Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Winston Tong and LX Rudis

Former Tuxedo Moon collaborator, performance artist and San Francisco character Winston Tong is seen here at the Vortex on Sept. 11, 2008, accompanied by LX Rudis, a founding member of local synth-punk legends the Units, who went on to front Modmach, a band J Neo Marvin insists were even better even if they are less celebrated at the moment. Our camera caught these two weaving their spell. They need to do this more often.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Doghouse Reilly said

Yet another example of how our most astute commentators write their commentaries on blogs for free, while our paid press pundits type pablum that reads like hastily-written book reports by fifth graders with slightly larger vocabularies:
Well, y'know, maybe you Official Keepers of The Memory of 9/11 could try to recall that original rationale of the thing was to get bin-Laden and his three-dozen #2 men. And that Your Boy in the White House had seven years and unlimited black budgets to catch him, and failed. (I'm sorry. I know The Memory of 9/11 isn't suppose to evoke anything unpleasant.) In theory, anyway, if The Taliban had just handed over al-Qaeda before sundown, the way we demanded, we wouldn't have given a shit about how they treated their women. Or no more than we give about how our corporations and health care systems treat ours.
One more nail on the head:
I don't particularly care for the Taliban. In fact, I was making my objections known back when they were just subjugating women and destroying world heritage sites, the sort of shit you couldn't care less about...I just don't imagine--since I pretty much see it close up everyday--that the United States has the fucking answers, the capability of finding the answers, the political will to put those answers in place over the objections of Mitch McConnell or Glenn Beck, nor the ability to do so even if it did. And I think the record going back sixty years now is pretty clearly on my side.
Sometimes the most dangerous words in the English language are "We have to do something!" Well, we did something. How's that working for us now?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why things are the way they are

As long as these guys and people like them are considered to be acceptable on the spectrum of mainstream America:

and this guy is considered to be part of the lunatic fringe:

America will never solve its problems. Period.

Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry

About ten years ago, there was news of a reunion of the original lineup of the Kinks. Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory would be playing some shows and recording a new album. Now, knowing how these reunions go, who knows how it might have turned out? All the same, how sad that right after the announcement, first Dave had his stroke, and now, Pete Quaife, who played bass during the Kinks' finest years, has passed on. Fate has never been good to the Kinks (why, even now, has no documentary been made worthy of the subject, unlike the Beatles, Who, Rolling Stones, Donovan, or so many other original "British Invasion" icons?), and the latest sad news is no exception.

A visibly moved Ray Davies was just captured at the Glastonbury Festival dedicating "Waterloo Sunset" and "Days" to his fallen former comrade, the guy who always played the mediator in a rabidly conflict-habituated but brilliant band until he quit because he was sick of the fighting. If anybody could have brought the other three together again, it would have been him.

We dedicate the Content Providers' cover of "Big Sky" (a song originally from his favorite Kinks album, The Village Green Preservation Society) to Mr. Quaife. Thank you for the bass lines (which were really quite nice and worthy of a little extra notice...time to pull those songs out again).

Scripture of the year

Thank you for your clarity, Fred Clark:
But knowing their hypocrisy, he said unto them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a dime and let me see it."

And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this -- FDR's or Herbert Hoover's?"

They answered, "Roosevelt's."

And he said unto them, "Right. So shut up. Have you morons already forgotten the 20th Century? When the choice is between imitating what worked and what really, really didn't work, why are you pretending it's terribly complicated?"

And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.
New Deal Jesus kicks ass!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Search For The Sun

Found this while cleaning up old entries on defunct old blogs. It's a passage from the temporarily aborted punk rock memoir I was working on for a while and will one day resume work on. (Pauses, cocks ear to listen for clamor of eager readers begging for more...crickets chirping, tumbleweeds rolling past the window...OK, I'll check back later) Anyhow, this is the tale of how my late partner Maati Lyon ended up producing a classic anarcho-thrash album in 1983. Still a good story, worth rescuing from the far corners of the internet.

Crucifix were a group of young kids from the East Bay who had put out a couple of EPs on their own and appeared on the first Maximum Rock & Roll compilation. I'd seen them once at the On Broadway and heard some of their recordings, but they sounded like a big sloppy blur to me. Of all people, they had been chosen to be the first US release on the Crass-run Corpus Christi label. Crass had been looking for a band from the Bay Area that fit in with what they were doing.

"Why them and not, say, Social Unrest?" I asked.

Maati tossed her head dismissively. "Social Unrest are egomaniacs and they want too much money. Crucifix already have a rapport with Crass. They have the right kind of attitude." Her face suddenly lit up. "John Loder wants me to produce the album!"

"Wow." All I could think of was how cool it would be to see her name on an album cover. "You think you can get a good recording out of them?"

"You have to see them again. Wait till you hear the newest songs. And they're great people! They're just young boys, full of energy, but…really honest and respectful. Sothira was a refugee from Cambodia, did you know?"

"Really? So he actually knows a thing or two about war then, huh?"

