Sunday, February 23, 2014

Juicy Tapes Vol. 1 - Mellow Damn Tape


So, my sister got me these great cassette tape glasses as a gift, and they came with a grease pencil to write the name of the mix. This morning, I wrote down the name of one of my mix tapes from when I was a young lad and it occurred to me that I have enough mixes to make it an occasional feature here on the ol' blog. The name "juicy tapes" derives from the liquid in the glass. So here it is.

The Story Behind The Mix: 

I went to visit my cousins a couple of times in the mid-80's down in Long Beach, MS. They had a funny way with naming things - they called a local bar "church," as in "let's go to church after this". And I'm pretty sure someone had a mixtape named "Mellow Damn Tape". I loved it, and I lived in Colorado (far away from Mississippi), so I ripped the name off for one of my own mixes.

The mix as it stands isn't all that mellow - I could have (and have, I think) done much better. But it's certainly a snapshot in time, somewhere in 1985, I'd guess. Original J-card below.

So, enjoy this mix, collated for your 2014 listening pleasure on Rdio or Spotify. (For some reason in the Spotify web player, it's starting with Everything Counts. Go to the app to see & play the whole thing.)



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top Ten

My friend Jen tagged me with this on Facebook - "List the top ten albums that have stayed with you in some way. Don't overthink or worry about them being "right" - just ones that touched you" It says to tag 10 people more, but I don't like saddling people with a task or chore. If you want to do the same, do it.

The first 7 on this list are from my personal top ten list that once lived on my personal webpage (samthebutcher.com), before all this FB & twitter & YOB stuff started. So I'm putting it here now.

Here it is. My top ten.

#1. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Junk Culture
I bought this album after hearing it over the speakers in a record store, the first time I had ever done purchased music on the spot like that. Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes in the 16th Street mall in Denver was where I heard it. I had some money burning a hole in my pocket, was trolling around looking for something to buy and wanted something new. Something different. I must have been looking around for 15-30 minutes before I realised that I really liked what I was hearing over the store system. I bought the cassette tape of the album and fell in love with the sounds. Lots of people think that technology takes the humanity out of music, - I'm obviously not one of them, and this album is a great example of how technology doesn't have to take away from the human element in music. "Tesla Girls" is a great dance track and makes great use of the technology of the time. No ProTools here, kids! But the real standout track (for me, it's my list) is "Junk Culture". It's obviously synth horns, but it's the percussion that I love the most, and there's something about the story of the music. It's almost classical in the way that it moves in and out of moods.

#2. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend
This album taught me how to play guitar (okay, I taught myself by listening and playing along with this album), gave me the confidence to believe in my own songs and that if no one else believed in them, well, I'd just record them all by myself. Not a clunker in the bunch, and for me, the last two songs, "Holy War" and "Nothing Lasts", are the best album-ending two songs ever. Don't know why, but for me they just work.

#3. The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow
Fond memories of this album, hanging with my best friend (of that time & place) Jeff, hearing this album for the first time in Fallbrook, CA. The year was probably '86 I think, and we were on spring break at the house of some friends of my parents. The album belonged to one of their kids, and we put it on the outside speakers so we could listen to it as we relaxed in the hot tub and drank beer. Heady stuff for a kid of 15 to digest, but it spoke directly to me. "Girl Afraid", "Back To The Old House", "Please, Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" are all amazing songs in their own right, but "Reel Around The Fountain" seals the deal. I love this album so much that I bought an import tape of it because it wasn't released in America yet. Years later, I found they had reissued all of the Smiths albums on 10" vinyl (numbered, no less) and bought that, and of course bought it on CD when it was finally released stateside.

#4. The Replacements - Tim
It comes down to this one vs. Pleased to Meet Me. For me, "Alex Chilton" is one of the best songs ever. And I love a lot of the songs on Pleased to Meet Me, but they don't have the same urgency or despair that makes the songs on Tim so great. Tim has plenty of songs that aren't that great - "I'll Buy", "Dose of Thunder", "Lay It Down Clown" - But the great ones, whew! are you kidding? I often forget how good "Swingin' Party" is, but "Left of the Dial", "Little Mascara", and "Here Comes A Regular" are classics, from any generation. And for voice of a generation, I'll take Paul singing "Bastards of Young" over "Smells Like Teen Spirit" any day.

