Archive for the ‘Agouti archives’ Category

Jughead, A Loaf of Bread and Thou (June 2004 issue)

August 13, 2008

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For me, nothing is more exciting than receiving an e-mail reply from a band. When I was a kid, I would save my money and buy a pack of baseball cards. I would open the pack and turn right around and send the cards to the players’ respective teams, hoping for an autograph. Most of the time the cards never came back, but when an envelope from the Houston Astros or whatever team arrived in the mail, well, that was hot shit indeed.

As I got older and started spending my money on more important things, such as candy bars, this practice was discontinued. You can mail a Krackel wrapper to Hershey, but what are they going to do? And who would sign it? There is no Mr. Krackel. On the other hand, I can eat a candy bar, albeit only once. (Wouldn’t that be cool if you could eat the same one multiple times? Hop to it, cloning scientists. I want regenerating chocolate, and I want it now.)

So anyway, like a cocaine user trying to replicate that initial high (it can’t be done — that’s the way the brain works), I have tried to get that same feeling of receiving a signed 1990 Donruss Mark Portugal card. I’ve finally found it, and as it is with many things, it’s the good ol’ Internet here to save the day.

It’s a double-edged-sword-type of time to be in the music biz. Anyone with a penis or vagina (or both) can start a Web site and talk about how fucking great their band is, and here are the next two shows, and here are pictures of their ugly drummer (you know, the one with the bag over his head with the misplaced eyeholes). And of course after the band breaks up, the so-called webmaster will neglect to update the site, resulting in useful information on the main page about the “great show coming up on July 14, 2002!”

But the integral part of these sites is the “Contact Us” button. Yes, that’s right. With a simple click you can tell someone that you think the bassist is hot, or that they suck eggs, or whatever. Let’s go Internet. Praise the lard.

So that’s fun. You can write a band. But it gets better. Sometimes, they write back! I mean, don’t expect meaningful exposes of their personal life, but you will get a nice, typed “thanks for writing.” When this happens, I print out the e-mail, hold it to my heart, and sigh, well, heartily. This must be how a teenage girl feels when thinking of a boy named Corey.

And unlike regular mail, responses can be same-day, even minutes later! I was listening to All Girl Summer Fun Band, and was particularly touched by their song, Car Trouble. In it they sing about some asshole guy, and except for the role reversal, I felt a bond with the song. So I wrote the band and said how the lyrics were meaningful, and hey, maybe you guys should come to San Francisco. Not a couple hours later, one of them writes back and says they are playing at Ladyfest San Francisco at the end of July. How cool is that?

Other times, you will hear music and wish that you could grab the guy by the collar and say, “Hey fucker, no one wants to hear that shit!” Like in one of those tense NHL playoff games. It’s tied up, and the guy in the control room is playing some pre-recorded ballpark keyboard ditty that has no place in a hockey game, especially a playoff hockey game. What the hell is that? If I wanted something organic at a hockey game, let it be food from the concession stand, not “Charge!” from an A’s game. Keyboards belong at baseball games and in bands. Period.

My best experience was when Barry Harris of Thunderpuss 2000 wrote me back. When I was in junior high (it’s not middle school — get it through your head), I discovered a synthpop band named Kon Kan. They were from Canada and, like many things from Canada, they were fucking awesome. I went through so many AA batteries listening to their first album on tape that some Duracell executive is set for life, complete with his own tropical island.

Well, the lead singer of Kon Kan was Barry Harris (well, yes, Kevin Wynne also, but he has disappeared off the face of the earth), but in 1989, how could you get ahold of a band, especially one on a major label? Of course I wrote many obsessive letters to the band, as a 13-year-old should do. I wonder whether they ever got them.

Needless to say, when I discovered Thunderpuss 2000’s Web site and saw their e-mail address, I didn’t mention said letters when I e-mailed Harris. And two days later, he wrote back, thanking me for my years of “support.” And again, I printed it out and hugged the letter to my chest. It was going to be a good day.

So write those bands that put their e-mail addresses on their Web sites. That’s why they are there! And who knows — they just might write back.

Jughead, A Loaf of Bread and Thou (May 2004 issue)

August 13, 2008

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American music is as, well, American as baseball and apple pie. But sometimes when these things get interspersed, the end result is not so desirable to pretentious little me.

I like baseball. I like going to baseball games. They have nachos there. Just like Gerald Ford and Homer Simpson, I like nachos (although they seem to like it with football better). And they have great organists at baseball games, or at least recorded renditions of organic classics. They aren’t pre-recorded, mind you. It wasn’t taped before it was taped. It was taped when it was taped.

