Green Day

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I never go to stadium shows. Except Guns N’ Roses last summer at AT&T Park. And, I rarely go to amphitheater shows. Sure, I saw Blink-182 at Shoreline last September. More often than not, I prefer the intimate, hot n’ sweaty, punk rock clubs.

Last Saturday night, I had the “Time Of [My] Life” at the Overstock.com Coliseum. Billie Joe played that one. That was the final song of the night, the second song of the acoustic encore. It reminded me of the Seinfeld finale.

I met up with a classmate that I had not seen since junior high. We “pre-gamed” – a healthy dose of beers, sandwiches, and old stories – in the parking lot before the show. But, I am a devoted A’s fan, so it was just another home game for me.

They keep hinting that they are going “tear this place down,” “blow it up” and build the A’s a new ballpark, because Oakland is now a “baseball town” by default. The Las Vegas Raiders are too sexy for Oakland, and Dub Nation presumably “left (their) hearts (and their wallets) in San Francisco.” And, in 2017, “Moneyball” is dead. There’s no sequel for you, Brad Pitt! Sonny Gray was the last key piece of the that era, and he was dealt to the Yankees last week, ICYMI.

If you build it, they will come,” right? But where will “it” be? Maybe on the waterfront at “Howard Terminal,” adjacent to Jack London. There is talk about “Peralta,” near Laney College, accessible via Lake Merritt BART.” Meanwhile, the “Coliseum City” design would require significant gentrification efforts at the Hegenberger / 66th Avenue corridor. (Hint: “Coliseum City” might be the best option in terms of logistical infrastructure!)

The Athletics do have a solid core of young talent at the moment (see: Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, and Ryon Healy), but they need a decent venue in order to succeed.

Likewise, “Green Day” would not have been “Green Day” without the aid of 924 Gilman in the late 1980s. See, the “fortunate ones” have access to opportunities and the “smart ones” take advantage of said opportunities. Opportunity breeds success.

But, do the kids comprehend the meaning of “green day?”

“Green day” can be interpreted as (A) a profitable day at work; (B) a day spent smoking marijuana at the expense of pure boredom; or (C) a “successful,” “mainstream,” “pop-punk” band hailing from West Contra Costa County, East Bay, California.

“(C)” formed in 1986, and hit their stride with their major label debut, Dookie (1994 Reprise Records).

(Aside #1: “dookie” is slang for “shit” or “poop.” In 1994, music consumers bought shit.)

IMHO, Green Day hit a sophomoric plateau by the turn of the Millennium. WARNING: (2000 Reprise Records) did not have any pizazz. It was bland. It was time for a hiatus. A string of mediocre compilations ensued, spattered with International Superhits (2001 Reprise Records) and other Shenanigans (2002 Reprise Records). Green Day came back to form in the post – 9/11 era when a handful of American Idiot(s) (2004 Reprise Records) were running the country. And, nothing has really changed. We still live in an idiot country!

(Aside #2: I urge you to disagree. That is the spirit of punk rock.)

See, in college, American Idiot was not my “jam,” per se. I preferred The War on Errorism (2003 Fat Wreck Chords). I was so hip back then. I listened to “underground” punk rock. I did not listen to that major label, manufactured “pop rock” crap.

I had not seen Evan since eighth grade, when nimrod. (1997 Reprise Records) was popular. We played Little League together, but we were never really “friends.” We went to rival high schools, in fact. “In the End,” we shared an affinity for Green Day.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, alternative rock radio – “Live105” (FM 105.3) here in the Bay Area – was so groundbreaking. Some things never change. The same radio station helped promote the show last Saturday night at the Network Associates Coliseum.

Prior to the show, I posted a Green Day “roll call” on Facebook, because that is what people do in 2017. To many, social media is therapy. It is communication on some level. It allows one to engage with his/her closest friends and re-connect with individuals from one’s past. However, it should not serve as a replacement for real, human interaction.

None of my friends IRL wanted to go. My music industry friends were jealous, and most are scattered all around the country. My “everyday friends” are responsible. They have “real jobs,” girlfriends, maybe wives, some with kids, and a perhaps a mortgage. My “punk friends” are “too punk” for Green Day. And my “work friends” are just that – “work friends.”

I had never seen Green Day, and I am from the East Bay! I knew this show would be so East Bay. There would be a great deal of hometown pride at play. Plus, I had never been to a concert at the Oakland – Alameda County Coliseum. I had to go!

But, how would I get to the show? I live in a neighborhood in Oakland where parking is scarce. Returning late at night is a gamble. How would I get to the show and guarantee a parking spot when I was expected to return after midnight? Uber, of course!

Uber is awesome. In fact, I utilize it too frequently. These days, I only drive to and from work. I have a reverse commute. I am living the dream.

But, Uber is nothing new. The idea is actually very old-fashioned. It is a taxi! Millennials think they are so special, but they are simply hailing a cab by way of a digital platform on their handheld devices. Technically, it is a sexy taxicab. And it is “uber” convenient.