#5. The Police - Outlandos D'Amour
The year, as I recall, was 1984. I had gotten into the Police the year before, when I got my Walkman (the 2nd small version, the red WM-2) and was hooked by Ghost In The Machine. I was going on spring break (to Hawai'i) and wanted something new to listen to. I purchased the tape from the record store in the small town I lived in at the time, remembering "Roxanne" from when I was a kid living in California, but not knowing anything else on the record (at least, not knowing I knew "Can't Stand Losing You"). I was caught in the throes of adolesence (I sure am making this sound more dramatic than it was, but it felt pretty dramatic at the time!), wanting to meet a girl in romantic Hawai'i to have something to tell my friends when I got back home. I listened over and over and over and over, getting what was probably my first taste of: fetishism - from "Be My Girl (Sally)"; freak-out jazzbo rock - "Masoko Tanga"; nostalgia for a time that I wasn't alive - "Born In The 50's". But the song that registered strongest on that trip was, naturally, "So Lonely," because I did sort of meet a girl. Well, sort of stalked her is probably closer to the truth. She was about my age, staying in the same condo complex as we were and I was mostly walking around with my walkman on, so I figured out which room she was staying in, a few floors up. It probably looked a bit suspicious that every time she took the elevator down to the beach the condos were on, I ended up getting on as well. At the end of the trip - the day before we left, I'm pretty sure - my sister saved my ass and ended up talking to her. She was a year or so older, and now that I think about it, we may have gotten around to talking about me liking her, and she said something about being creeped out by me, but forgave me. Nothing happened except that I have this great memory. Back to the album, however, it was also the first album I remember listening to all the way through, just listening to the guitar. Then listening again, just to the bass. And again, just hearing the drums. I always wanted to play with a drummer who could play like Stuart. He's a master. I love the space he gives and the space he fills. Power, subtlety, rhythm, I just love his playing. I like a lot of Sting's solo work, haven't found much use for Andy's (to be fair, I haven't heard a whole lot, though) and have liked a good portion of what I've heard of Stuart's solo work, but the Police are one of many examples of a group being more than the sum of it's parts. And, at one time, Andy remained my last shining hope for joining a successful band. He joined the Police the year he turned 35. I'm well beyond that now.

#6. aMiniature - Depth Five Rate Six
I lived in San Diego from 88-94, during one of the best musical times on the planet. There were many places that were anointed "the next Seattle", and San Diego was one of them. Rocket From The Crypt, Deadbolt, Drive Like Jehu, Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver, Buck-O-Nine and Lucy's Fur Coat were among the best. For my money, though, aMiniature was the best. John Lee, the singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band was a very cool cat, modest, loads of fun to hang out with and a crazy good musician. Probably still is, I have no idea where he's ended up. (Actually, I do know, he's here on Facebook & I went to see aMiniature play the Live Wire Bar's 20th anniversary show in 2012. SO GOOD) John played with his back to the audience most of the time, wrote songs with lines like "Got lucky but there ain't no feel/Got hugged and loved by steel" (from "Featurist") and "Didja feel good/when it felt good?/and it looked like maybe you could peddle it/quick with the terrain" (from "Towner on the B-Side") and loved the Bay City Rollers, just like yours truly. The solid beat was overlaid with dueling, sharp, jagged guitars, a lovely sound. His desperate voice screamed out the words, cryptic and sweet.

#7. Billy Bragg - Workers Playtime
I bought this album for "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward". I heard it on the X - 91X, that is. Back when radio could be counted on for introducing you to stuff you hadn't heard before. I already knew Billy Bragg ("Greetings to the New Brunette" is a great song), but didn't quite know how political he was. Interestingly enough, it's not his politics that make this album great. I was dating a girl in 88-89, my first year in college. We dated for longer than I had seen any girl up until that point - 7 months. We lived across the hall from each other in a private dorm. I thought I loved her. I thought she loved me. I can't really say why it all ended (her meeting a guy over spring break had something to do with it - then again, I probably did too), but I had this album to console me when I returned to my dorm room in the early mornings, drunk, angry and crying. Like all good love-type songs, every lyric seemed to be about me or my situation: "'Cos I can't sleep with something I can't fight"; the whole of "Must I Paint You A Picture" but especially "The most important decisions in life/Are made between two people in bed"; "Not a day goes by that I don't sit and wonder why/Your feelings for me didn't last forever"; again, the whole of "Little Time Bomb" and especially "And he stands and he screams/What have I done wrong"; "For the girl with the hour glass figure/Time runs out very fast/We used to want the same things but that's all in the past"; "I hate the arsehole I become/Everytime I'm with you"; "If you don't get here soon/I'll tear that clock down from the wall"; and "So we went our separate ways but does she still love me/She still has my door key...You're never happy with what you've got/Till what you've got has gone". I can't tell you all the great things Billy Bragg has done for me, but this album pulled a drowning man out of the water. Buy it, listen to it, and you'll understand what I mean. Thanks, BB.