There are zillions of traditions in baseball that have stood the test of time. My favorite is the seventh-inning stretch. They play Take Me Out to the Ballgame. This is karaoke at its finest. I hate karaoke, but in the middle of the seventh inning, it’s a different story altogether.

And now it’s time for the vegetarian (that’s me) to have a beef (it’s not for dinner).

I will point out that Take Me Out to the Ballgame has not always been played in the seventh-inning stretch. But it’s inoffensive and fun, just like baseball. So the last thing I want is to have something that can offend people to go on at a game. And that’s what has happened in the wake of Sept. 11.

Explain to me the point of playing God Bless America at a baseball game. It makes no sense to me. At best, this makes Christians, who are naturally insecure, feel better about themselves. At worst, it polarizes people at a time when we need to all stick together. Music is the great unifier. Guitar doesn’t speak different languages (unless you count acoustic and electric — I think of them as dialects). But unifying people over something that not everyone agrees with only serves to increase us-vs.-them paradigms. This is bad, people.

Explain to me who benefits from playing God Bless America at a baseball game. No one is going to start going to games because they play this song, which incidentally has some arrogant-ass lyrics. But will people stop going to games because they play this song? Of course!

This is highly rhetorical, but why do Americans insist on doing things that don’t benefit anybody? Do you theists really think playing this song at a ballgame will appease your supreme being? He already has the Yankees winning and the Red Sox losing (albeit not yet this season) — if he wants something else, he’ll make it happen. A supreme being does not need your help! He’s a supreme being! If he can’t do it, then it ain’t worth doing.

At any rate, Americans always absent-mindedly do things that make no sense, and this is a perfect example. Playing God Bless America at ballgames does nothing but make fat white guys happy, and not even cool fat white guys like Fat Mike from Fat Wreck Chords.

Is it harmless? Many would say yes, but I disagree. It’s main purpose is certainly not to promote an agenda, but it is certainly a side effect. The whole thing is just so unnecessary.

To address an earlier point, yes people discontinue going to baseball games because they hear this song being played. With baseball attendance declining and all their scandals and whatnot, they need all the help they can get. Playing God Bless America is not going to make anything better.

Do you want to know someone who won’t attend these games anymore? Well, for one, there’s me. I will, however, go to Oakland A’s games, because they only play one song in the seventh-inning stretch, and that’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Quit shooting yourself in the foot, baseball. Unlike what I read on a shirt at the gym last week, God does not “have your back.”

Jughead, A Loaf of Bread and Thou (April 2004 issue)

May 13, 2008

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Hello, boys and girls. This month we are going to learn how to adore rock ‘n’ rollers without scaring the shit out of them. Specifically, this column is going to teach fanboys how not to scare their favorite female singer/songwriters.

Stalker fans are nothing new. The first cavewoman singer had a group of cavemen, clubs in hand, staring with their jaws dropped and imagining how this original VH-1 Diva was going to make their life complete.

Fast forward to 2004. The almighty Mary Lou Lord (no pun intended) was playing at 12 Galaxies in San Francisco. Wow! I thought I had blown off any chances of seeing her ever. And at a venue that small, I’d be sure to get a nice view of the action, as well as maybe get a CD signed after the show. Hot diggety.

Only about 30 people actually cared about the show, which was a gross injustice to her, but this is beside the point. About three guys spent the entire show staring at her. They didn’t even clap between songs. It was freaky.

But not unexpected. This sort of thing happens when attractive female singer/songwriters play in front of lonely, sex-starved men. There are many observations I have made about these poor guys.

First and foremost, they had a traumatic childhood. They never got the female interaction they needed to learn the basic social skills that allow them to have a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. I mean, sure, every guy stares at a woman’s tits when they are talking, but it is a conscious decision. These guys, however, stare at them because they haven’t seen real ones since they were breastfeeding.

Another thing about these guys is that they follow the performer after the show ends. She walks off stage, and like Mega Man’s dog, the fanboys are right behind, hoping she gets cornered. Better video game analogy: Pac-Man. These guys are the ghosts, and the performer has no energizers to swallow so she can turn the tables.

So let’s use this specific example. After Lord’s set, I thought I would be able to tell her my all-time-favorite Mary Lou Lord story. I could buy a shirt and tell her the story, and life would be grand.

You can tell when a performer has been on a major label because she knows how to hide. I swear — it is something they teach at Sony. After the set was over, she went right up the stairs and into the bathroom. I went upstairs because they have video games there (no, really), and I noticed these two guys (the third must have been casing the joint downstairs) trying to casually hang out around the women’s restroom.

