Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fight Week: Jay Farrar vs. Jeff Tweedy

One time my friend Dan and I spent a train ride to the city arguing over which US President would win in a Battle Royal. I chose Washington. I think he chose Teddy Roosevelt. He was probably right. He usually is.

Anyway, I was thinking about the question earlier and started thinking about what would happen if some of my favorite musicians got into a fight. So this week I am going to do a post each day with a new fight.

On the card for today: Jay Farrar vs. Jeff Tweedy!
History: Uncle Tupelo stands as the premier band of the alt-country movement with their first album No Depression standing as the genre’s defining record. While ND was heavily weighted with Farrar’s vocals, singing duties became leveled on subsequent recordings as Tweedy’s songwriting developed. After Tupelo’s break up, Jay Farrar started Son Volt and Jeff started Wilco with the remaining members of Uncle Tupelo. Son Volt has had a solid, steady career while Wilco…well they’ve done pretty well for themselves.

Why they fight: Since the disbanding of Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy has made it pretty apparent that Jay Farrar is quite the asshole. This piece stands out from Greg Kot’s Learning How To Die:

Around this time, I would say something into a microphone onstage, and afterward [Farrar would] pull me aside and say, "Don't you ever fucking talk into that microphone again." He would misconstrue me talking into the microphone as more evidence of my out-of-control, rampant ego, more evidence of me feeling like I didn't have to be so fucking afraid anymore.

Farrar claims that Jeff made moves on his fiancé. Any Tweedy interview that refers to Uncle Tupelo contains some reference to Jay Farrar's position as dickhead supreme. And I may be taking liberties here, but I’ve gotta guess that Wilco being much more successful than Son Volt eats at Jay. A little bit.

Who wins: The early edge has to be given to Farrar. The guys vocals suggest the fact that he’s not someone you want to mess with. And he’s certainly got a bone to pick with Jeff. (As I write that sentence however, I realize what a weak argument that is. Jeff is certainly embittered; listen to “Misunderstood.”) Either way these guys hate each other; and while Farrar seemingly holds the physical advantage, I think Tweedy has taught the world not to count him out. He’s been written off several times, conquered addictions, and is still taking victory laps for defeating the AOL-Time Warner empire. So as the two fight, Tweedy holds his own until Farrar hits him with a pair of brass knuckles Jay Bennett passed him when no one was looking. Jay Farrar walks away the winner. And as the Wilco corner helps Tweedy collect himself Jay Bennett yells something about how "Heavy Metal Drummer" is still a stupid song which provokes a fight between Bennett and Glenn Kotche. Needless to say Glenn kicks the shit out of him and cuts off one of his dreadlocks.

Come back tomorrow to see what happens when Hüsker Dü's Bob Mould and Grant Hart join forces for a tag team match against Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson of The Replacements with guest referee Craig Finn.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yo Gabba Gabba calls for a Piebald Reunion

After seeing this yesterday I began to think about Piebald.

Once I decided that I would never make a living as the lead singer of a punk rock band, I chose to become an Elementary school teacher (which would become an English teacher which would become an English major, but that’s not the point). The point is that this allowed me to gain a much more complete appreciation of Piebald. Travis Shettle, sings on “King Of The Road,” the opening track on the band’s career highlight We Are The Only Friends That We Have, “John, well, he got married to Laura and I teach their kid in first grade.” I took it to heart.

Piebald’s early sound goes back to the mid 90’s Boston post-hardcore/emo scene that they were immersed in. What separated them from the crowd was their lyrical styling of goofball wit. Most notable of these early songs is “100 % Good” where Shettle croons “You can flip me over like a record or a turtle which ever you prefer. One way I'll keep spinning the other I'll die in the sun.” The culmination of this sound came on 1999’s If It Weren’t For Venetian Blinds It Would Be Curtains For Us All. The lyrics move to the forefront of a perfected sound. With song titles such as “All You Need Is Drums To Start A Dance Party” and “If Marcus Garvey Dies, Marcus Garvey Lives,” Venetian Blinds launched Piebald to the forefront of the emo movement. The epic “Grace Kelly With Wings,” which also features vocals from guitarist Aaron Stuart on one of the bridges, stands as my favorite Piebald track.

