Every Band I’ve Ever Seen Live

Ok, this isn’t really every band I’ve ever seen in concert.  I’m leaving out local bands as that would be too taxing on my memory.  These are national touring acts that I’ve seen live somewhere.  Some I’m huge fans of and have seen many times, some were just opening acts.  I’m certain to forget most of the opening acts.  Post your own list in the comments section.

Wilco, Gillian Welch, U2, R.E.M., Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, The National, Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, Slobberbone, Bill Mallonee and/or the Vigilantes of Love, Patty Griffin, Buddy & Julie Miller, Bright Eyes, Neil Young, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Lucinda Williams, Chuck Prophet, Pearl Jam, Sparta, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, The Police, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, Natalie Merchant, Nickel Creek, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Glen Phillips, Mutual Admiration Society, Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea, Tori Amos, Rhett Miller, Old 97s, Rush, Dream Theater, Dixie Dregs, Yes, Kansas, Okkervil River, Modest Mouse, The Pixies, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Heartless Bastards, Ben Folds, Eef Barzelay, Clem Snide, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Ryan Adams, Rachel Yamagata, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Isley Brothers, Flaming Lips, Kathleen Edwards, Justin Timberlake (at a festival, and he wasn’t bad either), Carole King, James Taylor, Charlie Peacock, Steve Taylor, Newsboys, DeGarmo & Key (one of first shows ever with church youth group, no idea who they were), Geoff Moore & the Distance (opening for DeGarmo & Key), The Decemberists, Justin Townes Earle, Great Lake Swimmers, The Mendoza Line, Elliot Brood, Dave Matthews Band (least favorite show of all time), David Bazan, Pedro the Lion, Neil Diamond (first concert ever when I was 11), Kingston Trio, Smothers Brothers (they have songs!), Franz Ferdinand, Gaslight Anthem, Great Big Sea, New Pornographers, Jars of Clay, Jennifer Knapp, Derek Webb, Jethro Tull, Chubby Checker, The Killers, Jimmy Page & the Black Crows, The Who, Old Crow Medicine Show, Over the Rhine, Paul Simon, Prince, Ra Ra Riot, Roman Candle, Sufjan Stevens, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Titus Andronicus, Victoria Williams, The Wallflowers, John Mellencamp, Blind Pilot, Deer Tick.

I’m sure more will come to mind.  I’ve skipped a bunch of stuff I saw at festivals that I just didn’t care about even while I was watching.  My favorite show ever was The National at the Basement in Columbus right after Boxer came out.  The weirdest show was Neil Young playing the entirety of Greendale.  The biggest surprise was AC/DC at a festival in Toronto, I never cared for them but they were tons of fun.  I mentioned above that the worst show was Dave Matthews Band but it bears repeating: it had both the worst sound and the worst crowd I’ve ever experienced.  It was like a religious experience where I converted to hating the band by the end of the night.  Sparta is a strange band to mention as I never listened to them but I’ve seen them open 2 or 3 different shows for other bands that I did like (Pearl Jam, Weezer, and one more I think).

So there.  I guarantee that you’ll have more fun coming up with your own list then you will have reading mine.

Posted in Lists, Music | 1 Comment

Requiem for R.E.M.

R.E.M. retired this week.  I became an R.E.M. fan when I was 13 years old.  I saw their omnipresent video for “Losing My Religion” several times on MTV but I didn’t know any other songs.  At the time I was just starting to get into buying my own music.  I had joined the Columbia Record Club and ordered a bunch of cassettes, some of which I have still never paid for.

My tape collection featured about 12 cassettes, mostly yard sale finds of Neil Diamond and Billy Joel, and I knew the lyrics to every song on every album I owned.  It’s funny to think about a time where that was even possible.  Now I have well over 1,000 albums in my itunes folder, many I’ve only listened to a couple of times, I’ll never know the music I own as intimately as I did when I was 13.

Columbia Music Club would put their ad in the Sunday paper with about 100 or so stamps with the picture of an album cover and a code for that album beneath it.  Every Sunday I would tear out the stamps of the albums I wanted, I’d tear out every album I was interested in and then I’d narrow it down until I had the four or six that was the deal for the week.  I did this for months before ever subscribing to the record club, but I must have had “Losing My Religion” in my head on the week where I finally mailed in my postcard with the record stamps and I picked Automatic For The People, an R.E.M. record that did not have “Losing My Religion” on it.

