Here We Go Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on October 27th, 2015 by bill
[caption id="attachment_6572" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Steph Curry nails a shot while chewing his mouthguard – in the NBA 2K16 video game. Soon he will be doing it again in real life."][/caption] So today Our Golden State Warriors begin their defense of the NBA Championship. It still feels weird to say that. Maybe it’ll finally sink in for real tonight when they hand out the rings and raise the banner into the rafters. The Dubs will be kicking off the season without Steve Kerr, who is still out with complications from offseason back surgery. I assume, though, that he will be there to get his ring – as will Alvin Gentry, last year’s top assistant, who is now the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. And if the Pelicans are in town, that means Anthony Davis, a/k/a The Brow, consensus future MVP, will be there too. Davis and the Pels will have something to prove after being swept in the first round of last year's playoffs, and the Warriors will want to respond. But we all kind of like The Brow, and we like Gentry, so this will not be a grudge match. Those will come soon enough when the W’s play the Rockets (10/30), the Grizzlies (11/2), and – yes, Lord, let it be so – the Clippers on Wednesday 11/4. The Clippers did a lot of yapping this summer, and are feeling all swoll about themselves after stealing DeAndre Jordan back from Dallas and adding a couple of decent bench players. But to me they're still basically the same bunch of floptastic crybabies that we smacked down repeatedly last year, and I look forward to that matchup with great relish. So let’s go, let’s long till tipoff?

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 5)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on October 26th, 2015 by bill
[caption id="attachment_6559" align="alignnone" width="470" caption="There have been many versions of Pere Ubu over the years, but this is something like the version that I saw in 93."][/caption] In related memories, there was the time I saw Pere Ubu at Slim’s in San Francisco in 1993. The common thread here is legendary Cleveland underground band Rocket from the Tombs. After a brief but influential tenure in the mid-70s, which produced a few singles and many live performances but no actual album, RFTT splintered into two factions. One became the Dead Boys, featuring Stiv Bator, later of Lords of the New Church. The other, including David Thomas – known as Crocus Behemoth during his time with RFTT – and the soon-to-be late Peter Laughner, became Pere Ubu. Ubu recorded a number of strange and innovative albums in the late 70s and early 80s, and in the late 80s returned in a somewhat more accessible form. I was not really aware of them until I saw them open for the Pixies at the Warfield in 1991, but when they came around again in support of 1993’s The Story of My Life, I was right there at the foot of the stage. They opened with the first song from Story of My Life, “Wasted,” a slow-moving number that starts with just voice and accordion. But a minute or so in they stopped. David Thomas indicated, quite clearly, his displeasure with the way the accordion sounded; there was a pause in the action. This gave those of us in the audience reason for worry. Thomas is a large, intimidating-looking man with a bizarre singing voice and overpowering stage presence. He is also known as a prickly personality who does not suffer fools gladly. If things got off on the wrong foot, chances were it was going to be a long night (or perhaps an abnormally short one, if Thomas lost his temper and stormed off stage). After an interval of technical consultation they started again, and after a nervous minute it became apparent that they were going to make it this time. There’s a moment about 90 seconds into “Wasted” where the band kicks in, and when they got there, it was like a massive “whoosh” and a blast of wind coming off the stage. Just fantastic. We had barely recovered when they kicked into “Oh Catherine,” which starts with two chiming guitar notes followed by a thundering bassline that blew our hair back all over again. It was a great show. And the highlight for me came during the encore, when Thomas asked the audience for requests. There was a lot of shouting and commotion, but I decided to try politeness; I raised my hand and calmly repeated, “Mr. Thomas! Mr. Thomas!” And lo and behold, the great man approached me. I asked for “Non-Alignment Pact,” the first song from their first album, The Modern Dance, and I do believe he cracked a grin. He went to confer with the band, as “Non-Alignment Pact” requires an unusual tuning, but after a minute they decided they could do it. Today’s assignment: Watch this fairly random mash-up of Pere Ubu and the old Batman TV show, and when the guitars hit at around 1:05, try to imagine my joy when that very noise hit my ears 22 years ago. It’s a bit of a challenge, but I bet you can do it.