In 2002, We Are The Only…saw the band’s sound switch to a much more riff-based rock n’ roll. And Travis established himself as one of the wittiest song-writers of his time:

“If you're bored than you must be boring too. Did I st-st-st-st-stutter?”

“A towel on his head after jumping off the pier, Rama said I looked like a Kennedy.”

“Can you please get off my coast and coat? I would like to leave. This is why I hate credit cards. Little body mighty hand.”

“It's just like liquor stores, mailboxes and pay phones. Whenever you need them they are impossible to find.”

I got to see Piebald twice before they broke up in 2008 (though I missed out on the last Chicago show). The second of these was the first time they were using their grease powered tour van. Great dudes.

After seeing Yo Gabba Gabba presenting these rock n’ roll songs to little kids, I couldn’t help but get sentimental for Piebald. Especially the song “Put Your Slippers On Instead”—which should be used as a lesson for all growing boys and girls.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Was Drinking You Goodbye

Nike to sell custom Alkaline Trio shoe.

"Seeing the swoosh and our logo on one product is unbelievable," singer/guitarist Matt Skiba said in a statement. "The shoe looks amazing and provides some insight into who we are."

Thanks to Aversion. And Radio Free Chicago.

Well, I guess this is the point where I make the joke about how the shoe company who for years exploited children have now prostituted one of the most important bands of my youth.

Ha. I guess.

I need a beer.

Josh Homme moves up in the "People I Want To Have A Beer With" List

This rules

I haven't seen said video. I don't care to. I'm happy with this one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


When I first came to Illinois State there was a place in Bloomington called the Pool Party House. I was a lonely freshman, excited to find a place where I could see bands play, meet people, and get wasted.

Then it got torn down. And became a parking lot (see: "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell). And there’s a giant Ron Paul poster on a nearby fence to remind me that the world is a fucked up place.

But my friend continued the tradition of the Pool Party House by opening up his kitchen as a new place for shows. He called it The Kitchen. He was clever. And all was great. I met more people, continued to get wasted, and saw Mans about five times Spring semester (more on Mans to come).

As open as The Kitchen has always been to everyone, it was not the place I would have expected to first come across Venna. Coming into what most people considered to be a party, husband and wife Marky and Heather Hladish and Dustin Henry set up three chairs, the boys plugged their acoustic guitars into the PA and began to play to those who were interested. For all the metal, hardcore, grind, thrash, d-beat, you-name-it-core, that has graced The Kitchen, I’ve never seen anyone hold a group of people in their hands the way Venna did that night.

Marky and Dustin are both members of the post-hardcore band The Felix Culpa. Such is evident in their intricate guitar arrangements (though Marky does most of the guitar work on the recording). And combined with Heather’s gorgeous vocals, this group is really something special. They have an excellent six song EP released through Common Cloud Records. These two tracks were my favorite both on the recording and performance.

Meet Me In The Hammock (Bring Cigarettes) tells the story of a one way love from the perspective of the heartbreaker. Aside from tearing the life from a lover, Heather also brought me to tears with this song. “This is where my heart divides: I like your hands; you love my eyes. All is fair in love and sin and I don’t see you coming through this in one piece.” As she describes a feeling of a disintegrating relationship she holds a solemn empathy both for her and for her lover. It’s a feeling, a state of being, that I, like most, have been a part of and Heather describes all too perfectly; delivering with a heartbreaking compassion in her voice.

Papers is the final song on the EP and my personal favorite. Marky’s guitar is a beautiful folk arrangement that feels entirely organic. It’s warm, comforting, familiar—fitting as Heather on this song likens herself to “a river that runs deep and runs slow.” It is also her best performance as she brings forth both her soft comfort along with a display of her astounding range as a vocalist. The two flow together so cohesively throughout the song, so naturally. Their emotional connection as husband and wife seems to simply flow into their songwriting as their separate elements mesh together to create these wonderful songs. And as the two move toward the end of the song, Heather’s last line “He wears your shoes, your coat, your looks” is met by layers of acoustic guitars, mandolin, and a wide array of percussion along with a chorus singing the last line. It’s the type of song that every folk singer dreams of but so few could ever achieve.