In those dark pre-internet days finding out what songs were on a record meant a drive to a record store, I guessed wrong as I found out when I went to the mall a week later.  The albums from Columbia took a month to arrive and in that time between ordering and arrival I tracked down a copy of Out of Time (the record with “Losing My Religion”) form my local library.  I popped the cassette in, the first song was “Radio Song” and I was scared.  It had a rapping bridge, it had a swear on it (damn!), it was probably one of the worst representations of R.E.M. on any of their records.  I listened to “Radio Song” and “Losing My Religion” and then returned it to the library.

Weeks later when Automatic For The People showed up I hid it under my bed and didn’t listen to it.  It gathered dust for months until I saw the video for “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”, a song I loved instantly (though rewatching the video tonight was a little painful, it didn’t age as well as the song).  I dusted off Automatic and found the song was on there.  Away I went, I listened to Automatic For The People for months, well more than any other album I ever had.  My next Columbia Music Club purchase was Eponymous (a collection of their best pre-major label songs) solely because the Columbia ad made it sound like it was their greatest hits.  I was disappointed until I listened to it and realized that Eponymous might very well be the best collection ever.

My secret origin as a music nerd has everything to do with R.E.M.  I bought albums, I bought posters, and I made copies of their b-sides from my friend Erik who I think only befriended me because I was the only kid in school who had more R.E.M. t-shirts than him.  There was a point in high school where I didn’t wear shirts that weren’t of the Muppets or R.E.M.  I think that would make me a lot cooler now than it did back then.  I actually felt embarrassed by how much I loved R.E.M.  Considering the entire hipster indie-rock scene basically sees R.E.M. as their godfathers, I guess I have no need to be embarrassed and history has vindicated weird, teenage Ron.

I’m not sure if I still would have become a musician without R.E.M. in my life.  I can say that R.E.M. is probably why I like to write lyrics that are hard to explain and “Losing My Religion” is probably why all my recordings have a ridiculous amount of mandolin.

Posted in Music | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Dark Side of the Earth

1964 edition

The Dark Side of the Earth by Alfred Bester

After reading his novel The Stars My Destination and this collection of short stories, Alfred Bester is becoming one of my favorite sci-fi writers of the 50’s/60’s era.  He was comparatively unprolific compared to the stable of writers churning out short stories every week to the tune of 5 cents a word, his pace was hardly glacial, he was just often distracted by day jobs.  Throughout the 40’s Bester wrote for comics (Superman and Green Lantern), comic strips (The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician), and radio (The Shadow, Charlie Chan, and more).  Bester was certainly able to keep the bills paid and contributed heavily to the genre pop art of the era, but there was little published prose work in the 40’s.

Bester’s most notable work was published in the 50’s with three novels and two collections of short stories published between 1953 and 1964, all but one novel being science fiction work.  In 1963 he would accept an editorship for Holiday magazine and his science fiction disappeared until the mid 70’s.  The Dark Side of the Earth, a collection of seven short stories, was his last collection before his hiatus.  The cover actually claims “a short novel an six short stories” but honestly the longest story is just a touch over 40 pages, and I don’t call that a short novel where I come from.

1970 edition

Bester’s work shows a great deal of humor, most distinctly in one of his most known stories, “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed”.  A scientist discovers his wife in the arms of another man and decides to build a time machine to go back and kill her parents before she was ever conceived, but after the murder he returns to the present and finds his wife still alive.  He keeps changing history to attempt her erasure but is never successful. Eventually he becomes more interested in the scientific problem of time travel and forgets his anger and thirst for revenge.  In “They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To” a woman believes herself to be the last person alive after the apocalypse until she comes across a shy man walking through the ruins of New York.  She invites him to stay at her place, a place she fixed up after the holocaust.  She of course has a guest room.  He asks her why she has a guest room when she thought she was the last person a live.  She responds simply, “a proper house has to have a guest room.”

Bester’s science is often weak.  I’ve found some sci-fi fans who are turned off by science fiction that doesn’t follow a reasonable amount of scientific logic.  Bester skips the descriptions and explanations that later sci-fi writers would over-embrace, a character might have a strange power just because that strange power could lead to an interesting story, as in “Pi Man” where the main character must compulsively compensate for the world’s imbalances.  By abandoning scientific logic (while still following story logic) Bester builds upon imagination.  The first page can sometimes read conceptually like your buddy pitching you a ridiculous movie idea (“Out of this World” is like a star-crossed, infidelity-soaked version of Frequency), but Bester’s execution delivers consistently with humor organic to the characters and original ideas.

