There is a huge difference between merely "watching" TV and learning to respond aggressively to it. The difference, for most people, is the difference between the living and dying of their own brains.
--Hunter S. Thompson, 1994
I don't own a television and I'm smug about it. People try to engage me over the last episode of Seinfeld, and I stare at them as though they're speaking in tongues. Usually they'll babble for a few seconds before focusing on my superior, quizzical look (eyebrows furrowed in a mixture of confusion and disdain), at which point they shut up. Then I rant about corporate mind control and home shopping channels surpassing religion as an opiate of the masses. Point being, I go weeks without watching TV. In fact, until last week, I hadn't jacked into the happy box since mid-May. But the MTV Video Music Awards were on last Thursday night, and I am, after all, a professional. To skip this yearly charade of celebrity worship, hipster consumerism and soulless, sound-bite performances would be to shirk my duties as a working member of the music press.
Resolved to my fate, I hunkered down with the proper accessories in front of a friend's stereo-sound home entertainment system and broke a 15-week TV fast with a two-hour blitz of music television. I recommend you never, ever do this. For days afterward, I had the attention span of breakfast yogurt and my pupils flickered like candlelight. Most unsettling. This year's VMA had two bright spots: Alanis Morissette and Green Day.
Morissette, for being such a smokin' one-hit wonder. Her sultry, nails-down-your-back rendition of "You Oughta Know" was a choice cut of live music (most of the Big Bands--R.E.M. and Hole included--sucked big nasty things). Green Day gets a nod for spitting on the satellite cams that transported them live from Stockholm. So what if they were punk posturing? Anybody who expectorates on MTV is okay by me, even if they were getting paid for it--perhaps especially so.
For all the trash I talk about MTV, it has the best ads of any network. That they're often difficult to distinguish from the regular programming only enhances the viewing experience. My favorite VMA spot was the arty Levi's footage of a group of shirtless, waifish boys in their early teens road-tripping through the desert. And I'm straight, even. Judging by all the attention Calvin Klein got over its recent "kiddie porn" magazine spreads, nothing's moving product like pouty, eroticized 15-year-olds.
Bon Jovi's scheduled to play Desert Sky Pavilion on September 26, but after their VMA fiasco, that date's gotta be up in the air. Surely no band could embarrass itself in front of several million viewers with a cut-rate cover of "Helter Skelter" and do anything but go to ground like a beaten weasel. Common decency demands no less. If I were one of the many thousand New York cabbies who had one of their primary arteries rudely blocked so that a bunch of Jersey boys could lay waste to a Beatles song onstage in Times Square, I'd have run down Richie Sambora like a mutt in the street. No Manhattan jury would convict.
The low point of the Video Music Awards was the surprise appearance of Mike Tyson to introduce Red Hot Chili Peppers. Glorifying a rapist? What the hell is that? I was half-expecting MTV to cut live to O.J.'s cell, where the Juice would slice open the envelope for Best Video of the Year with a hunting knife.
How dare MTV make Tyson a bit-part emcee after that sham of a heavyweight fight he just pulled? As far as I'm concerned, the only reason that squeaky-voiced thug should be on national TV is for a public sodomizing by a rabid bull elephant. Put that on pay-per-view and I'll throw down $50 in the name of justice.
Diane Petrucci, are you reading me? I caught your letter of inquiry in the latest issue of Music Voice. You wrote that you had tried to reach me several times, left messages and never got a call back. I've never heard from you, Diane, so grab a pen. My number is 229-8495. As Blondie put it, "Call me, call me anytime." You, or anyone else who wants to chat about the local haps, for that matter. I'd like to hear more about the problem you evidently have with my predecessor ("Peter Gilstrap has moved on to do what he does best, talk about nothing") and answer your queries: "Do you know who this new guy is? What has he done? Where is he from?"
Oh, hell, I'll answer 'em now (but call anyway). In response to your letter, the Music Voice implied that it'd done some digging and found out that I used to work for The Rocket, a Seattle music weekly (true); that I'm 25 (wrong, 24); and that I'm from Anchorage, Alaska (yep). I also pulled a short stint at the Village Voice in 1992. In Alaska, I played patty-cake with grizzly bears, caught fish bigger than your average 10-year-old and drove sled dogs naked through a blizzard, popping mushroom caps like breath mints and howling with the wolves the whole way. Gimme a ring and I'll tell you all about it.
I'll also tell you about how the Music Voice colored the truth a bit too heavily in its favor with the statement that I "called one of our staffers to ask who the good bands were." That's not how it went down. I called a Music Voice writer in her capacity as an employee at Zia Record Exchange to ask about charting local music. In the course of the conversation, I posed the same question I do to practically everyone I run into: "So, who do you like locally?"
Call the Music Voice offices to ask who the good bands are? Sorry, not gonna happen.
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End Notes: Check this space next week for a plethora of local CD reviews--my milk crate labeled "local" runneth over. Speaking of runneth over, Nita's Hideaway was crammed to the gills last Friday for a good-time stomp of a show by bumpkin rockers Flathead. I was impressed enough to try to catch an encore by the band the next night at a soiree off Baseline, but three squad cars of Tempe's finest beat me to the punch and pooped the party.
Polliwog at the Sail Inn was an adequate alternative. I'd heard they were ska, but I'd say they have more of an up-tempo psychedelic sound with bongos and a horn section. Polliwog makes you wanna move, but the band should dick around less onstage. An otherwise fine set was badly marred by an inexplicable determination to cover "Day Tripper," despite several botched attempts. One last spark off the live wire: Saw the Slims play Wong's last week in their final gig of the summer with interim bassist Jeff Owens (might know him from genepool), who took over while Joe Vallee was off doing guitar tech for the Doobie Brothers. The Slims have a disc coming out in mid-October. It's called Slow Road to Hell, and despite somewhat shaky sound quality, it nicely captures Connie Maverick's strong, smoky voice (the kind that makes you want to proclaim wild devotion, sight unseen).
A couple of picks for the coming days and I'm audi: Spinning Jenny at the Sail Inn Saturday night (re-formed and ready to rumble); Ian Moore at the Rockin' Horse on Sunday (blazing Texas blues guitar); and the Al Casey album-release party at the Rhythm Room Monday night (this dude jammed with Duane Eddy--you know he's got the licks). Stay outta trouble, you crazy kids.