So I saw this really good band tonight.
Not that this is any big revelation in itself, but the news flash comes in the unexpected place I saw these guys. Who, by the way, are called Glass Republic (and yes, I agree they need a better name … among other things we'll get to in a minute).
Earlier tonight I met my friend Dave, as I often do on Friday night, at the Poogie Tavern here in West Seattle. The Poogie is pretty much your classic beer bar. And it is something of an institution. It's a place where guys go to drink beer. End of sentence right? It's a place where various drunks, bikers, and working class types go to quaff a cold beverage at the end of a hard working week. Been that way for years. As my West Seattle neighborhood has experienced the proliferation of various upscale restaurants and bars in recent months, the "Poog" has remained something of a constant. It's a place you can go to drink a cold beer that isn't going to come with some fancy name and an even fancier price.
Anyway, my beloved "Poog", in an effort to compete with the fancier joints populating the neighborhood these days, adopted a live music thing sometime earlier this summer. No big deal right? You get your shitty Top 40 bands providing a backdrop to the usual working class dudes getting their buzz on and trying to score on that hottie at the bar with the tight jeans.
So imagine my surprise tonight when they actually booked a decent band. Not just decent, but actually pretty damn good. Glass Republic needs work to be sure. Their name sucks, as I've already noted. But the basic ingredients were there. They played all original material (which takes a lot of balls in a place like the "Poog") –think of the Blues Brothers playing "Rawhide" at that shitkicker bar.
Not only that. These guys had chops. The bass player was playing this wildly progressive Chris Squire shit and the drummer was playing in time signatures to match (think King Crimson circa the Red album, or someone like Bill Bruford). Anyway, I know a diamond in the rough when I see it. I always have. Which gets me to the real point of this article.
My friends will tell you. I am the very definition of a music freak, as in obsessed. I can't let it go. I go out to have a beer at some dive with my friend and there is always the potential I may discover the next great progressive band. It's a fucking curse.
Let me put this into perspective if you don't mind. Like anyone afflicted with this particular disease, I've heard the naysayers since I was a little boy. Stuff like: "What is it with this music of yours? You know that will never amount to anything, right?"
It's a story that it is at least as old as rock and roll itself. You know, the stuff about you need to cut your hair, put on that tie, and get a real job. Makes sense right? Except, at least in my particular case, I managed to beat those odds. And I did so for a very long time.
I've always had a gift for writing. Don't know what it is — something in the genes or whatever — but I've always had it. As a 3 year old, I was reading the billboards out of the window of my parents' car. As a 1st grader, they had to put me in a third grade reading class. And around that same time, I first saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Like a fool, I squandered the paid education, (and the journalism degree I surely would have attained), my grandmother (God Bless Her Soul) offered me, in order to work in a record store. It's what I wanted to do. And you know what? I never looked back afterwards. While working at the various record stores I eventually managed over the years, I continued to write. Because I had the gift and I knew it.
Eventually, I landed a freelancing gig at the Rocket (which at that time — the late Eighties — was pretty much Seattle's music bible). I fell into covering what was Seattle's music ghetto in the age of the pre-grunge revolution that was to come. Then I happened onto a guy that would later come to be known to the world as Sir-Mix A-Lot. And that's when everything changed.
I became the "Shockmaster". There is no question that other people, (most notably a Seattle DJ named Nasty Nes) were involved in the discovery of what would become to be known as the "Baby Got Back" guy. But I was there. There's no question about that.
Anyway, the Seattle college radio station KCMU soon called me up and asked me to host a rap show. And that's how I became the "Shockmaster." I decided to call my show "Shock Frequency," (I'd considered other names including "Play That Funky Music White Boy," for obvious reasons). The first night I was on the air, my first caller was the Rocket editor at the time, a guy named Robert Newman, and he called me "the Shockmaster". The name stuck.
I never made a dime as the "Shockmaster." But it did open some doors. Some very big doors actually. And you have to understand that at the time, being the music geek I was, I was very aware of the potential of the new (at that time) genre of hip-hop. In some ways I felt like a fricking hip-hop version of Alan Freed (for you novices, the DJ who coined the term "rock and roll"). I felt pretty damn lucky.
I eventually ended up in L.A. working for Rick Rubin at American Recordings. Rick Fucking Rubin. He interviewed me at his house where we talked about things like the pro-wrestling God Ric Flair and the great metal pioneers Blue Cheer. We clicked. And I got hired. I had arrived.
Unfortunately this is the part where things began to go south. At this point I began hearing those old voices of doubt in my head: "What is it with this music of yours? You know that will never amount to anything, right?"
Well ya know what? It did amount to something. Damn right it did. If only for three short years, it surely did. But after those three short years, I got fired by American. I won't go into the details for reasons that should be both private and obvious to anyone reading this. They have their take on that. I have mine. Simple as that. But after that three-year stint in L.A., I got sent home to Seattle. But those three years changed my life. Damn right they did.
Once I got back home to Seattle, I simply tried to get along in whatever way I could. I opened and closed a record store. And then I got out of music altogether and went to work for the cable company. I eventually rediscovered that I could write. About music. About the things that I really love. Problem is, I still gotta make a living don't I? Well, to quote Ringo Starr, "It Don't Come Easy."
I'm currently working at a temporary gig dotting the I's and crossing the T's for a digital music service. For all intents and purposes the gig runs out on September 1. And you know what? I like it. I really do. I make one hell of a lot less money than I'm used to. But it's OK. For now it really is. But what happens next? Your guess is as good as mine.
Music has changed a lot since my day. I'm sorry if I'm sounding like the proverbial old fart here, but it really has. I'm a 50-year-old guy. Convict me as charged okay? But I still keep up. Honest I do.
I do confess, somewhat at least, to being somewhat guilty of the "old guy syndrome" though. I confess to looking a lot more forward to the releases of a guy like say, Bob Dylan (I'm stoked about this Modern Times record), than I do about what, for instance, Beyonce and Jay-Z are up to these days.
At least I'm not following the latest tour plans of Lynyrd Skynyrd (like a lot of guys my age are), what with all of the main guys being dead and buried. Or queuing up for tickets to the "New Cars" with Todd "Hello It's Me" Rundgren all of recreating Ric Ocasek's parts. I wont even go into Boston and Styx. They play Sheds on double bills in the summer. They play Indian Casinos and the like in the winter. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Do I have problems with the state of music right now? Well, yes I do. I have a huge problem. For example, I have a problem with the emphasis on "delivery systems" these days. At least as opposed to the more artist driven music of the past. On the one hand, the choices offered in terms of selection by things like cell phones and MP3 players do offer freedom to anyone choosing a specific track to play. On the other hand, what motivation is there for an artist to create a work like "Pet Sounds" or "Born To Run," for instance, in a "track specific" environment? Especially one played on some tinny cell phone speaker?
I saw this really good band tonight. They're called Glass Republic. Shitty name? But they'll figure things out as times go on. And I did see something in them.
Question is: When Is It Time To Let The Music Go?
In my particular case, maybe the answer is now. Then again…