played more than any of the others. It sounds fantastic and records very well. I love the blonde flame wood all the way around it.

2001 ’52 re-issue American made Fender Telecaster

An extravagant indulgence plain and simple. This is the guitar I had always dreamed of owning. It was bonus time, I had gotten my wife something nice a couple of weeks before and she said (I swear), “Why don’t you just buy it…”. That’s why I love her.

Crappy Agile shallow bowl Electric/Acoustic – Crappy Korean made Tele Knockoff

Bought both of these the first time I came up to NYC to visit Jackson and record at Smoke & Mirrors. The idea was to leave them at their studio so I wouldn’t have to travel with guitars after that. The acoustic sounds like crap and the Tele is at Jackson’s house being used as a cat litter box. It is virtually unplayable. I may try to replace the neck on the Tele, but chances are that it would be just as cheap to buy a Mexican made Fender and leave it up there.

Korean made SX Electric/Acoustic

Liked the sound of this small body acoustic this guy brought into my studio one time and thought about getting one. Before committing to buying an expensive one, I decided to buy a cheap one and try it out. Before I could do that, Cathy and my daughter bought one for me for my birthday two years ago. I took it to my guitar luther and had him install Schaler machine heads, new bone nut, and tail rest, and have a complete set up done on it. I love the way it plays and sounds now and have no reason to have to pick up an expensive one. It has a wide flat fret board sort of like a Les Paul. I can bang it around and travel with it easily.

So there you have it Tony Alva’s guitar collection. I’m really not jonesin’ hard for any particular guitar right now, but I have a feeling that a one of the jumbo Gibson acoustics is in my future sometime:-)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Meet Max...

Our esteemed blogging colleague Hue B. Mooksuki who writes Huezine: The Worst Blog Ever has been notably absence from the blogging boards most of the summer. The man has been busy. He’s recently moved his wife and family to Minneapolis, and from what I’m to understand, works like ten jobs. Hue is driven by one thing: to provide a decent life for his family, especially his four year old son Max. Max suffers from Autism. From his first visited to Jackson’s Savage Distortion blog two years ago, Hue began educating all of us on this disease. Max and his family's struggle was the inspiration for Jackson’s Tedstock event a year ago.

Sometime during the summer, a local CBS affiliate reporter Jason DeRushain in Minneapolis put together a piece featuring Max. I know Hue has been lobbying hard to get the piece aired and it finally ran this week. Go here to see it.

Hue tirelessly dedicates himself to his family and the cause of autism awareness. No doubt he himself has had to give up many things in order to keep all his efforts moving forward, blogging being one of them. Jackson, myself, and many others in our blog circle miss having Hue around on a regular basis, but fully understand his absence. I still hope that one day we can meet him in person, steal away to Jackson’s turntable and colossal record collection, and spin our favorites if only for a few hours.

I'm sure Max understands what a great father he has and we stand in awe of all parents who get up everyday and face this disease. Stay in touch Hue as best you can and pass along my families best wishes to yours. We’ll keep checking in at the Worst Blog Ever every now and again to see if the lamp is lit.