The service, itself, is fantastic, but from an operational standpoint, it is inefficient. The allotted wait time is never accurate. This poses a problem, because the majority of Uber users are Millennials, and these folks take things literally.

After buying refreshments at Lucky’s, my wait time was projected to be “7 minutes.” Then, five minutes elapsed, and my wait time was still “7 minutes.” So, what does that mean? The Uber eventually arrived, after I called my driver, Dawa, to confirm the pickup. He had to pick up “Crystal” beforehand, because I had selected an “Uber Pool.”  “Uber Pool” saves money, enhances the dialogue, but also sacrifices time.

See, I am part of the “Xennial” generation, so I did not interpret my allotted wait time at face value. Still, I would have appreciated a better-estimated arrival time on my end.

It is like “The Chinese Restaurant” Seinfeld episode. The maître d’ keeps reassuring the gang that the wait time for a table will be “5-10 minutes,” but they are never seated. The gang is fed up with the service (or the lack thereof) and eventually leave the establishment. Jerry goes to his uncle’s, Elaine goes to Skyburger, and George goes home after missing an important incoming phone call. The night is ruined.

“Wait times” are relative. They are only estimates. They are a “state of mind.” They are merely expectations. When expectations are met or exceeded, people are happy. When expectations are unfulfilled, people become agitated.

That said, Uber ought to do a better job of framing wait times. As consumers, we are paying for the service, and we have expectations. If these expectations are not met, we go to the competition. Uber is such a basic service, yet this is a major hole.

(Aside #3: Next time at work, when your colleague takes a “10-minute break,” do not take it literally. Interpret it as a “short break.”)

As I jumped in the Uber, I genuinely thanked Dawa for his service and his patience, because it was not his fault. And Crystal was not to blame, either.

She was from Oakland, born and raised. We got to talking about Uber, the underlying service, and the operational shortcomings. We even speculated that “Uber Pool” has the potential to supplant itself as a modern “speed dating” mechanism. It is either that or “swiping right” on your cellular telephone. Take your pick.

I told the duo that I was on my way to see Green Day at the Oakland Coliseum. Turns out that my driver and co-passenger did not know anything about “Green Day.” What?! I had to summarize their whole career – their humble beginnings, their rise to fame, their sophomoric slump, their comeback, and their ultimate status in pop culture – in a 10-minute car ride. All along, I thought Green Day was “mainstream,” like pot and porn.

I “[had] a blast” at the show. They did not play that one, though. Nor did they play any cuts off of Insomniac (1995 Reprise Records). It followed Dookie, but was not as critically acclaimed as the former. It is kind of like Green Day’s Pinkerton. My favorite tracks are “Geek Stink Breath,” “86,” and “Westbound Sign.” But, I digress.

They did play the hits: “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “Welcome To Paradise,” “She,” “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Holiday,” “When I Come Around,” “American Idiot,” and “Minority,” among a plethora of other singles from the days of yore. They also played newer tracks like “Bang Bang,” and “Revolution Radio.” But I appreciate the older stuff. Because I am a Xennial. I grew up on that “shit” from 1994. Dookie was the starter album for modern day punk rockers. American Idiot, while important, is more highly regarded amongst the Millennial subset.

And, the performance itself was superb. They went off on absurd tangents, jamming for minutes on end. They integrated cover songs by The Rolling Stones [“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”], The Beatles (“Hey Jude”), and Operation Ivy (“Knowledge”). They invited “super fans” on stage to perform guitar solos and sing verses.

The production on Saturday night was as much of a protest as it was a concert. I can now see why American Idiot evolved into a Broadway show. Between songs, Billie Joe would literally roll around on stage, citing how “fucked up” things are in America circa 2017. It was punk AF.

I did not recognize the new band members on stage. There were a couple of additional guys on guitar, another on saxophone. In the old days, Green Day was a trio – Billie Joe Armstrong on guitar (and lead vocals), Mike Dirnt on bass (and backup vocals), and Tré Cool on the drums.

The concert was not “sold out,” either. After all, Green Day “sold out” years ago, right? Keep in mind, the Coliseum is a massive venue. It is hard to fill it up entirely. It is an “old-school,” outdated, multipurpose, concrete structure situated in a dilapidated neighborhood. The Coliseum is not “sexy” like Uber, but it serves a good purpose. It will be bittersweet when it goes.

And, Green Day is not my favorite band by any measure. Instead, Green Day was my “gateway band.” Moreover, Green Day is not really a “punk rock” band anymore, but that is okay. Today, Green Day is a legacy act. They play stadiums. They rock hard. They are past their prime, but they are still relevant AF.

East Coast Trek

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“I felt American for once in my life. I never felt it again.”

-The Menzingers

Each baseball position renders a unique personality and carries with it distinct characteristics. Likewise, no two American cities are the same.

