Oh my, what have you been up to?

General Studies, Bookmobile, Hott Pink, Jan. 15 at Holocene
It’s amazing how much difference a venue can make. I say this after seeing local band General Studies perform at Ground Kontrol, an arcade, and then more recently at Holocene. If you haven’t seen a performance at the retro arcade, I recommend it. I especially enjoyed playing Tron while listening to General Studies’ electronic beats and robotic vocals. The video game and the band seemed destined for each other. I left that night with the impression that they played well and had potential. Then at the Holocene show they suddenly seemed to reach it. They’d accomplished in mere days what others take months of frustration in a dark basement to do. The bass was deep, the guitar was rhythmic, the laptop beats and synth phrases were clear and vivid and the vocals were not only audible, but melodic. Was this the same band? The quickest and still most satisfying explanation I came up with was the venue, and specifically Holocene’s ample sound system. This is not to say that General Studies hasn’t worked hard since the Ground Control show. On the contrary, three brand new songs were submitted for our approval and although they contained the same musical composure as the rest of the set, they also seemed to pull the group in a new direction. Obviously they’d worked hard, but the change in sound was also the responsibility of the superior speakers that relayed the greatness of the band to the audience. Does Holocene have Tron or even Dig Dug? No, but they definitely know how to shine the most favorable light possible onto their performers.

Next up for the evening was the laptop duo Bookmobile from Seattle. Their atmosphere was thick but beautiful and never very heavy. Maybe something more like raindrops than ocean waves. The night was getting later and the crowd had thinned since General Studies stopped, but my eyelids never grew heavy and I didn’t stir from my seat, intently positioned in front of the Powerbooks. Not like there was anything to see, you understand. Bookmobile’s faces were lit from their screens and were absorbed in the creation at hand, but unlike guitar or drums, laptop musicians reveal nothing to me in body movements or finger positioning. And still, I never got bored. The beats were an amalgamation of acoustic samples and percussive popcorn-like explosions. At moments I could almost hear bacon sizzling or Alka-Seltzer dissolving. Maybe I was just hungry, but I recommend them regardless.

Hott Pink was last. Another laptop-based group, but this time with the addition of an MC or singer or something. I couldn’t really hear him but I was happy with the volume. The music behind the vocals was actually very good and the people starting dancing, which was nice. The pink balloons were a nice touch, but didn’t help me overlook the amount of practice Hott Pink needs before their next show. Maybe, like General Studies, they’ll totally impress me.
-Nathan McKee

Lewis Black, The Crystal Ballroom, Jan.20th
Lewis Black is a rock n’ roll comedian in the grand tradition of rock n’ roll comedians like Sam Kinison, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks and Axl Rose. All of them loud, anti-establishment, hard-drinking performers, they are absolutely willing to lay it on the line in order to get people to laugh.

Of these performers, only Mr. Black could be called one of the great American thinkers alive today. Not only are most of the other performers on the list dead (R.I.P. Axl), but in today’s America, who the hell wants to think? We have titties on the television to look at. We have elections to be coddled through like lambs to the slaughter. It’s a proven fact that over half of the United States voting public quit thinking about four years ago. Proven FACT. That’s why we need Lewis Black.
With thanks to strange and mystical powers at work in the universe, never to be understood by man, our need for Mr. Black was satiated on one of the darkest days of this young and terrible year – Inauguration Day. As our president delivered a baffling acceptance speech in Washington, the nation had narrowly missed being sucked into the enormous negative space swirling maliciously in his head. After such a close call, there was only one thing left to do: Spend the evening with someone who screams louder than you do.

Black took the stage of the Crystal Ballroom hung over and pissed off. His opening act had suggested that Lewis was not actually going to do an act, but rather reenact the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison. It was going to be a special night.
Once the problems with his microphone were worked out, Mr. Black began to develop steam and immediately launched into a tirade about the inauguration celebrations in Washington, shaking his head violently and becoming so irate that he could barely complete a sentence, often ending his lines through clenched teeth. We in the audience rode on his waves of vitriol and anger, laughing heartily, because we knew that the other option was weeping.