#8. Big Country - The Crossing
Everyone knows the hit "In A Big Country". Some might know "Fields of Fire". Not many people ever got to experience the tenderness of "Chance," a story about a woman swept away from an abusive father and then abandoned by her man, left with her sons. "Oh Lord where did the feeling go/Oh Lord I never felt so low" Stuart Adamson's voice plaintively wails her story. "A Thousand Stars" then starts with a quick tom rhythm and Stuart's chiming guitar returns, the signature of the whole album. From the funky syncopation of "Harvest Home" to the extended prog bombast of "Porroh Man," I can't get enough of this record.

#9 Otis Redding - Best of Otis Redding
Sure I heard Otis growing up - my parents are from Memphis. Duh. But I won't lie - it was The Duckman from Pretty In Pink who *really* got me into Otis. Jon Cryer's showstopper lip sync of "Try A Little Tenderness" was my doorway into the best of 60's soul. My cassette tape of this record (it may be called something else, I couldn't find the cover art on Amazon or Spotify) then introduced me to the heartbreak of "I've Been Loving You Too Long - To Stop Now," "Pain In My Heart," and "I've Got Dreams To Remember". "Mr. Pitiful" and "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" are more upbeat but still emotional songs. I learned that "Respect" is an Otis song, not an Aretha song. I learned that soul singers could cover a rock song and still make it work - with horns! I learned that one of the great singers - one of the great artists of the 60's was only 26 when he died. That old voice, the voice of a man who had seen & done it all, was only 26 years old. I'm glad we still have his songs.

#10 The Vapors - New Clear Days
Mod. Mod mod mod. I never heard The Jam before I heard the Vapors, so this is what I knew of the Mod scene of the late 70's. The single is "Turning Japanese" but there's a lot of good songwriting here. "News At Ten" looks back at a life wasted, "Spring Collection" tells the story of a flash young girl he sees right through - "I could've been there and back/but I don't wanna go home with you." Check the record out - there's lots to like. I keep coming back to this one as well.

I'm sure there's records I'm leaving off/forgetting, but these are the 10 Jen asked for. Let me know what you think in the comments here - agree or disagree or leave your own top 10!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Riot Fest Denver - Day 2

Day 2 at Riot Fest had something for everyone. Punk, pop, pop-punk, funk, hip-hop, sun, wind, rain, (no snow), mud, dust…not necessarily in that order, though.

Bop Skizzum started the day with their brand of funk, bringing the energy to the early set.

Andy Rok, Julie Almeria, & Elijah Samuels - Bop Skizzum

Chris Harris of Bop Skizzum

Andy, Julie, & SF1 - Bop Skizzum

Andy Rok with the people.
 I'm sure other bands went into the crowd, but Andy & SF1 hopped off the stage with mics and wandered the crowd at the stage during one of their songs. Nice personal touch!
SF1 - Bop Skizzum
Always good to see my Bop family, and also my friend Aimee/Greeblemonkey!

Next we stepped over to see a bit of Kitten:

Kitteners Bryan De Leon,  Zach Bilson & Chloe Chaidez
Waylon Rector & Lucas Frank - Kitten
and left soon after to go chill in the RV. My kids were wanting to save their energy for Blink-182 and after the endurance test that was the night before, I was happy to oblige. I wasn't quite ready for what was in store, though. But we managed.

Having fallen in love with the song "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It", we made our way back in to see Stars.
Christopher McCarron and Torquil Campbell - Stars.
What I love about "Hold On When You Get Love" may not be what they'd like to hear, but it really reminds me of a great mid-period New Order song. But maybe that's what they were going for.

Pat McGee & Amy Millan - Stars
I had seen Stars on one of the Coachella feeds this year and liked it, but wasn't quite sure how they'd come off at Riot Fest. Surprisingly we all had an energy boost thanks to a group of folks to our right who started out doing the "ironic" dance (almost mocking the music), but they ended up attracting a lot of people who were getting into it.

Stars dancers
This guy was having fun.
Like this guy in the Birkenstocks:

Birkenstock dude in the green cap on the left. Super chill.
I overheard Birkenstocks guy tell the group that he was up front and saw them all dancing in the back and came back to join them. It was really cool. Stars was fun to see, even in the middle of the day in a field in eastern Colorado.
David Schmitt
After Stars we checked out a little of Breathe Carolina. David seemed to like playing to the Riot Fest crowd, judging by this tweet:

David Schmitt & the Breathe Carolinas.
Next up came my biggest dilemma of the weekend: Both Public Enemy and Yo La Tengo were playing from 5-6pm. Well, I'd already seen Yo La back in '94 with Teenage Fanclub and it was a hell of a show, so I didn't feel bad about skipping them to see one of the storied rap groups of all time.