The “big men” – the tall, lanky, sometimes overweight “power” hitters – generally thrive at  first base (or “DH,” for all the American League connoisseurs). Second basemen are smaller, agile, and mild-mannered. “Leaders” play shortstop. Third basemen are extremely quick and acrobatic. Outfielders carry larger egos. Center fielders are downright fast. Right fielders have exceptionally strong arms. Catchers are hard as nails. Pitchers are bulldogs. Utility men are so clutch, because they can play a multitude of roles. They have a diversified skill set.

Catchers might evolve into first basemen over time, but not vice versa. Left-handed players are sought-after commodities, but are generally limited to pitcher (i.e. “southpaw”), first base, or the outfield. Of course, a right-hander covers more ground in right field, whereas a lefty is more effective in left field.

Today, we are clinging to this notion of being the “United States of America.” Yet there’s so much regionalism, so much variation at play. Each American city produces a different vibe, a different feel.

A few weeks ago, I went back east for the first time in six years. I traveled solo, and met up with old friends in various locales. Over the span of eight days, I saw five cities, took in three baseball games, and enjoyed a concert cruise on the East River. But, rest assured, I’m not a “tourist;” I only play one on TV.

In Baltimore, I sipped on “Natty Boh” while devouring a side of pickled fries. In Philadelphia, I had a Campo’s cheesesteak (because “it’s all in the name”). I took the “wit wiz and fried onions” route, and paired it with a Yuengling. Late at night, I walked the streets of lower Manhattan eating folded pizza. As Friday night turned into Saturday morning, I watched the sun rise on the Atlantic City boardwalk. In Boston, I enjoyed a lobster sushi roll for which one would die. In the midst of it all, I developed a growing love affair with Dunkin’ Donuts.

This trip was so American.

See, “vacation” is a mindset, kind of like “Monday morning.” People always claim to be “late” on Monday morning because they are still stuck in the “weekend” frame of mind. Work keeps us grounded, but getting back to the “grind” is a difficult task. Still, if that’s the case, why not simply get up earlier?!

On the flipside, we think more clearly on vacation. Vacation is not a “grind;” it’s pure leisure. We can let loose. We can “shrink our brains,” as my Dad would say.

However, “travel” isn’t easy by any means. Baseball teams traditionally have worse records on the “road.” Similarly, west coast elitists are at an extreme disadvantage on the east coast. Sure, the gas is cheap, but the “tolls” will bite you where it hurts.

And how about those “rain delays” during the summertime? Californians don’t have to deal with downpours in June, only fog and microclimates. And, don’t get me started on driving in Manhattan. It’s pure chaos. The lanes aren’t defined on the avenues, and delivery trucks transform the right lanes on the streets into their own personal loading zones.

The thing about New York City is that one single event can alter the flow of the city on any given day. The city is so interconnected that one disruption can interfere with your “typical” travel plans. You might be a part of the event, or you might simply be a spectator.

On Sunday morning, I “did the whole thing.” I went to brunch in Jersey City with some friends, some friends-of-friends, and the friends-of-friends’ family members. The diner was so Jersey. My “pancakes, plus eggs, bacon and sausage” platter was so American.

On the trek back to the city on the PATH train, our route options were limited because the MTA always plays that “game” on the weekend. And in this instance, the tourists always lose. So, we get off at 9th street, near 6th Avenue in the West Village. Any other day, it would have been fine. Walk a couple avenues to east side, and catch the 4-5-6 to the Upper East Side.

Not on Sunday. Not during the Pride Parade. We were stuck. “Literally!” as most Millennials would say. For nearly 30 minutes, we desperately navigated the packed sidewalks adjacent to the cordoned-off, cobblestone streets. It was more or less a re-enactment of the “The Puerto Rican Day Parade.”

In all honesty, New York City is a wonderful place. I was blessed to live there for two years. It truly is a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, and ways of life. New York is the model city for America. Every resident is entitled to live out his/her “American Dream,” because all dreams are relative. It’s always been that way. Do what you love, just make sure to pay the bills on time.

While the “American Dream” is still a thing, the Millennial generation has taken it to a new level, an unhealthy level at best. We were born with silver spoons. As children, we got trophies when we lost. We were told that we could do anything. As a result, we built up a sense of entitlement.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re smart individuals, perhaps “overeducated.” Still, we’re obsessed with social media, our “careers,” and those cool job perks. We rely too much on technology, and we have very little patience. Everything is “on-demand,” and when it isn’t, something seems off. We don’t use dictionaries or card catalogs anymore; Google is sufficient.

Now the older core of the Millennial generation is burnt out. So, do we settle down like most of our peers, or do we keep the party going?

My journey was so classic. It centered on baseball, our “National Pastime.” Or so I thought.

We live in a fast-moving world. As such, people prefer fast-paced sports. It’s sad to admit, but baseball is no longer the “National Pastime.” In America circa 2017, the NBA and NFL have surpassed MLB in terms of mass popularity, media attention, and general appeal. Bars prefer to air NBA summer league games in July instead of primetime, Saturday night baseball. There’s so much hype in the NBA, even during the offseason, if you can call it that. And how about the NFL? It’s a blatant money grab. The Super Bowl is a national holiday. It’s not even about football anymore. It’s about hot n’ ready pizza, potato chips, beer, iPhones, and the upcoming summer blockbuster.