"Exactly. He's not just another white suburban kid trying to look tough!" We were both getting fed up with the standard hardcore image: four muscular Caucasian boys barking orders at the world over a fast beat. It got monotonous very quickly.

"Well, if you say they're great, they probably are. I've always trusted your judgement."

"This is what I'm doing this for. You remember how we felt three years ago? First Reagan gets elected, then they shoot John Lennon a month later. It's not a coincidence."

"I certainly never thought so."

"Everything my generation worked for is being destroyed by these fuckers. I thought I was going to see something better than this in my thirties."

"Me too!" (I was 26 at the time.)

"And sure, it's great to have all these English people making a statement, but"…she flicked her wrist, indicating all the stacks of promos in the room. "Finally, here are some American kids. And they really rock. Maybe they can get across to the teenagers in this country now."

"They're that good, really?"

"Go see 'em again, Neo."

The hot, humid, smoke-filled interior of the Valencia Tool and Die was charged with energy. I was close to the stage, fending off the spiral of moshing kids behind me. I hardly noticed; I was so absorbed in the band. Sothira's raspy growl made it impossible to catch every word. (Comprehensibility was a common problem in thrashy punk bands with a message---some would attempt to remedy the situation by passing out lyric sheets at shows; others like Dave Dictor of MDC would actually recite a whole song as a spoken word piece and then the band would jump in and bash it out. Most just expected you to read their interviews, buy their records, and pay attention to what they had to say between songs. It was one of the unspoken punk rules: "Figure it out for yourself!") But certain phrases would pop out that made it clear where Crucifix were coming from: "These men! Bought by prejudice!" "Indochina! Lost forever!" "Youth! Violence! Youth! Don't! Fight!"

And the band was tight. Not quite stop-on-a-dime Minor Threat tight, but a unified roar that was fast and massive at the same time. Matt Borruso was an unbelievable bass player: strong and steady as a tree come to life, throwing out deep, monstrous riffs that grabbed you and pulled you into the current.

"This is our last song!" Sothira announced breathlessly. "It's called 'Stop Torture'!" The band crashed right in, faster and harder than ever, like "Ace Of Spades" played at triple speed, while Sothira ranted passionately, struggling to fit the syllables into the song. Suddenly they lurched into a slow, grinding Black Sabbath-like riff while Sothira railed, "US government-backed butchers! In the guise of friendly advisors! The friendly neighbor with a bloody trade!" then they returned to the fast verses and skidded off to a halt with one last shout of the title phrase. I was stunned and elated. Somebody finally got to the point and reduced the whole critique to a simple, perfect statement. Stop torture. Fuckin'-A. This is what rock and roll is supposed to do. Maati was right, as usual.

Maati and the band got to work, shopping around town for a studio and an engineer that could bring out the full force of their music. Crucifix's goal was to combine the speed and intensity of Discharge with the overwhelming, undeniable momentum of Motorhead. The winning candidate was a veteran English musician and recording wizard named Peter Miller, who had floated around the periphery of the music scene since the early '60s and had a passion for vintage rock & roll and vintage equipment. His own most recent self-released album was titled Pre-CBS, in honor of the guitars built by Fender before Leo Fender sold his company to CBS. A rock & roll "moldy fig" enamored with the technical minutiae of the past might have seemed an odd match for such a band, but Maati saw Peter as the perfect set of ears to see the project through.

The phone rang at Landers St. and I answered.

"Neo?" a familiar breathy female voice cooed.

"Maati! I haven't heard from you in a week! How are the sessions going?"

"I got so much to tell you. Why don't you come over right now? And bring a bottle of wine."

"Sounds good to me."

I arrived with a bottle of decent Valpolicella from around the corner and knocked.

"It's open." I entered to the sound of hyperfast instrumental thrash punk. "These are some basic tracks. That's all I've been able to bring home so far."

"It sounds even faster than they play live. How on earth is Sothira going to keep up with that?"

"Poor Sothira. He's a nervous wreck. He was supposed to finish the lyrics and he hasn't been able to. The others are getting really impatient, which obviously isn't helping."

"I didn't know there were songs that aren't finished. They seemed to have plenty of material when I saw them."

"Yeah, but they're not happy with all the songs. Now that Crass are involved…you know. Suddenly they're having more expectations put on them. But I think it'll be OK. I had them take a break and I took Sothira out for a walk. He needed some air. So I say to him, 'Look, you came here as a child from Cambodia. Your family escaped the Khmer Rouge and you lived here as refugees. But you haven't written about any of that yet. You have all these songs about war and prejudice and they're great, but maybe what's missing is your own story. All the people who come see your band don't have any idea of the things you've gone through. Why don't you try writing some songs about that? It might be what you're looking for.' And he was really listening. I think he'll come up with something good."

"'The personal is political', and all that?"

"Exactly." She paused. "This could be what I end up doing. I really like being in charge of a recording session. Being a record producer is a lot like being a teacher, and I always wanted to be a teacher." She focused her eyes on me. "You ever hear of the concept of 'right livelihood'?"