DJ Lord on the wheels of steel.
Chuck D, Flava Flav, DJ Lord & the S1Ws. Perfect.

Flav, D, Lord, Griff.
Flava played a little bass, some drums, and did a lot of talking to the crowd. "With peace and togetherness, we have the power." I'm inclined to believe him.

Chuck D & S1W Pop Diezel
PE brought it. I've always been a fan of the Bomb Squad production of Hank & Keith Shocklee & Eric "Vietnam" Sadler on their early records. DJ Lord had a great solo set where he was breaking down & mixing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - mostly the instrumental part at the beginning, but he was amazing. We tried describing it to my wife when we got home, but I couldn't even move that fast pretending I was mixing!

Flav & Chuck. OGs.
After PE we walked over to see some of FLAG.

Keith Morris - FLAG
I didn't know the songs and the wind was really starting to kick up, so the girls made the decision to go back to the RV. I was going to drop them off and come back out for Bad Religion, but by the time we were walking out of the festival, a dust storm had us shielding our faces. In the minutes it took us to walk to our RV, it started raining - hard.

After watching the rain pour down for a bit, we heard a recorded voice come over the speakers, telling everyone that the festival grounds were closing due to inclement weather and to return to their cars. At one point people were just honking their horns just to make noise. My youngest loved it. It was like a little bit of group anarchy.

It rained so much and for so long that I wondered aloud if they might cancel the rest of the shows.

Rain, rain, go away.
But come on, it's fucking Riot Fest! You're goddam right the show went on! After a 2-hour delay, they jiggered the schedule to have Matt & Kim play at the same time as Bad Religion, Rancid played alone, and then AWOLNATION played opposite DeVotchKa. Blink-182 was supposed to close out the show anyway, but they ended up playing only an hour set instead of an hour & fifteen minutes.


We watched some of Bad Religion who were pretty good. Greg Graffin asked for a bratwurst from the stage, and someone delivered.


After a few songs we walked over to see Matt & Kim who were the biggest surprise of the weekend for me. Lots of energy, really fun, and it almost didn't seem like there were only two people onstage!



Matt let people know that Kim was going to come out to the crowd and dance on their hands - he had people hold her feet and she did a little shimmy shake. I was very impressed.

I want to say that after Matt & Kim we went back to the RV while Rancid played. I remember being in the RV listening to Rancid, but I can't remember why we didn't stay out. Maybe to save energy again, nobody was that hot to see AWOLNATION or DeVotchKa. We were pretty tired, and Blink was going to play from 11pm-12am, so what was going to be a late night anyway just got later.

We made our way back out in the rain to get good spots for Blink.

The kids wanted to go more towards the front. I was having flashbacks from Woodstock '94 and the mud fight that happened during Green Day's set, so I passed and stayed toward the back.



I had seen Blink in 2001, and while I wasn't expecting them to be as high-energy as they were back then, they still brought it.

This is Mark.
This is Tom.
This is Travis.
I was standing next to a kid who was belting out every lyric, which didn't bug me at all - in fact, it helped lend a great energy to the show. He was really into it and I could tell he wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The Mark, Tom, & Travis Show.
Since it's 2013, I was texting with my kids during the show. I was a little sad that I wasn't watching the show with them, but it was one of those "let them be free" moments you have as a parent. I just asked them to send me a picture of them & their excitement.

Blink ended just after midnight and I met up with my kids and we walked back to the RV. I say walked, but it was more like skating, there was so much mud. We scraped our shoes off on the back bumper of the RV and left our mud-soaked shoes on the steps up and sat for a bit while we watched the parking lot traffic. I sent them to bed and sat and watched it rain, and watched the cars hardly move at all.

After about 45 minutes and no other RVs were moving, I decided to try to drive forward to get in line to get out of the parking lot. I skidded and slipped that 29" beast around, getting stuck, rocking it back & forth, twisting the wheel, using every trick I knew to get traction & get out of there. I eventually did get up to the line…where I sat for another half hour or so. Once we started moving, I didn't really get stuck again and we were on the road by around 1:30am, as I recall.

The drive home was epic, and I don't use that word often. I said "Wow." out loud about 3 or 4 times just because I couldn't believe the sheer amount of rain that kept coming down. It was like Florida rain, not Colorado rain. All the way home, too, not just in spots. It was constantly pouring down.

Long story short, we got home, I unloaded some of the RV, sent an e-mail to the RV place telling them that I might be a little late returning it the next day, and finally got in bed around 4:30 am.