I’m such a purist. I find value in tradition. I’m so American.

In the old days, ballparks were centrally located in densely populated urban areas, not necessarily “downtown,” but within the city limits (e.g. Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium).

Then in the ‘60s and ‘70s, in a cost-saving approach, municipalities began building “multipurpose” stadiums and domes on the outskirts of town. It was a bit more travel for fans, but these sites allowed for ample guest parking and pre-game tailgating opportunities. Furthermore, the massive structures could cater to both NFL and MLB organizations (e.g. Oakland Coliseum, Candlestick Park, Joe Robbie Stadium, The Astrodome, Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, The Metrodome, The Kingdome).

By the late ’80s, change was imminent. The Baltimore Orioles broke ground on a new baseball-only complex in 1989. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, conveniently nestled between the Downtown and Inner Harbor neighborhoods, opened at the start of the 1992 campaign. It set the standard for “new era” MLB ballparks. It’s a rather beautiful park in an otherwise underrated city.

Baltimore gets such a bad rap, mainly because of The Wire. But it’s called “Charm City” for a reason, folks. See, Baltimore resembles Oakland. It’s “edgy,” yet “cool.” There are good pockets and bad pockets. But if you find your niche, then you’re bound to have a good time. If you look close enough, you’ll find that “charm.”

Meanwhile, Philly has a very efficient sports complex. It is located just steps from the AT&T SEPTA station (the last stop on the Broad Street line, a few stops after Tasker-Morris Station). It’s not a burgeoning residential area, but there is business at all times of the year. Within two square miles, fans have access to Citizens Bank Park (Phillies), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles), Wells Fargo Center (Flyers, 76ers), and XFINITY Live!, where Philly sports fans can enjoy pre and post-game refreshments.

It’s nothing “over-the-top.” Nothing is in Philadelphia. Philly is so mellow. It’s very “working-class” and “community-oriented.” The streets are narrow. The J-walkers are abundant. The bars are packed late at night. Philly is an older version of New York City. It’s an “old-school” city that offers an impressive whiskey pour, superior to that of New York City.

And Boston. How can I forget about you, Boston? You bring so much attitude to the table. I feel like such an outsider in your town. You won’t talk to me until the middle of the third inning. I’m not welcome until I buy you a round at the bar. But Fenway Park is a work of art. It’s a masterpiece. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I truly saved the best for last. Thank you, I appreciate that. Still, your thunder and lightning storms managed to hold me hostage at Logan International for nearly three hours, when all I wanted to do was get back to the Bay and “unwind.”

So there you have it. Eight days, five cities, and three key takeaways: (1) I like the east coast, (2) I love baseball, and (3) The Menzingers are my healthy obsession. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay

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In April 2007, the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors, led by Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and Jason Richardson stunned the basketball world. In dramatic, underdog fashion, the Warriors defeated the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs, claiming the best-of-seven series by a count of 4-2.

The Warriors snuck into the playoffs, finishing two games over .500 at 42-40. Don Nelson and his squad finished the season on a tear, winning 16 of the final 21 games. This marked the team’s first playoff appearance since the 1993 – 1994 campaign.

Golden State carried this late-season momentum into the postseason. They came. They saw. And, they won the first round. Then, they partied like they had won the NBA Championship.

In the Western Conference semifinals versus the Jazz, the Warriors came out flat. They were out-rebounded, and they could not execute in critical moments. Utah won the best-of-seven series in five games.

Still, the Warriors organization and its fans uphold a great deal of pride when it comes to the “We Believe” era. On Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, the 2007 team was honored in a pre-game ceremony. Davis, Jackson, Richardson, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington, (former / current Warrior) Matt Barnes, and a handful of other key players were in attendance.

Having witnessed the impressive feat firsthand, and to be able to reflect on it, is quite satisfying. It is thoroughly important to honor past heroes and past achievements.

But, at the same time, we cannot get caught up in the nostalgia. We cannot live in the past.

For instance, imagine seeing your favorite band from your adolescence perform 15 years after the fact. It’s fun to reminisce. It’s fun to sing the songs (because you know every word). And in that moment, you remember how the music complemented your past experiences. However, 15 years is a long time. Things change. People change. Attitudes adjust. Interests fade. While nostalgia is euphoric, it is short-lived. The key is to live in the moment.

The time is now for these 2016 – 2017 Warriors. After last season’s meltdown, coupled with the offseason acquisition of Kevin Durant, the expectations are through the roof.

As we navigate through the Western Conference semifinals, we find that the Warriors are pitted against the Utah Jazz once again. Some may consider it a story of redemption. While the cast of characters is different, the ultimate prize remains.

The reunion was merely a complementary storyline. It was an added incentive to tune into the game. It generated a nostalgic effect for the viewer, and it effectively boosted TV ratings. But, hey, that’s business as usual in America!