1977 edition

Sadly this collection, and much of Bester’s work is long out of print.  Thank God for used book stores.  I found my copy for $5 at Acorn Bookshop in Columbus, OH, probably my favorite used book store in the area.  Of course, I got the only copy they had when I was there.  If you don’t have a book store as cool as Acorn near you please consider buying it from Amazon through my link.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Reasons Why Being Aquaman Wouldn’t Be So Bad

Aquaman has long been the joke of the Justice League and the suck of the Superfriends. Perhaps we’ve been a little unfair to Aquaman by measuring him and his powers against that of Superman and Green Lantern.  If I stop and measure Aquaman’s life against my own it’s pretty easy to see why being Aquaman wouldn’t be so bad.

1. Luxurious Head of Hair

Look at how thick that hair is.  I’m sure it takes forever for him to blow dry his hair when he comes on land but it would be worth it.  My hair is thin on top and way too thick around my ears, but Aquaman has movie star/TV sports anchor hair.  I think if we were honest all our hostility towards Aquaman is rooted in a jealousy of his hair.  Even when he grew his hair long and we all made fun of him we were just envious that we could never pull it off.

2. Never Embarrassed at the Beach

The root of American insecurity is how we perceive ourselves on the beach.  From the Charles Atlas 98 lb. weekling ads to Cathy freaking out over how she’s too fat for her bathing suit, it’s written into our national consciousness to be embarrassed at the beach. You think Aquaman gets embarrassed at the beach?  No.

3. Very Little Crime Under the Sea

He rules 3/4ths of the planet but it’s a pretty peaceful 3/4ths.  He sometimes has to deal with pirates or Black Manta but it’s not like there are undersea bank robberies or billionaire dolphins being kidnapped for ransom by a gang of thugs.  Batman has it way worse with Gotham City.  In fact, there is only one prevalent undersea crime I can think of…

4. Enlightened Attitude About Fish Murder

See all those fish behind Aquaman?  Most of those kill and eat other fish to survive.  And Aquaman can talk with them.  Don’t you think that the small fish routinely try to get Aquaman to save them from the bigger fish?  I’m sure it breaks his heart, but he has to say no.  Under the sea, millions of fish murders happen everyday, so Aquaman can’t let his emotions get the best of him and try to save every fish in the sea.  He understands there is a food chain and creatures need to eat.  I bet Aquaman is the only person capable of having real conversations with animals and still capable of eating them.  You think he lives under the sea and just eats seaweed and plankton?

5. Green Pants

I wish I could wear green pants but I know I’d look ridiculous.  Sometimes I just lie awake at night wishing my pajama pants were green.

Posted in Culture, Lists | Tagged | Leave a comment

Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe

A week or two ago I ran my recipe for Chocolate Fudge.  One of the problems with making fudge is that you tend to use exactly half a can of evaporated milk for a normal sized recipe.  This leaves the other half of the can sitting in your fridge for a few days before you throw it out, unless you want to make another batch of fudge.  But at this point you’ve either frozen a lot of chocolate fudge or eaten so much it’s made you sick. So you need a different kind of fudge.  Enter peanut butter.

This recipe is very similar to the chocolate recipe so it’s less to remember.  Besides the peanut butter for chocolate substitution and twice the sugar everything is basically the same.  Also you don’t have to include nuts in your fudge, the recipe will be fine without it, I just like it that way.

Ingredients

  • 1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow crème
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter*
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Line an 8×8 inch pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

2.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine marshmallow cream, sugar,             evaporated milk, butter and salt. Bring to a full boil, and cook for 5 minutes,                         stirring constantly.

3.  Remove from heat and scoop in the peanut butter. Stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours, or until firm.

Notes

  • *Many people have switched to all natural, no sugar peanut butter.  Don’t use that stuff.  I keep that stuff around the house but never use it for baking because recipes figure on having the sugar that’s in the peanut butter.  An all-natural peanut butter is fine as long as it’s sweetened.  And for crying out loud, you’re making fudge, now is not the time to be health conscious.
  • Don’t use generic marshmallow crème.
  • Makes a lot so plan on sharing.
  • Or freeze whatever extra you have, place wax paper between layers of fudge so it doesn’t freeze in one big clump.
  • Don’t under boil, boil for 6 ½ minutes for firmer fudge.
  • Substituting evaporated goat’s milk for regular evaporated milk is more easily digested if your stomach struggles with dairy.
  • Plus the fudge will be richer and creamier with goat’s milk, it just costs three times as much as regular evaporated milk
Posted in Food/Drink | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Teapot

Judy always worked slowly.  The antique shop did not have a modern cash register, every transaction had to be summed with a calculator.  Judy punched the numbers in deliberately, double-checking along the way, then wrote the receipts by hand while the next customer waited.  The next customer in line was named Cheryl, but Judy didn’t know that.  There was no reason to know, Cheryl was on vacation and was clearly not fitting in to Delaware, Ohio.  She wore heavy make-up and a leather jacket amongst dozens of people in cheap windbreakers.