So she finally emerges, makes a beeline for some private-entrance area near the upstairs bar and is gone. For the entire trip from the bathroom to the secret hiding area, she had these two shadows, acting as if they were tabloid reporters, asking all these questions and whatnot. For me, it ruined what could have been one of the best shows I had ever been to. Damn you fanboys.

So what is the right way? Allow me. The equally almighty Marianne Pillsbury was at The Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco recently. She also played to about 30 people. But when the show ended, she was able to comfortably and confidently mingle with the crowd. I even have pictures of us, which, believe me, are always going to be a part of me. So what’s the difference between Lord and Pillsbury? Is it the major label thing?

Perhaps. Even though Lord is no longer on Sony, she has a lot of fans from that era. And obsessive fans don’t disappear. Juliana Hatfield has the same problem. She’ll try to speak with fans, but if you freak her out, then she’ll find a way out. But I digress.

Pillsbury is not yet on a major (and she will be). Someday she, too, will be lucky enough to have guys with Battlestar Galactica T-shirts crowded around the stage, staring at her gazongas and making weird gestures. Oh I bet she cannot wait. I bet that when she plays back home in New England it already happens. At least she knows she has one fan (me) that only secretly lusts after her. Some secret.

For the common good of the indie music fan, please behave yourselves, fanboys! You’re jerking off to the golden goose, and it will never lay more eggs. And if you’re just a naturally creepy guy, sit at the bar and ogle the bartender instead.

Jughead, A Loaf of Bread and Thou (March 2004 issue)

May 13, 2008

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I just came back from two weeks in New Zealand. One of the biggest things I noticed was that there are a lot of hills there, and this inhibits the ability to pick up FM signals on the car stereo. It is imperative to have a CD player when crossing the country.

Living in the Bay Area, I often take good music for granted. In the South Bay I can listen to Santa Clara University’s station, while in San Francisco or the East Bay I can listen to UC Berkeley’s finest. And of course at night I can pick up AM stations from as far away as Colorado. I should be so lucky to do this in the land of Kiwi.

New Zealand is a great country, don’t get me wrong. They have lots of things growing (I believe they are called trees), and the people are really friendly. But a spin down the FM dial results in much Celine Dion and Backstreet Boys ilk, although I admittedly did hear one Dinosaur Jr song.

Really, the best thing about New Zealand radio is the commercials. Something as simple as a cobbler’s shop becomes the most amazing concept ever, with the animated discussions and sound effects offered by their advertising production teams. Lots of sound effects. It borders on watching Yogi Bear when he is being chased by that ranger guy.

The citizens are always happy. You could run over their sheep with your campervan, and they would be happy because the tough decision of “What’s for dinner?” would be solved, not to mention wool sweaters for all. I think this happiness is rooted in their ever-lovin’ radio.

The point is that their radio is designed to make Kiwis happy, not tourists, and if you’re from Iowa, then maybe this stuff sounds great to you anyway. Any station that plays what I want to hear is never going to make money anyway (take that, Radio@Netscape!).

So bring a CD player. It will become your friend. Or if it is already your friend, it may get promoted to best friend. Just don’t let your former best friend find out. There’s something about new best friends and old headboards, but I can’t remember what. All I know is that it makes me want to go buy used CDs.

Even with a CD player, you are not home free. Well, you aren’t home at all. You’re on vacation in New Zealand, but I digress. Some of the scenic roads there are not paved (or as they call it, sealed). So when you drive on gravel, it can make the CD skip. I never did find a good solution for this.

Be sure to bring your tunes with you, because most of the CDs that are sold there are not the cool import CDs that you can resell when you get back home for double what you paid. And CDs tend to start around $21 (including tax). There was a kiosk at an airport selling The Clash’s Greatest Hits for only $7, however.

If you are insistent on hearing the local flavor (or is it flavour?), may I recommend sports talk radio? Everybody, his mother and his mother’s children call in to these shows, but they don’t talk about football, baseball or basketball. It’s all about cricket, rugby and netball. Quite a crazy lot, those New Zealanders.

A good thing about CDs is that they don’t have that regional crap like DVDs do. A CD will play in New Zealand, New York or New Delhi. And I’m not sure that there is a lot on FM radio in New Delhi that I would want to listen to anyway. All I know is that, according to Clerks: The Animated Series, all the convenience store workers are American and refuse to speak Hindi.

I was really looking forward to seeing some bands while I was down there, just to see what the scene is like. But for the most part the towns are really small and far apart, and I got the impression that Split Enz was the pinnacle of Kiwi music, and a musician best not try to approach those levels again, because they would just fail. Hence, I noticed many cover bands playing in clubs.