The real question is, did the tech brethren and the real estate tycoons sitting courtside at “Roaracle” genuinely appreciate the gesture?

Did these folks experience the excitement during the “We Believe” era? Did they own season tickets during the 2007 run? Or, did they recently hop on the bandwagon?

See, money is power. And, winning is contagious. The Warriors are a bona fide contender nowadays because they have powerful, experienced leaders, both on the court and in the management sphere. Prior editions of Warriors basketball (e.g. “Run TMC,” “We Believe”) found a good deal of success, but they could not sustain it. There was talent, but no vision.

In two years time, the Warriors will ditch Oracle Arena and the City of Oakland, a place they’ve called “home” for the past 46 seasons. The transition is bittersweet for many longtime fans.

The Golden State (or perhaps the “San Francisco”) Warriors will open the 2019-2020 season at the Chase Center, situated in the trendy Mission Bay enclave in San Francisco. Will a new setting generate a better experience? Will it provide a better home-court advantage?

It’s safe to assume that the overall vibe will be different. Furthermore, the price of admission will spike. Meanwhile, expectations for the organization will increase accordingly. There is added pressure for Joe Lacob and Peter Guber to deliver a top-notch product on an annual basis.

We know this much: head coach Steve Kerr, along with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and all supporting cast members represent the “Golden Age” of Warriors basketball. It would be prudent to acknowledge the widespread notion that says, “Nothing gold can stay.” So enjoy it while it lasts, Dub Nation.

Let’s Go Warriors!

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/how-we-believe-warriors-laid-groundwork-theyre-way-past-believing-now

 

Live Review: The Story So Far (December 26, 2015, 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA)

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“The youth are not the future, but it is what they become.”

— Enemy You

I finally made it to Gilman after all of these years. I have been listening to punk rock for nearly 17 years, and had never made it to the legendary performance space in West Berkeley. Perhaps when I was younger, I was into the bands that had outgrown the Gilman vibe. Furthermore, over the past few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time away from the Bay Area. I have been back around for the past few months, and took this opportunity to cross 924 Gilman Street off of the ‘ole bucket list.

Flier

Now, I know what you are thinking. This guy is nothing more than a goddamn, trendy-ass poser!

Indeed, on Saturday night at 924 Gilman Street, I felt a bit out of place upon entering the community center. All around, there was a sea of kids, kids, and more kids. At the ripe age of 30, I thought to myself, “Am I getting too old for this shit?” The short answer: “HELL NO.”

I am older, wiser, and a bit more jaded than the average Gilman attendee. I do not go to as many shows nowadays, but I have not lost touch just yet. I am just a bit more selective; I attend the great shows. Saturday night’s bill just happened to feature Walnut Creek’s own, The Story So Far.

While admiring the landscape at this “DIY, cultural landmark,” I realized that I was standing in the same dingy auditorium where Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong had spread “Knowledge and “Unity” amongst the local community. Meanwhile, I stood in the same venue where Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool got their start. And I was, in fact, in the same room where Mike Burkett and Davey Havok  launched their careers. Indeed, 924 Gilman is a Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll institution. It remains a breeding ground for greatness.

The fascinating aspect is that, aside from hairstyles, nothing has really changed in the past 29 years. The global economy is still dictated by which God you believe in. Americans are still politically divided; our education system is still flawed; and violence and corruption are still rampant.

Meanwhile, the kids are still singing along, crowd surfing, and forming circle pits. They are fed up with the status quo, the notion of conformity, and other societal issues.

At 924 Gilman Street, there is no B.S. allowed. No drugs. No alcohol. No graffiti. No stage diving. No violence. No racism. No vandalism. The experience is therapeutic. It is good old-fashioned fun. It is live music for all ages.

It was evident that most everybody in the room came to see The Story So Far. Once U.S. Light Brigade and Culture Abuse (I missed Mobins Child) finished their sets, it was go time. Parker Cannon (lead vocals), Kelen Capener (bass), Kevin Geyer (guitar/vocals), William Levy (guitar), and Ryan Torf (drums) emerged on stage and encouraged the crowd to “get rowdy.” The audience subsequently rushed forward and erupted in unison to the tune of “Empty Space.” The band promptly switched gears and delivered “Nerve,” the lead single from their self-titled album, released in May 2015.

The well-balanced set list featured cuts from all three LPs: the aforementioned The Story So Far, What You Don’t See (2013), and Under Soil and Dirt (2011). New tracks like “Heavy Gloom” and “Distaste” coupled with previous standouts like “Things I Can’t Change,” “Quicksand,” and “Face Value” were received with a great deal of enthusiasm from the sold-out, capacity crowd.

Lacking were classics like “Brevity,” “Mt. Diablo,” and “Rally Cap,” but the band’s professionalism and maturity were on display on this cold December evening. Between songs, Parker and his band mates would clap along with the fans to bid thanks for the overwhelming support from the Bay Area punk rock community.

Frankly, this is what it is all about. It is not about album sales anymore. It is not about going viral. It is about coming together as one, leaving your problems at the door, and simply enjoying yourself for a few hours.

