Curious what's going on around town this weekend? Need some suggestions as to how to rock, dance, or krump in the Valley of the Sun?
Don't fret: These are our Five Shows to See This Weekend.Friday, November 9: The Dickies @ Club Red
When looking back on the pioneers of punk, too often we're greeted with images of towering Mohawks and menacing sneers. Not so with the Dickies, who served up liberal helpings of campy humor with crunchy, distorted guitars and screeching vocals.
Witness the über-hilarious video for the 1979 song "Banana Splits," which features singer Leonard Phillips repeating the refrain "banananana" into a peeled-banana mic. And despite some dark days (such as when drummer Jonathan Melvoin OD'd on heroin while touring with the Smashing Pumpkins), they've managed to keep their snotty sense of humor intact after all these years.
The brothers Caterer had no way of knowing the far-reaching effect they would have on the music world when they formed the Smoking Popes in 1991.
How could they? At the time the youngest of the three, guitarist Eli, was only sixteen years old. Fast-forward two decades, and the seminal pop-punk band's work is cited by many of today's giants of the field as an influence.
Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba has said it was one of the reasons he started a band in the first place; Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz has compared the group favorably to fellow Chicago act Naked Raygun. In this writer's opinion, Smoking Popes blows all of the bands mentioned above out of the water. -- By Daniel HillSaturday, November 10: Bears of Manitou @ Crescent Ballroom
It hasn't taken long for Kickstarter to seem as played out as a months-old Internet meme (I can haz money, plz?). But the fact remains, the crowd-funding service is all the rage with indie musicians trying to raise capital. For the average price of a record, you can secure your purchase ahead of time (and maybe get your name included in the credits for a few extra bucks).
The process is simple, but standing out in a sea of bands who have their hands out is more challenging. Local indie folkers Bears of Manitou pulled it off, offering to write songs for donors or take backers camping, and promising to donate excess funds to the Colorado Wild Fire Tees charity.
The band's relationship with the Centennial State is a close one: Gabe Williams traveled to Manitou Springs and was told about the region's black bears, inspiring the band's name. He didn't see any, but his experience looking for bears was inspirational: "This is how life works. The people we meet, the time we spend. It takes years to truly know a person." The resulting album, Origins, is full of heartfelt, toe-tapping sounds.--Melissa FossumSunday, November 11: Rusko @ Marquee Theatre
Hate him or love him for it, there is no question that UK-born producer Christopher Mercer (a.k.a. Rusko) helped change popular notions of dubstep, making the genre ubiquitous in American dance clubs. In 2009, American tastemaking indie EDM label Mad Decent started pushing Rusko's UK bass stateside. By that time, American DJs like 12th Planet had been producing their own native brand of dubstep for some time. However, none of the
Americans to that point had received the exposure that a Mad Decent endorsement brings. After teaming up with Mad Decent and spending considerable time this side of the Atlantic, he changed his music's format, making it more playful and increasing his bass intensity -- evident on hits like "Woo Boost." He began to eschew the drum 'n' bass origins and focus on harder, more relentless bass lines and drops. Then he made popular what hadn't really been done before in Europe: He added poppy female vocal samples to tracks like "Hold On." After moving to Los Angeles, he remixed 2Pac's "Going Back to Cali."
Now what Americans would associate with dubstep was no longer the consistently dark, gritty half-brother of drum 'n' bass but a slower, heavier format open to pop remixes. The new style --dubbed "bro-step" by detractors due to its wide appeal with nontraditional EDM crowds-- found widespread appeal and primed popular youth culture for the tidal wave of dubstep producers and hits to follow. -- Chris Piel
There's no better illustration of the fine line between brilliance and madness than Daniel Johnston. Indeed, the childlike simplicity and directness of his lyrics suggests the two are inseparable at times. A talented cult fave who spent years and years listening to and dissecting the Beatles, Johnston has a gift for melody that even the rudimentary nature of his early-'80s lo-fi tape recordings can't hide. But it's the vulnerability and honesty of the lyrics that are most striking.
Johnston's songs are typically emotionally arrested -- still trapped in the mind of a gawky, sentimental, daydreaming (and frequently lovelorn) youth. He's hoping for Leslie Gore's "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," but in reality is facing his own "Tears Stupid Tears." In his most popular song, he suggests that "True Love Will Find You in the End" if only you keep looking. The temptation is to call him naive, but who wants to come across as jaded? (Indeed, such affectless sincerity is the very heart and soul of Hollywood rom-coms.)
Therein lies a substantial part of Johnston's appeal. He's the pie-eyed boy who wants to believe, and that unabashed earnestness is alluring. It's not that he's immune to cynicism, self-doubt, and self-loathing. But even on "I Hate Myself," he offers to "be right by your side if you want me to," prostrating himself without the embarrassment and abasement many of us would feel. It's quite similar to Jonathan Richman's oft-naifish manner, fueled by perky good spirits and hopefulness as a salve against looming disappointment, only more authentic. (Maybe.)
There is no doubt that Johnston has a mental illness. During the '80s Johnston was institutionalized for beating his manager with a metal pipe while under the belief the manager was the devil. (The battle between good and evil is a recurrent theme in Johnston's music, dovetailing with his comic book fascinations Captain America and Casper the Friendly Ghost.)
In Johnston's most notorious story, his father, a WWII fighter pilot, was flying them to West Virginia in a private plane after a feted appearance during 1990's South by Southwest festival. The bipolar Johnston had a hypomanic episode and wrested control of the plane from his father. Claiming he was Casper (a comic he was reading at the time), he threw the key out the window. His father managed to crash-land the plane in a heavily wooded area, and they walked away unharmed. Johnston subsequently was institutionalized in Arkansas.
Some might hear about these episodes and his songs about fighting off aliens, "Walking the Cow," or his "Frankenstein Love" and come away with an impression of Rain Man with an acoustic guitar. Some of this may be by design. Filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig, who directed the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, says the songwriter exploits his illness -- mythologizing it in the same way Creed's Scott Stapp did his time spent living in a car.
"Daniel is a very well read, a very bright guy, and I always tell people he's the smartest person in the room," Feuerzeig told Slant Magazine at the time. "But it serves his purpose to appear small."
Given the authenticity that Johnston's illness lends his nakedly fervent paeans, it's not surprising to hear it suggested Johnston may gild the lily sometimes. But that's beside the point. However he came to write songs like "The Monster Inside of Me," the song speaks for itself:
You know that I want you. You can see that I need you.
But you hate the monster. Well, honey, I do too.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Maybe if someone had said to Vincent Van Gogh, "Keep punching, Joe!" maybe he'd be here today.
Maybe girl, you could help me destroy the monster inside of me
And we could be happy. And we could be happy.
The wistful tone recalls the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," but its style is pure Johnston, possessing a candor and forthrightness that enables it to speak for more than just itself, sort of like Springsteen for the heartfelt weirdoes inside us all.-- Chris Parker