"You have to read more Buddhist books! You need to know about more things than just music! It means earning your living by doing things that are good for humanity. I want to make a positive impact on culture, and I like working with sincere young kids in bands. I can never decide what I want to do; maybe this is it! All I need is a good engineer. Peter is really cool and fun to work with."

She cranked up the volume on the cassette player. "Listen to that guitar sound. ADT really makes a difference. The sound is so big and full, they'll probably hate it at Maximum Rock & Roll," she grinned. "If it doesn't sound like shit, it's not real punk to them."

"It's gonna be an amazing record. I hope Sothira comes through with those lyrics. A well-told story is way better than a lecture."

Maati's pep talk was just what was needed. Sothira came back with "Another Mouth To Feed" ("from country to country/you're treated like shit/one camp to another/where do you fit?") and a rewrite of one of their most exciting live songs, a fast number with a catchy, lurching chorus, originally titled "Nobody's Fooled", now recast as "See Through Their Lies": "Slept under mosquito nets/we used kerosene lamps/I remember the discomfort/the air was so damp." On the front cover of the album was an image of a weary mother and a crying baby taken from Is Anyone Taking Any Notice?, a collection of horrifying pictures by the British war photojournalist Donald McCullin published in 1973. The book featured image after image of starving or disfigured children, dismembered corpses, desperate refugees, and other collateral damage from the ongoing global game where important men make important decisions and the human cost is hidden from the view of average citizens so as not to spoil their appetites over breakfast. The shot we chose was probably the mildest one of the lot.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tin Sandwich!

A favorite moment from the extremely fun Conspiracy Of Beards end-of-season party at the Cyclone. These three gentlemen fix up one spicy sandwich.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ladies And Gentlemen, The President Of The United States

Rachel delivers the speech Obama should have given. Brilliant.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Those are the Beards and that was New York

Some videos from the Conspiracy Of Beards' 2010 New York jaunt. Read all about the trip here.

A montage of images shot at the Chelsea Hotel to a performance of the song of that name at the Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco:

Crashing the Bowery party and singing for our juleps:

Practicing in the noisy park:

And as a bonus, an example of how the art of conversation is alive and well on the New York streets:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Things we miss out on by avoiding Twitter

Ladies and gentlemen, please note the awesomeness that is FEMINIST HULK:


For more wisdom from a strong male role model for enlightened gender relations, go here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Golden Seal

Here's a real find, some footage of two great departed reggae artists. Augustus Pablo, of course, was the genius who found the eerie heart of an unassuming little instrument called the melodica, and Hugh Mundell was the haunted-voiced teen prodigy who collaborated with Pablo on the ghostly Rasta protest album, Africa Must Be Free By 1983.

After cutting the album, Hugh ended up living in San Francisco for a time at a notorious punk rock house on Oak and Fillmore, along with some friends of ours, so we got to know him a little bit and caught a lot of his local gigs. He was still very young, but his voice was starting to deepen while retaining its childlike innocence. He seemed like a really nice kid.

Eventually, it was time for Hugh to go back to Jamaica. Maati and I had caught the news that Augustus Pablo was suffering from some sort of undiagnosed illness that wasn't being treated because he was a hardcore Rastafarian who had no use for Western medicine. We thought we ought to do something to help, so we bought a big bag of goldenseal at the health food store to give to Hugh with the instructions to make sure Pablo got it.

All too soon after that, we got the awful news that someone shot Hugh in his car in Kingston for reasons that have never been confirmed. We grieved for the boy we hardly knew who'd crossed our path, and we cursed the violence that robs us of so many who could give us all so much more. We wondered if he had ever had a chance to see Pablo before his senseless murder.

Many years later, a new Augustus Pablo album came out. One of the tracks was titled "Golden Seal". We were stunned. Thank you Hugh Mundell, and thank you Augustus Pablo. I hope we made some small difference in your all-too-short lives.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BP: What Really Happened

They say laughter is healing. So bring it on.

Twin Human Highway Flares

We haven't been playing live much lately, but here's a recent solo performance of the Content Providers' cover of the incredible Mountain Goats song, "Twin Human Highway Flares", captured at the Harbin Hot Springs open mike. Thanks for putting this up, Davis!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Terese Taylor weekend

Terese Taylor is a friend of ours who writes compelling songs and performs them loudly and softly. Here's some of her work that we have shot over the years.

"Defrost" at the Zeitgeist, featuring San Francisco's beloved Tamale Lady:

"Had A Heart" at An Undisclosed Location (J Neo Marvin's 50th birthday celebration!)

"Hermit", a nicely jarring post-punk instrumental, from the same Undisclosed Location show:

"Call In Sick" at the Dolores Park Cafe, with guest violinist and puppy:

"Doesn't Shine" at the Zeitgeist:

And one from the Cafe Du Nord several years before. This one's a bit more fly-by-night casual as far as cinematography goes, but it's great anyhow, because it features one of her finest songs, "Goats For Daddy":