The show ended, as all good things do, after a short encore highlighted by “States and Minds” and “Roam.” The crowd wanted more, but reluctantly filed out of the venue back into the 30-degree weather. As for me, I enjoyed my first time at 924 Gilman Street. I will be back. Apparently, punk rock is not just for kids.

Set List

“Empty Space”

“Nerve”

“Things I Can’t Change”

“The Glass”

“Heavy Gloom”

?

“Bad Luck”

“Distaste”

?

“Face Value”

“Quicksand”

“Framework”

Encore:

“States and Minds”

“Roam”

 

Live Review: The Shell Corporation with Bad Cop / Bad Cop, The Bombpops, Murderland, & Squarecrow (March 6, 2015, The Redwood Bar & Grill, Los Angeles, CA)

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We were blessed with 80-degree weather on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the scintillating conditions carried over into the evening hours. By 9pm, the punks began to congregate at downtown L.A.’s finest pirate-themed watering hole, The Redwood Bar & Grill, anxiously awaiting a stacked lineup of emerging talent.

First up was Squarecrow, a three-piece, straightforward power-pop / pop-punk band out of San Diego. At this point, people were still filing into the venue, and others were huddled around the back bar, conversing with one another, and securing their first round of drinks. As is the case with most openers, there wasn’t much of a reception. Generally speaking, I think they could have benefited from another guitar player. It would have really rounded out their sound. The trio ended abruptly with “Wayside,” which is actually a pretty catchy song. It’s featured on their self-released EP, B-Sides (2013).

http://squarecrow.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/squarecrowmusic

RIYL: Banquets, American Hi-Fi, Jimmy Eat World

Next up was Murderland, a horror punk quintet from L.A. I had never heard of these guys, but I was thoroughly impressed with their performance. The riffs reminded me of Strung Out. The energy exuded by lead vocalist “Mike Murder” was reminiscent of Jim Lindberg (of Pennywise). As they moved through their 30-minute set, they delivered an authentic rendition of a genre defined by the Misfits, Samhain, and Blitzkid. Hey, it’s pretty cool when a band can attach an addictive melody to songs like “Hacksaw Romance,” “Die Screaming,” and “Fetus Eaters.” And of course, the second band of the night always has the best on-stage banter, or so they claimed. Indeed, Murderland might be on to something here.

Murderland at The Redwood Bar and Grill in Los Angeles, CA (March 6, 2015)

Murderland

Find Murderland on Spotify

https://www.facebook.com/wecametoparty

RIYL: Misfits, Samhain, Blitzkid, Calabrese, AFI (Black Sails to Art of Drowning era)

After a quick sound check, The Bombpops graced us with their presence. Instantly, Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam (who share the vocal duties) launched their trademark “call-and-response” format, and assured the crowd that – yes, girls can rock out, too (and quite effectively, I might add). The duo layers their songs with sweet “oohs” and “ahhs,” while simultaneously shredding on guitar. Paired with bassist Neil Wayne and drummer Josh Lewis, the pop-punk quartet wasted little time, delivering an array of crowd-pleasing anthems, such as “Outta Hand,” “Like I Care,” and “Grocery Store.” They played a handful of new songs that I didn’t recognize, and strategically placed the radio-ready “Can O’ Worms” (via the 2014 self-released 7”, Can Of Worms) towards the end of the set. Hailing from Oceanside, CA, The Bombpops have since relocated to the L.A. basin, and are primed for a serious run. Stay tuned, folks.

The Bombpops

The Bombpops

http://thebombpops.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheBombpops

RIYL: The Queers, Teen Idols, Screeching Weasel, Descendents

The estrogen level was cranked up even further when Bad Cop / Bad Cop hit the stage. Stacey Dee (lead vocals / guitar), Jennie Cotterill (vocals / guitar), Rinh Re (bass/vocals), and Myra Gallarza (drums) provided the audience with an engaging set, peppered with an assortment of wonderfully catchy songs. Their execution was spot on, resulting in a very tight performance. In between the witty on-stage banter, the girls played highly contagious cuts like “Rodeo” and “My Life,” both derived from the Boss Lady EP (2014, Fat Wreck Chords). They also played a ton of new songs, which are slated to appear on a “new record,” which is due out “later this year” on Fat Wreck Chords.

http://badcopbadcop.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/badcopbadcopband

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

RIYL: Enemy You, Good Riddance, Love Equals Death

Finally, it was time for The Shell Corporation. Unfortunately, the crowd had thinned out a bit by the time they took the stage. Lead singer Jan Drees wondered if they were actually the “headliner” or if they just had “the privilege to play last.” It’s a shame that more people didn’t stick around, because these dudes rock. Period. Regardless, Drees spent most of the set pacing back and forth between the stage and the audience, gesturing the crowd in a Greg Graffin-type fashion. Drees, Curtiss Lopez (guitar / vocals), Sean Moore (bass / vocals), and Jake Margolis (drums) were precisely on target. They ripped through a handful of songs (“The Death of Us,” “Maguire’s Plea,” “Appetite for Distraction,” “Trust Us”) from their latest release, Mandrake (2014, Paper and Plastick Records / Solidarity Recordings). Towards the end of the set, Drees vented some frustration with the world at large, sensing that “nobody is listening,” and “nothing ever changes,” and furthermore, this was his time to “bitch about the fact that nobody’s listening.” I couldn’t agree more.