My thanks to B&B RV for being so cool about taking one of their RVs to a 2-day punk rock show in the middle of farm country. I'm not getting paid, they were just awesome to rent from. Might do it again someday just to go camping. Might do it next year for Riot Fest, if they have it out in farm country again. If they do, I'll save up to stay another night if it rains like it did. I'd much rather have just waited until the sun came out the next day.

Another shout out to whoever runs the @RiotFest twitter account. Awesome all weekend, keeping us up to date during the evacuation and generally just being hilarious.

All in all, it was worth it, ten times over. I got to see the Replacements have fun on stage, I had a great, memorable time with my kids, and saw/heard a shit-ton of great music.

Thanks, Riot Fest.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed II

(I wrote about Lou Reed yesterday, but today I realized I had more to say.)

Most people who are into music - well, rock music anyway - feel one way or another about Lou Reed. I don't hear too many people say they don't like him, but I'm sure there are many. His music & lyrical content & singing style aren't for everyone. I only had touchpoints here and there that connected me with his music, but they're like signposts - they stick out in sharp relief.



"Walk On The Wild Side" was probably the first song of his that I knew. I know for sure I heard it when I saw the movie Times Square and bought the soundtrack, but I have vague memories of hearing it before then on LA radio when I lived there as a kid through '79. I didn't know what giving head was, but the story of Holly was expansive to my young mind. "Shaved his legs and then he was a she" - you could just do that? I mean, I knew there was more to it than that, but the matter of fact way that Lou talked about the people in the song - Candy, Little Joe, Jackie - there was no judgment. It didn't matter that they were prostitutes, transvestites (or transsexuals), or drug addicts. They were just people, doing what they were doing. People.

My next memorable encounter with Lou's music was about as far away from his 70's music that he went. My sister went on an exchange trip with another school in New York state, and the girl she met gave my sister a tape with a lot of music on it, but one of the poppiest, happiest songs on the cassette was "I Love You Suzanne".


I don't know that I even put it together that they were the same artist until I started at KCR in college. I love a good pop song, complete with musical hooks & repeated refrains. Cheesy video & all, I love that song.

The last signpost was not even Lou singing or playing, but another band's cover of one of his iconic songs. I started college in fall of '88 and there were a few songs that stick out as defining that time for me. Pixies - "Gigantic". All - "Just Perfect". And Cowboy Junkies - "Sweet Jane".



The Junkies cover was a languid, sprawled out seduction that to me somehow felt positive and not beat-down or hopeless. It was only years later when I purchased the Velvet's Peel Slowly And See box set on the cheap from Columbia House that I heard the original version, and was surprised that it was more of an uptempo version.


The Junkies "Sweet Jane" is more along the lines of some of the slower VU versions of the song, like this from Live 1969, which I've only recently discovered as well.


(Read Mike Timmins kind remembrances of Lou Reed & the story of the bridge in "Sweet Jane" here.)

I hold that one of the signs of quality songwriting is that the songs stand up when other bands perform them - Bob Dylan is a prime example of this. I've written about R.E.M.'s VU covers on Dead Letter Office, Big Star did a great cover of "Femme Fatale" on Third/Sister Lovers, U2's "Satellite Of Love", and even the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark paid homage on their version of "Waiting For The Man". But much like Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner", "Sweet Jane" is one of those songs that almost every new band learns because it's easy and it's fun to play around with tempos. It's a way to take an existing form and play around with it. The Velvet Underground was always experimenting, and that's probably because of their close association with Andy Warhol and the art ethos.

I'm now a solid fan of Lou, both his solo work and what he did with the Velvets. I love the idea of his kind of art - uncompromising, bold, and true.

In my mind, Lou was the embodiment of New York City of old, the New York that I read about in books like Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz, Slake's Limbo by Felice Holman, or in the movie The Warriors. That New York City probably only existed in my mind, but it was there. Gritty, dark, bleak. Danger, subways, drugs.

I've been to New York once, in 1999, and it didn't seem any more dangerous than other cities I'd been to. The cleanup had been in effect for a few years by that point, and I knew that the NYC in my head was no longer a reality. With Lou Reed's death, that place has dissolved once and for all.

The saxophone solo from "Walk On The Wild Side" fades out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed


In honor of Lou Reed's death today, I've wiped my iPod of all "easy" music and am loading it with music that has always challenged me, which includes The Velvet Underground, bop jazz (Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, etc), early Echo & the Bunnymen, Foals, Joy Division, Gang of Four, early Pixies, Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy), aMiniature, Jesu, Wire, some VU covers and, of course, Lou Reed himself. I only have Berlin & Transformer, but that's challenging enough.