New Zealand radio does do something right, which all radio stations do, actually: They are not TiVo compatible. You better listen for that Bryan Adams song when it comes on because otherwise it will pass you right by, and there will be no remorse from the DJ. Pay attention to those speakers.

Jughead, A Loaf of Bread and Thou (February 2004 issue)

April 28, 2008

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Even the most modest of people out there, at one time or another, have a desire to be listened to. It goes back to when we were infants, crying for Similac. We weren’t really hungry. Those babies in the diaper ads were rail-thin, and we wanted to be like them.

No, we pretended to be hungry because the result was Mom paid attention to us, even if for a little while. A little while is a big deal when you are a baby. A little while is a much larger portion of an infant’s life than an adults. And besides, if we were really hungry, would we really be spitting up afterward? It’s no different than trying to top off a full gas tank.

As we progressed through childhood, we were taught manners, which, while they may have been a waste of time, taught us the key to letting people be heard: Don’t talk when other people are talking.

Yeah, it’s polite, but so what? That isn’t the point. The point is, because people have been raised to be this way, when you talk, you’re being heard! Hooray for you! You better have something clever to say now that the spotlight is on you.

Well, the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how clever you are. Most people are actually rather nimroddish. And whether it is because they are unaware or are indifferent, they just go right along talking, broadcasting their ignorance to the world. And the rest of us are stuck listening to this fool until someone else comes along and interrupts him.

Perhaps our sample lad here really is that dumb, but he is smart enough to notice that he is being interrupted. And he is smart enough to realize that if he can be in a situation where he cannot be interrupted, then guess what: Everyone will be stuck listening to him once again. What joy!

So this is my hypothesis of why guys decide to pick up a guitar and start singing. When an artist performs, people don’t interrupt him. Sure, they talk among themselves at the bar or in a booth, but they never come up to him and snatch that microphone away. And even if he only serves as background music for most, someone out there is hearing him. It’s the nature of our society.

Not every conversation is balanced, and sometimes there’s an extra person. We’ve all been there. You run into someone at a show, and your date hasn’t seen him since the 20th century, and so they are catching up on old times, and you’re just sitting there. You’ve heard all of your date’s stories, so that’s boring. And this other guy leads an extremely uninteresting life as far as you’re concerned.

So now the mook with the guitar is your best friend. He’s many people’s best friend right now. Let’s face it. It’s pretty rare that everybody in a room is paired evenly, and then it is a step further to assume that each of those conversations is having a fair and balanced exchange of ideas. Even some one-on-one conversations are so one-sided that the listener will stop performing her role. She’ll wander off mentally, like Homer Simpson at the softball game, when third base coach Mr. Burns is giving him all the signs before he steps to the plate. Why won’t he just let me bat indeed.

So the next time you are at a show, and the guy with his guitar is so bad that all the gin behind the bar won’t make it better, realize his plight. As a child, he was one of those that nobody paid attention to, and now he is doing the only thing left that will force people to listen to him. And when you think of how insecure artists are, doesn’t it make perfect sense? Well-adjusted people don’t need to go on stage, after all. People already listen to them because they’re well-adjusted.

I don’t know what that says about people who like to write columns on the Internet though. I think those people are just egotistical pricks that like to go on and on. After all, a screen is limitless. The more words there are, the more times you can hit Page Down. Kristin Hersh says that everybody’s got something to hide except for her and her monkey. I say there’s no reason to hide anything because there’s always some idiot that will hear it. Thanks for hearing me, idiots.

Welcome to Agouti archives

April 28, 2008

In June 2001 a friend from college sent me an IM and asked if I wanted to copy edit some music reviews for his fledgling site. I said sure, but don’t expect me to write any.

Over time that became more and more of a ridiculous statement, and eventually I was writing most of the reviews on the site. After the May 2006 issue was posted, monthly meetings mysteriously stopped, as did site updates, and my pizza intake was cut more than 90%.

The site as I knew it stayed up for about another year, as did the e-mail from it ( But all good things apparently must come to an end, and so did this. I was kind of taken aback by the sudden termination of what otherwise appeared to be a wildly successful site, but it’s amazing what getting married and having kids can do to a site’s founders. And I never really did anything about it, so it’s not as if I can really say anything now.

So take a ride in the wayback machine, as they say, and read about bands you’ve never heard of. First I will post the features I wrote, and then I will start posting the reviews alphabetically. The more meetings I have, the sooner this will get done. It could take a while.