Cheryl was buying a teapot shaped like a tomato; the leafy green at the top of the tomato was the lid.  The tomato pot was marked at $35 and Cheryl was trying to get a better deal.

“What can I give ya for this teapot?  I like it but I’m not paying $35 dollars, it’s just plastic.”

“It’s ceramic actually, if it was plastic it would melt all over the stove whenever you used it,” Judy said.

“Fine, ceramic, whatever.  What kind of deal can you give me?”

Judy didn’t own the store and she didn’t own the teapot, she was just taking the money and pointing tourists towards the bathrooms.  “I can take 10% off,” she said.

“10% off?  That’s only, like, $3.50.  I’ll give you twenty bucks for it.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but the items here in the store are placed by different antique dealers in the area.  I’m not authorized to give you more than 10% off.  I’m sorry, I wish I could.”

“Seriously?  Where’s the owner?  Let me talk to the owner.”

“Mrs. Knott is the owner but she is a rather elderly and sickly woman and does not come in to the store daily.  But Mrs. Knott doesn’t own the teapot either, she just leased space to the dealer.”

Judy pushed her glasses up her nose, Cheryl smelled like smoke and it made her nose twitch.  Cheryl rolled her eyes and then was unsure if Judy saw her roll her eyes and so she rolled them again.  In New York, where Cheryl was from, this ridiculous teapot would cost $60.  When Cheryl first saw the price on the teapot she thought she was getting a deal, but she decided to push the clerk a little to save a few dollars.  Cheryl wanted the teapot in a way that only a collector of novelty tomato-themed kitchenware could.  She had tomato salt and pepper shakers, tomato napkin holders, tomato oven mitts, tomato sugar and flour canisters, and a bowl of overripe tomatoes on the breakfast table.

“Listen, fine, I get it, you just work here, I’ll take the 10%.  Here,” Cheryl handed Judy an American Express card.

Judy winced, “I’m sorry, I can only give you the 10% if you pay in cash.  With a credit card our discount is 8% off,” Judy hesitated before saying what she said next but she had to say it, “and we don’t take American Express.”

“Are you shitting me?  Seriously 2%?  2%?  That’s, what, seventy cents?  Are you gonna hold up a sale over seventy cents?”

“I think I’m going to have to.  It really is just store policy.”

“Fine, forget it, I don’t want it.  This is really just insulting.”

Cheryl took back her credit card and stormed away towards the exit when she noticed something she missed before:  a tomato shaped cookie jar.  She bit her lip and swore when she saw it.  Cheryl went next door to the rare coin shop where her husband was perusing and ordered him in to the antique shop to buy the cookie jar and teapot.

Posted in Short Fiction | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Chocolate Fudge Recipe

I live in a crappy apartment with an electric oven that cooks unevenly.  This has led to many disappointing batches of cookies, so sweets around my place are often whatever I can make on the stovetop.  This fudge recipe is fairly simple (I nailed it on the first try) and has proved pretty popular.

Ingredients

  • 1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Line an 8×8 inch pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

2.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine marshmallow cream, sugar,             evaporated milk, butter and salt. Bring to a full boil, and cook for 5 minutes,                         stirring constantly.

3.  Remove from heat and pour in semisweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate             chips. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in nuts and                         vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours, or until firm.

Notes

  • Don’t use generic marshmallow crème.
  • Use pecans or walnuts.
  • Makes a lot so plan on sharing.
  • Or freeze whatever extra you have, place wax paper between layers of fudge so it doesn’t freeze in one big clump.
  • Don’t under boil, boil for 6 ½ minutes for firmer fudge.
  • Substituting evaporated goat’s milk for regular evaporated milk is more easily digested if your stomach struggles with dairy.
  • Plus the fudge will be richer and creamier with goat’s milk, it just costs three times as much as regular evaporated milk.
Posted in Food/Drink | Tagged | 1 Comment