Challenging music. Music that makes you (me) uneasy, or feel unsettled, or awkward, or sad, or depressed. Or that's difficult to listen to, you feel like you're trying to keep up.

Music isn't always easy, nor is it supposed to be. I learned this reading Henry Rollins' Before The Chop earlier this year. I'm trying to challenge myself more, lately, in music and other art.

Thanks, Lou.

What music challenges you?

EDIT: Also added The Cure - The Top, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart. Because the above wasn't challenging enough. :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Riot Fest Denver - Day 1

I attended both days of Riot Fest here in Denver - or "Riot Fest Almost Kansas" as I like to joke, because it took place at May Farms in Byers, which is an hour east outside of Denver and 2 hours west from the Kansas border.

Riot Fest ahoy!
I was especially looking forward to this for a few reasons - first, THE REPLACEMENTS. I mentioned that in my last post. Also, I was taking my teenagers to the show with me - they were excited to see Blink-182. I had already seen Blink before, with New Found Glory, Sum 41 and Fenix TX, I think. 3 days before 9/11/01, actually. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the song I heard just before the news that day.) ANYWAY.

So, we rolled in to the Riot Camp on Friday afternoon (which I guess would actually be Day 0), parked in the dusty lot, had dinner & walked around some to get our bearings and meet some of our neighbors. Chatted with Don who was staying in the camper behind us. He and a friend had flown in from California specifically to see The Replacements, but to see some of the other bands as well.

Roughing it for dinner
The kids and I walked back to the camper, they did some  homework and I read some and we all went to bed, listening to the dulcet tones of partiers and other campers arriving. (I heard the same sounds at 12:30am when I woke up. And 2 as well. People were having fun.)

One of my favorite moments of the weekend occurred at about 7:30am on Saturday. I heard a little bit of Seal's cover of "Fly Like An Eagle," but not all that loud. Moments later, the opening strains of "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits filled our RV as if it had an incredible sound system inside, playing at full volume. My kids later told me that they thought it was the next RV over. The song starts off with Sting singing "I want my…I want my MTV" over the swelling arpeggiated synth, and it's loud…and then the booming drums start…and I start cracking up. I cannot believe they're doing this at 7:30am! They had to test the speakers sometime, I guess, and I'm just hysterically laughing thinking about every camper  - in tents or RVs - waking up to this song. I go out and look at my kids and they are not amused, but I just keep laughing, and they eventually started laughing about it as well.


We had breakfast & listened to the bands soundchecking on the various stages that morning and left at around 11:30 to head in to the festival. I wanted to scope the merch situation & then get to the Riot stage to see local Denver band Potato Pirates. (I'd link to their website, but it seems dormant since last year. Their FB page is updated)

Vinny, Stebe, & Scott - Potato Pirates
I had checked them out on Spotify and they had a bit of a Screeching Weasel vibe and that's a good thing. I told my kids about their songs "We're Faggots" (anti-homophobe song) and "Fuck The Radio" and that piqued their interest. I'm glad we made it out to see Potato Pirates, it was a great punk rock start to the weekend, circle pit, bagpipes, and all!


Matt Emrick - Potato Pirates
I had then wanted to get over to the Rock stage to see Tera Melos, but met up with a friend by the VIP section at the Riot stage during the Potato Pirates and ended up missing the Tera set. I've liked what I heard on Spotify, though. Bummed I missed them.

Next up was Off With Their Heads on the Roots stage. Found their cover of "Goddamn Job" by the Replacements on Spotify, it's a pretty straight cover, no Bob Stinson guitar wails, though. They're good hard, fast rock.


I guess some would call them punk, that's probably accurate, I guess. It's not pop, and with shouty vocals but the distortion on the guitars is pretty sustained & dirty. They kind of remind me of Dropkick Murphys, but without the accordion or banjo. So maybe not Dropkick Murphys, then. Maybe just the vocals. Anyway.
Ryan Young - Off With Their Heads
Up next was Touché Amoré, a band I was really looking forward to seeing after checking them out on Spotify as well. (Notice an online music service theme here? They're not paying me, I just use their service a lot to discover new music.) I was not disappointed, not in the least. They were easily a top 5 act of the weekend for me, and I saw and/or heard 26 bands over the two days. And I would have said that even if their guitarist Clayton Stevens hadn't been wearing a Cocteau Twins shirt. But he was.