http://solidarityrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/mandrake

https://www.facebook.com/TheShellCorporation

RIYL: Bad Religion, Goldfinger, Banner Pilot, Red City Radio

The Shell Corporation

The Shell Corporation

As I exited the venue, I noticed the temperature had significantly dropped, probably into the low 60s. But I didn’t need a jacket. The community, the camaraderie, the comic relief, and the tunes ringing in my ears provided a nice blanket. Yeah, shows like this keep you warm for a long time.

The Story

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So, I started watching Melrose Place. Don’t ask why, and furthermore, please don’t tell anybody! Now, I’m hooked. I might have to buy a Hulu subscription after I finish the first 32 episodes, which are on the house.

The first few episodes seem pretty tame (that is, compared to the developments in subsequent seasons). Thus far, there’s a lot of focus on character development, along with some intriguing storylines, and a handful of cultural tie-ins that capture the mood of Los Angeles in the early 1990s.

The original cast members (from left to right): Amy Locane, Grant Show, Josie Bissett, Thomas Calabro, Vanessa A. Williams, Doug Savant, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Andrew Shue

It’s a group of twentysomethings living together in an apartment complex in West Hollywood, California. Michael Mancini is a doctor. He’s married to Jane Mancini. She works at a trendy clothing boutique.

Alison Parker, at least initially, takes on the “good girl” persona. Originally from Wisconsin, she is college-educated, and is looking to land an executive position in the advertising world. Alison shares an apartment with Billy Campbell, an uninhibited, selfish, and adventurous young man. He aspires to be a writer, but for now, he’s lost. He spends time driving his cab around L.A. in search of answers.

Jake Hanson is an oft-unemployed construction worker / mechanic. He has a troubled past and commitment issues. Sandy Harling is an actress. She is very insecure. She also works as a waitress at the local hangout, Shooter’s Bar and Grill. Jake and Sandy are in love, but they can’t seem to embrace it.

Rhonda Blair is a dancer-turned-aerobics instructor. She is not quite sure what she wants out of life. Finally, Matt Fielding works at a halfway house, helping troubled youth find their way. He is also openly gay. He is brilliant at solving other peoples’ problems, yet he can’t seem to get his own life in order.

The show pushes the boundaries at times, commenting on race relations, homosexuality, abortion, and the stereotypical L.A. lifestyle. It’s trashy. It’s predictable. It’s powerful. It reflects life in general. It’s perfect.

But again, why am I watching? Why now? I’m 23 years late to the party.

Coincidentally, I just moved to L.A. about a month ago. No doubt, it’s an odd place, unlike any other city I’ve lived in (namely, San Francisco and New York). It’s a melting pot of ethnicities and personalities. It’s a highly competitive landscape. If you’re not from here, you come here to pursue your dreams. But at what cost? There are so many people out here with varying ambitions, and there’s simply not enough time to get things done.

No matter where you are going, you have to give yourself an hour to get there. You have to be patient and proactive in this town, not only in terms of your career objectives, but also while changing lanes on the 110. And, you have to embrace the culture. Everybody meets for coffee to discuss ideas. But what’s an idea without proper execution, management, and follow-through? And, oh yeah, everybody is a writer in this town. Everybody has a story to tell. The question is, can you captivate an audience with your story?

By now, you’re probably wondering, “Why the hell did you move to L.A.?” Well, I came here to find opportunity in the music industry and document my own experiences. After all, life is about our experiences, and what we learn from them.

Also, you can’t beat the weather down here. It’s sunny here just about every day. That said, you need to carry a sunny disposition with you at all times, or you won’t get very far in this town. You need to think positively, stay busy, and interact with the right folks in your industry.

So, what does it mean to actually “make it” in this business of entertainment? From the artistic side, it depends on what you want out of life. Do you want to be a celebrity, or do you want to be a niche artist and make a comfortable living doing what you love?

From the business perspective, it’s all about finding the hits? After all, it’s a hits-driven business. Shows like Fresh Off The Boat will inevitably sink. This show, in particular, is chock full of one-liners, overly dependent on stereotypes, and it focuses on a specific era in time (mid-1990s). There’s not enough flexibility for development.

Instead, think of something that people will still want to watch 25 years down the line. Think of a show that will attract viewers from different generations, a show that is independent of trends, and thereby, stands the test of time.