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 4)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on October 22nd, 2015 by bill
[caption id="attachment_5329" align="alignnone" width="320" caption="Rock legend has it that Stiv Bator used to stuff Martha\'s muffin."][/caption] This is another show that comes under the heading of "Foggy but Fond Memories" - as do most of the shows I write about, now that I think of it. Is this a natural result of aging and the passage if time, or is it directly attributable to the Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle, or some combination of the two? Impossible to say at this juncture, and I don't suppose it matters that much. Anyway: the band was the Lords of the New Church, the venue the venerable Berkeley Square, and the time...em...sometime in the latter mid-80s? A web search spits out the date March 22, 1986, which seems a bit early by my timetable. But it could be right...perhaps I was spending spring break with the Babbs of Vallejo? It's plausible. This was as close as I ever came to attending a genuine Punk Rock show. But while the Lords had impeccable punk credentials - singer Stiv Bator and guitarist Brian James were veterans of the Dead Boys and the Damned, respectively - they were really Beyond Category, mixing Stones-y rock and 60s garage with bits of funk and a dark theatrical streak that caused some people to mistake them for a goth band. Bator was perhaps the most charismatic frontman I've ever seen in person. He was one of those people who had a weird glow about him, who managed to make playing with the giant skin flap above his upper lip seem like the epitome of rock'n'roll cool. I use the past tense because Stiv died in 1990, after being hit by a taxi in the streets of Paris. He was also one of those people who seemed destined not to live long. To wit: Stiv did not write this song - Peter Laughner, who died even younger, did - but he sure sounds like he means it. He certainly performed with complete abandon, throwing his body around after the fashion of his role model, Iggy Pop. He also liked to do a bit onstage where he pretended to hang himself with the mic cord, and I heard a story that he once slipped and almost asphyxiated himself onstage. This may or may not be true, but the fact that it's believable says a lot about Stiv. The Lords may not have been a "real" punk band, but there was slam-dancing at this show, and stage-diving...I have a very vivid mental image of a guy climbing onto the stage and launching himself into the crowd, which parted Red Sea-like, leaving the poor bastard to crash helplessly to the floor. It was hilarious. Those days, as we all know, are never to return. I struggled to find a video clip that would convey something of what The Lords were like, partly because many of the live documents are lo-fi, to say the least, and partly because The YouTube cannot replicate that 80s nightclub atmosphere here in my quiet and smoke-free home office. I finally settled on this one. You may enjoy it.

Quotes du jour

Posted in Whatever Else on October 18th, 2015 by bill
“Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” – Travis Bickle, 1976 “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this shit off my car.” – Me, today

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 3)

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on October 13th, 2015 by bill
In the news today was a story saying that David Bowie has officially retired from live performance. This comes as no huge surprise, as David has not played a gig since 2004, nor has he shown any particular inclination to do so. And it’s probably just as well; Dave is creeping up on 70 now, and though his voice still sounds pretty good on record, it might not be able to stand up to the rigors of a lengthy performance, to say nothing of an actual tour. I had been holding out some hope that he might see fit to favor with us one last show, hopefully simulcast worldwide, but seemingly it is not to be. Though, of course, it is Bowie’s prerogative to change his mind; remember when he said he would never play his hits again after the 1990 tour? “Going back on my word is part and parcel of what I do for you,” said Mr. B back in 2003. “Part of my entertaining factor is lying to you.” I was fortunate enough to have him lie to me in person four times: once with Tin Machine, once on the Earthling tour, and twice on the "A Reality Tour.” The first two were, on the whole, disappointments. I liked Tin Machine more than most people, but their live show (at the Warfield in SF) was a bit of a slog. I remember that they did a noisy version of the Pixies’ “Debaser,” which was pretty cool, and that “If There Is Something” sounded good. Other than that it didn’t leave much of an impression. The Earthling tour was that period when Bowie was burnishing his indie cred by traipsing around joined at the hip with Trent Reznor. This meant that we had to endure an opening set by Nine Inch Nails, who then shared the stage with Bowie for a couple of songs. When Reznor and co. departed, so did a sizable contingent of the audience, mostly the younger folks. This sucked a lot of the energy out of the show, which was at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, not the most exciting venue in the world to begin with. And Bowie’s set was heavy on Outside and Earthling material, which made things a bit...murky. He did do updated versions of “Andy Warhol” and “The Man Who Sold the World,” but overall the experience was underwhelming. The Reality shows, which took place at the Berkeley Community Theater in 2003, were much more satisfactory. The BCT is a great place to see a concert – big enough to feel like an event, but small enough to retain some intimacy. The fact that Bowie was playing there, rather than at some Enormodome like Oakland Coliseum, felt like something of a miracle. And on this tour he was at his most audience-friendly, in terms of both jokey banter and song selection, mixing recent material from Heathen and Reality with a solid cross-section of classic stuff. Through good luck I was able to score tickets to both shows, and so spent two consecutive nights in The Presence. I wouldn’t say this was a life-changing experience, necessarily – not a shocking bolt from the blue like a Bowie show in 1972 might have been – but it was a rare chance for me and my friends to spend some quality time with one of our heroes. And yes, he did play “Heroes” – which over the years has shed all its levels of irony to become a crowd-pleasing anthem, but it still makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Or at least it did. Apparently, never again. Well, so long, David Live, and thanks for the memories.

Garbage by the Bay

Posted in Picture du jour on October 12th, 2015 by bill
Took this photo out behind the Adorni Center in Eureka. It puts me in mind of Hemingway’s famous six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.“