Clayton Stevens - Touché Amoré
Their music, at least on the new album Is Survived By, sounds to me like post-rock with vocalist Jeremy Bolm shouting/screaming the lyrics, which are very raw, emotionally. I'm not sure how someone could scream banal lyrics, but I'm sure it's been done. Not here, though. Great music & words, and I've never been much of a fan of the screaming, but it works really well here.


Next we caught some of This Will Destroy You at the Roots stage before setting off for some food & free water (which was promised but didn't materialize until later that scorching day).
Chris King - This Will Destroy You
This is the real post-rock deal, y'all. Although I understand why Riot Fest couldn't schedule TWDY in a nighttime slot, music like this really deserves to be heard in the dark, IMO. And it got dark out in Byers. I would have loved to have had TWDY playing in a middle slot with no other bands playing - like where they had AWOLNATION scheduled to play on Sunday - with the huge music and light show. But they played in the day, and while the music was great, something was lost on me, not having had an emotional connection to their music beforehand. That emotional connection would surely have been cemented in the dark. By the way - when I took that picture above, I couldn't quite see what was on his guitar - I thought they looked like autographs. Turns out, it's blood. So.

Next on our must-watch list was Best Coast. I had played their first album for my daughters and they liked the summery music vibe and songs about boys & broken hearts.
Bethany Cosentino - Best Coast
The songs were good, that aforementioned summery vibe fit the searing heat of the day.


There wasn't a lot of shade (hopefully something they'll fix next year) but you kind of felt a little cooler shaking your head to the tunes. I did, anyway.


Bethany was fairly talkative onstage - my kids laughed at her stories about being scared to ride Moby Dick (one of the carnival rides at the festival) and about being attacked by a duck.

Next, we took a break and headed back to the RV for some water and food. They had great food trucks there set up to serve people both days. I hear that they were operating for breakfast as well, but we just ate there for dinner.

I made it back out for Superchunk. I didn't know that Laura wouldn't be on tour with them, but after reading the sidebar on their website, I understand why she wasn't. Superchunk is a legendary indie band that I had never listened to much until lately, and I had expected some folks bashing out some sweet tunes onstage. What I didn't expect was the springy whirlwind that is Mac McCaughan.

Mac McCaughan - Superchunk
One of the highest energy acts of the weekend, he bounded around, windmilling, singing, wailing on the guitar, blazing through new songs like "FOH" and "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" from their new record I Hate Music, and old favorites like "Crossed Wires," "Detroit Has A Skyline," and, of course, "Slack Motherfucker."

Jason Narducy & Mac - Superchunk
Loved seeing Superchunk finally. I look forward when they return to Denver to play a headlining gig.


After Superchunk came Tough Decision #1 of Riot Fest: Guided By Voices vs. Against Me! GBV's set was 5:05-6:05; Against Me! 5:15-6:15. Ouch. However, I figured I had 10 minutes to watch GBV, which would be about 7 songs, and then I could make my way over to watch Laura Jane. So that's what I did.
Guided By Voices
I like GBV, but listening to Against Me! in the weeks leading up to Riot Fest and reading about Laura Jane's transition, I was compelled to check her & the band out. 

Atom Willard & Laura Jane Grace - Against Me!
I'm very glad I made that choice, as Against Me! was probably my 2nd favorite set of the whole weekend. Very tight, great passion, devoted fans, great songs.
Laura Jane Grace - Against Me!

The littlest Against Me! fan at Riot Fest
Somewhat spent after Against Me!, we went back to the camper to chill a bit & listen to Alkaline Trio, who we could hear just fine. My kids wanted to hang out some more but also wanted to be back in the festival for AFI. I had business in the meantime with Speedo, Atom, Petey X, ND, JC 2000 & Apollo 9. Rocket From The Crypt.

RFTC
I lived in San Diego from 1988 - 1994 and never saw Rocket live there, which, looking back, was kind of ridiculous. I worked at KCR, was in a couple of bands, wrote for a fanzine, and Rocket were the kings of the county. How I never saw them is beyond me. I liked them as much as the other popular San Diego bands at the time - Creedle, Inch, fluf, Lucy's Fur Coat, and my personal favorite, aMiniature. So I was surprised to find out that John Reis is fucking hilarious. From his "It's great to be in Byers!" to "Make some noise for the band! Aw, come on, it's pretty good…" exhortations, he held the crowd in his hand like a smartass James Brown.
Speedo & Petey X - Rocket From The Crypt
I had wanted to see Brand New but my kids were back in the RV and they wanted to see AFI, so I went back and heard some of Brand New in the trailer. I like them OK but I don't know their songs that well, so I think it was kind of lost on me. Moving on.

Hung out for some of AFI. Heard them play a cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" which was pretty straight and pretty good.

