On Aug. 1, I had the honor of judging a battle of the bands at The Social. Well, I was honored to be asked; personally, I think band-battles are super-lame for two reasons. First, most bands that want to play them suck (otherwise, they'd just be playing shows and making fans the old-fashioned way). Second, the whole idea of artists competing for approval is kinda gross. Unless it's my approval they're competing for.
Anyway, this contest earned the winner a slot on one of the many Warped Tour stages (and, I'm sure, an excellent set time). First up was Broken Image, a swirl of bad haircuts, screamo irony and mangled guitar flings. I hated them. So did the rest of the panel, a mix of writers, producers, managers and musicians. (I thought my tally of 12 points out of a possible 50 was harsh; the judge next to me gave them nine.) Next was the horribly monikered Noon Blue. Looking like lawyers about to break into Buffett covers, they floored me with musicality, energy and a pint-size bassist who was possibly the night's most energetic and engaging performer. Sounding like a cross between Rush and Converge, they started strong and earned a quick 34 out of 50; as they continued, their songs bled together and they ended up with a 26 from me (the second-best score on my page for the night, by the way).
Nursing my disappointment with Noon Blue over, like, my 30th free beer when the members of Ezekiel's Eye took the stage, I was ready to vent. And boy, did I. Unanimously considered by the judges to be the worst band of the evening (one comment read "count sheep or die"), they were so anonymous as to be offensive. A frontman who should either be an investment banker or a Marine drill sergeant made their plodding frat-rock even worse than you're imagining right now. Fourth was Makeshifte. Yes, there's a superfluous letter at the end; one point deducted right there. These guys won, simply because they were more consistently entertaining than the other bands. In effect, they were the Alkaline Quintet (they even brought their own hair and makeup people) and as such, Makeshifte earned the only zero on my grade sheet for songwriting, but they also got the highest score. Backflips from the lead singer, tight delivery and an unmistakable ownership of the stage gave them the edge, but honestly, they still sucked. Oh yeah, speaking of sucking, Gotti 13 was the last band and they started their set with a song called "I Fucked Your Girlfriend." And then they played another stupid, unfunny, faux-punk song. And then I gave them a score of five and walked out.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
One of the best jokes about CBGB's bathrooms has something to do with a whore, but it's unprintable even in this paper. Sadly, the state of the johns at the joint has become more of a legacy than the onstage entertainment over the past two decades. Owner Hilly Kristal has floated his New York City venue on reputation and T-shirt sales and not much else. Now, however, that the boom is about to fall on the club thanks to a nasty dispute over repairs between Kristal and the landlord (resulting in much unpaid back rent), everybody's freaking out that this landmark is about to close. Me? I couldn't care less about CBGB closing. It's a dump, the only bands that play there anymore are "showcasing," and it's incredibly unlikely that the club will ever nurture anything remotely approaching the early punk and NYHC scenes it wet-nursed long ago.
Still, the panic that everyone else feels is resulting in a fine, fine batch of "benefit" shows. I got an e-mail from Orlando resident Dave Scott, who just happens to have been the drummer for Adrenalin O.D. back in the day, telling me that he was headed up for an AOD reunion at a CBGB benefit show, which was totally exciting. When he told me that AOD's Aug. 26 show was part of a bill that includes Flipper, Peter & the Test Tube Babies and a zombie resurrection of the Dead Boys, I nearly passed out. Sure, Stiv Bators is dead, but to watch this lineup of bands (AOD was inexplicably huge among my circle of high-school friends) in any club, let alone CBGB, is a big deal. Other bands playing benefits throughout August: Misfits, Gorilla Biscuits (!), The Vandals and Anti-Nowhere League (!!). Buy your tickets now, kids.
Because I'm in the Cult of Mac (and I'm too lazy to reset my home page), my browser always opens up to the Apple.com page. One of the recent iTunes ads for out-of-print jazz titles on the Verve label caught my eye, and I dutifully clicked. Finally, I thought, someone figured out that the real beauty of iTunes is the low-cost unleashing of deep catalog. And there it was, a page of 199 albums that would be cost-prohibitive to try and put in stores, but that nonetheless deserve to be available. Two of my favorite albums Brown Rice by Don Cherry and Orgasm by Alan Shorter are there, and though most of the offerings are out of print for good reason, there's an amazing selection of quality on offer.
NO, DOWNLOAD THESE
This week's make-your-own podcast.
Nitin Sawhney: "Beyond Skin"
Devendra Banhart: "Santa Maria Da Feira"
The Frogs: "Whitefully Dead"
Queens of the Stone Age: "Skin on Skin"
Marvin Gaye: "You Sure Love To Ball"
Broken Spindles: "Burn My Body"
Muslimgauze: "Kurdish Red"
Laughing Hyenas: "Here We Go Again"
ESP Summer: "I'm Taking Care of You" Astronautalis: "Somethin' for the Kids"
Sammy Davis, Jr.: "The Lady Is a Tramp"
Amar: "Heavy Intro"
Yochanan & Sun Ra: "Message to Earthman"
Sly & the Family Stone: "In Time"
Government Issue: "It Begins Now"
The Cure: "Piggy in the Mirror"