Presently, I’m really enjoying Better Call Saul, which is the prequel to Breaking Bad. Like Breaking Bad, the show is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Based on the characters’ use of flip phones, the show is presumably set in the early 2000s. The series follows a struggling, small-time criminal defense lawyer, Jimmy McGill (who will eventually assume an alter ego, “Saul Goodman,” or “it’s-all-good-man” in future episodes). McGill manages a fledgling solo law practice, whose main office consists of a dimly lit room in the back of a nail salon. It appears that McGill will build and represent a clientele of intelligent crooks.

Thus far, it’s highly engaging. The pace, the character development, and the narrative style (often complemented by disjointed “flashback” scenes) are reminiscent of Breaking Bad. The formula is there, now it is just a matter of finding out how and why Saul Goodman crosses paths with Heisenberg, a.k.a. Walter White.

Isn’t it ironic? Most everything is a cliché – you know, everything is predictable; yet we can’t seem to figure anything out! Most viewers know why Saul Goodman will encounter Walter White. It’s inevitable. Saul Goodman’s hands will get too dirty, he will be in too deep. Goodman will become an integral player in the local drug business. He will assume the role of “peacemaker” and “dealmaker.” He will be the “liaison,” if you will, between the criminals and the justice system. The question is, “how will this scenario unfold?” And, again, at what cost?

So, if everything is predictable, what keeps us coming back week after week? Why are we so enthralled? Why do we live vicariously through fictional characters? Furthermore, is the mundane more satisfying than the “twist,” or is it merely based on personal preference?

Look at it this way, isn’t The OC just a reincarnation of Beverly Hills 90210? Likewise, isn’t Entourage a mirror image of Sex and The City? Isn’t Friends basically the same as Seinfeld?

It’s the same story over and over again, with a different cast of characters and a different setting. Yes, times change, and technology advances different aspects of society, but trends are cyclical and the philosophical nature of our existence remains intact. We have embarked on a search for purpose and meaning, just like Walter White did in Breaking Bad. The caveat is that reality is more than five seasons in duration. It’s an ongoing struggle.

As individuals, we need a support system, a group of close friends and family in order to get by. And we need brutal honesty at times, because how else will we better ourselves?

A television series, or any form of art for that matter, is destined for greatness when it can capture this aspect of friendship, the importance of relationships, and what it means to be human. History proves that nobody can do anything solely by him/herself. Surround yourself with great people, and the ideas will come to fruition.

Remember, “The story is the foundation of all entertainment. You must have a good story, otherwise it’s just masturbation.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to catch another episode of Melrose Place. Shhh!!! 

Noise du Jour: No Parents

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It was raw. It was offensive. It was explicit. It was absurd. And there was not a single parent in the audience. It was perfect.

Such was the scene last Wednesday night at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. A modest crowd of twentysomethings gathered around oddly situated cocktail tables in the middle of the dance floor. Others clutched the perimeters of the warehouse-turned-performance space, sipping craft beer, and enjoying a solid night of modern rock.

I missed the first act, Contrafang, but arrived in time to catch the blues-inspired Travesura, followed by the dreamy indie rockers, So Many Wizards.

Then, No Parents hit the stage.

No Parents 2I didn’t know what to expect, exactly. Sure, I listened to the EP before the show. The band’s sound merged with the whole left coast, lo-fi garage/surf rock vibe, à la FIDLAR and together PANGEA. But when you’re lumped together with the rest of the scene, how do you manage to set yourself apart from your peers?

I had read a handful of reviews here and there. Still, I felt the need to witness No Parents in an intimate setting. Because the live show is everything. This is a dime-a-dozen business. If you can’t draw attention to your band, if you can’t engage an audience, if you can’t differentiate your band/brand in some form or another, then you fall into obscurity.

With No Parents, it’s no problem. The live show was killer! Lead vocalist Zoe Reign, alongside guitarist Ryan “Ducky” McGuffin, bassist Killian LeDuke, and drummer Monte Nojera, delivered a raucous, yet crowd-pleasing experience. They were over-the-top and brutally honest. They were in-your-face, even if you didn’t want them there. They were rowdy, extremely loud, and downright entertaining.

No Parents @ the Bootleg Theater (Los Angeles, CA)

No Parents @ the Bootleg Theater (Los Angeles, CA)

It was a night filled with irresponsibility, indecency, and everything in between. Along the way, Reign and his band mates trashed the modern notion of conformity. They played hook-laden songs about pizza, hippies, and existentialism. They recalled unspeakable encounters with the opposite sex at the finest fast food establishments in SoCal. And, then they broke the news to Grandma about their lifestyle choices.

On multiple occasions, Reign jumped into the crowd to liven up the pit. He lent the mic to fans near the stage so they could sing along. In between verses, he’d take a swig of Budweiser, and then resume regularly scheduled activities. On this night, Reign kept most of his clothes on; however, he’s been known to strip down to undies, presumably at venues with poor ventilation. Yeah, it sounds outrageous, but, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll, baby!

So go ahead, crank up the debut EP, and “May The Thirst Be With You.” Relax, dude. Your parents aren’t around to tell you to turn the volume down.

RIYL: FIDLAR, together PANGEA, The Sex Pistols, Bad Religion, NOFX, Black Flag