This is the only halfway decent picture of Davey Havok of AFI that I got.
I left after the Cure cover to go see The Airborne Toxic Event. I like AFI ok, but I felt like I was missing something by not seeing Airborne Toxic. One of my friends in San Diego really likes them, and I just wasn't feeling AFI for some reason. So I walked from the Riot stage to the Rock stage.

Riot Night
I didn't know any of the songs Airborne Toxic Event played, but I did enjoy the experience of seeing them live.

Airborne Toxic Event
Anna Bulbrook & Noah Harmon - The Airborne Toxic Event
I walked back toward the Riot stage and met up with my kids because it was now time to see one of the acts I had been telling them about since we bought tickets.


I had impressed upon them that this guy we were going to see was almost as old as their grandfather, but still jumped around the stage like a man with his hair on fire.

Mike Watt, Toby Dammit, Iggy Pop, James Williamson - Iggy and the Stooges
They came out of the gate with "Raw Power" and "Gimme Danger" and the crowd was in a frenzy. Soon came "Search And Destroy" which wound everyone up even tighter. There was an odd vibe in on the ground, not very friendly, actually. A couple of dicks stormed their way towards the stage, knocking people over as they ran up. Some lady to my right was talking to someone through part of the show - not that you could hear her most of the time, but it was distracting.

Iggy called for people who wanted to "dance with the Stooges" and a bunch of fans jumped at the chance. It was actually a really cool moment.



It was about 10pm and I wanted to get a good spot for The Replacements, so while they cleared the stage of the fans, we made our way back to the Riot stage.

My kids and I staked out a place center stage, about 100 feet back. I found my longtime friend Adam from San Diego who had flown out for the two days, but mainly to see The Replacements. It was great to see the show with someone who knew the history and loved the band as much as I did. We heard Iggy work through the rest of his set while the crowd around us became more dense in anticipation of The Replacements.



As mentioned before, I hadn't read any previous reviews of the Toronto or Chicago reunion shows, and I hadn't looked up any setlists. I had briefly seen that they had opened with "Takin' A Ride" off of their first album, so I wasn't surprised when they opened our Riot Fest with that song. What I was surprised by were the orange hats, western shirts and pink skirts that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson & the band wore as they came onstage.

Tommy Stinson - The Replacments
Pure fucking Replacements. I loved it. The hats were ditched fairly quickly and the band ripped through much of their older, punk-er catalog: "I'm In Trouble," "Favorite Thing," "Shiftless When Idle," "Hangin' Downtown"and on and wonderfully on.

Paul Westerberg & Josh Freese - The Replacements
They touched on some of their later albums eventually, playing "Achin' To Be" and "Merry Go Round." I was hoping for one of their slower songs and wasn't disappointed that "Androgynous" made the cut.
Paul Westerberg
The last half of the show was easily my favorite with the band playing many of my favorite songs - "Little Mascara," "Left of the Dial," "Alex Chilton," "Can't Hardly Wait," and ending the main set with an emotional (for me, anyway) singalong of "Bastards of Young."

That singalong is what live shows are about, for me. When the crowd knows and loves the songs enough to either lose themselves in dancing or singing, with complete abandon. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's someone near me, but that group, shared emotion and feeling…it's transcendent.


I didn't know how they were going to top any of that if they came out for an encore…but then they did. Paul got behind the drum kit, Tommy propped Paul's mic against the drums and picked up Paul's guitar, Josh grabbed Tommy's bass and they slopped through "Hootenanny," as it was meant to be.

Paul & Tommy
Paul joked around a bit, they asked for requests and obliged with parts of "Ace of Spades," "Detroit Rock City," and "Substitute," and then they gave up and walked offstage. I waited somewhat patient, somewhat sore, wondering how they would then top *that*!

The light sculpture behind the stage started to glow brighter and brighter in the silence from the stage and applause from the crowd until it dawned on us what it was: A giant middle finger.

Fuck you.
They didn't come back out. They left as The Replacements of old might have, stumbling offstage, disappearing into the night. Adam and I laughed in agreement - there was no other way they could have ended the show. I don't know if anyone else was pissed or bewildered, but I was sated and spent. It had been 24 years since I had seen The Replacements (and waited out by their tour bus to catch a glimpse or talk to Paul), and I couldn't have been more happy.


Thanks Paul & Tommy. Thanks Riot Fest. Thanks to Against Me!, RFTC, and all of the other bands of Day 1. We walked back to the RV, climbed into bed and fell asleep. Day 2 was 12 hours away.

Here's my shared Spotify playlist with bands from both days & most all songs listed in this post.