After we had properly warmed to Mr. Black’s dialogue, he presented a series of solutions to problems plaguing the United States, proving (at least to me) why he should be considered one of the nation’s great thinkers. For your consideration I present his best idea.

Problem: Our enemy is as crazy as, if not crazier than, the rats that do dwell in the shit house.

Solution: Based on his personal experience, Mr. Black believes we must appear crazier than our adversaries if we want them to leave us alone. His idea is to install the corpse of Ronald Reagan as the president of the United States and continue to conduct business as usual. Senators will visit the corpse and speak to it as if it were actually president, the corpse will hold press conferences, etc. The solution has two benefits. First, we find there was really no need for a living president to begin with. Second, as Mr. Black points out so logically, "Show that on Al Jazeera four times a day and they’ll never fuck with us again."

When the show ended, not only did I feel high, but my cheeks hurt from an hour of laughter. Black’s show had been exactly what I needed. For those unlucky enough to have missed his two sold-out shows, his album "Rules of Enragement" is currently in stores and more projects are sure to be released soon. Who knew that thinking and rock n’ roll could feel so good?
-Patrick Alan Coleman

Clorox Girls, The Innocents, The Shemps, Diskords, The Catholic Boys, Meow Meow, Jan. 14
Man, it was cold Friday! I don’t like cold, and I don’t like being out and about on a cold night, even to see live music. Why go out and see what could be mediocre crap and worry about getting home/not freezing to death when can stay home and listen to your stereo, which never disappoints? Cold or not, a stereo can only provide so much, and I feel guilty wasting a Friday night. Plus I didn’t want to miss the chance to see one of the last shows at the Meow Meow.

Upon entering I felt somewhat like an alien, as most of the crowd were kids, some as young as eight, dyed hair and all. I spotted one young-un, an angry anarchist whose riot outfit kind of made him look like a ninja. He just sat looking like he was ready to throw a rock at a cop car; he probably wasn’t more than 12, which made him cuter.

The first band, the Innocents, was probably the most original band to play that night. They feature the infamous Muslim. I say infamous because it seems that almost everyone in this town is familiar with him and his Punk Rock ways. If you are ever at some bar and don’t know anyone there, if you mention him, about 85% of the responses will be "Oh yeah, I know Muslim." The last time I saw the Innocents, both he and his cohort Jason Dollar were pretty ragged as they were a bit under the influence, and their playing was so disorderly and loud that one of their amps blew a fuse. The Meow Meow gig was a dramatic improvement and their sound was like H퀌_sker D퀌_ meets Crime. Dollar’s guitar was out of tune, but they were so tight and it sounded so cool, I had just assumed it was supposed to be that way. Many others have witnessed their sometime incompetence so they kind of have a bad reputation. If they had their shit together, they’d be headlining instead of opening.
The second band, the Shemps, really irritated me. They reminded me of every bad opening punk rock act I saw in 1998. They tried to put on an ironic pose by wearing riot-gear helmets, but it just made them look stupid. They did an "Uncontrollable Urge/Circle One" medley that made me ashamed to like either of those songs. The Innocents should have never preceded this god-awful excuse for a musical act.
This show was the first time I’ve seen the Diskords, who’re supposed to be the most badass 16-year-olds in P-town. I’d have rightly agreed, had they been able to keep their guitars in tune. The five-minute gaps between songs got a bit annoying after awhile. Same goes for the Catholic Boys who had similar problems. Their lead guitarist had the Johnny Ramone look down pat and I liked their name (after all I am a Catholic boy myself).

A friend of mine told me that the Clorox Girls sound like the Dils, so I was looking forward to seeing them since I haven’t heard "Blow Up!" since I was in high school. They didn’t really have much in common musically with the Dils, although the guitarist/lead singer did kind of look like Chip Kinman. They had a lot of energy, and they had excellent stage presence, and all the kids were going nuts, but their music was kind of a standard pop-punk that made wish I’d have stayed home and listened to the Dils.
-Tage Savage