Thursday, November 15, 2007


Is it me, or do the randomest things happen in the indie music scene? I, personally, have been quite disillusioned with the pop music machine for some time now, and have turned my fanship toward less conventional musicians such as Rasputina, and Linda Strawberry. Still, I must admit that this subculture of un-pop produces bizarrities such as the Young @ Heart Chorus or Beatallica, which simply cannot parade as pop music, even in the underground.

My friend Darren introduced me to Rasputina several years ago. This band, like Apocalyptica, relies on the skill of playing cello rather than guitars and bass. Unconventional, yes. Catchy and raw? You betcha. Where the girls of Rasputina write their music based on quasi-depression era themes, and base their looks on not-quite-16th-century bar wenches, the gentlemen in Apocalyptica made their place in the world by covering Metallica, hence the name of the band. Apocalyptica has also written some originals, and re-made songs like Hall of the Mountain King (which is bad-ass in their rendition).

Linda Strawberry, on the other hand, is a twenty-something, blue-haired beauty who simply does not fit into the molds or genres of the current machine that is the music industry. She had a contract brewing with Chrysalis Records that didn't pan out because she would not compromise her art for the label. (Good girl!!!) You can read all about that here, or you can buy her CD here, and I don't mind plugging her in my blog, because I'm proud of her for her talent in songs such as Orchid (which isn't on your CD, Strawberry - we may have a score to settle here - pun intended), and her refusal to belittle herself to get more album sales. Let me not fail to mention, by the way, that the link on Orchid will take you to another fantastic blog. But, I digress. This girl has toured with many big-name bands, and has performed on several night talk shows, as you can read in the interview at the link above. She is chocked full of talent, and I'm really looking forward to all that she has to offer the world.

The Young @ Heart Chorus may be the least conventional example I have to offer here, as it is a group of 80+ singers that cover popular music from the seventies to current. Probably my favorite of their pieces is this little ditty, in which a gentleman on oxygen sings "Fix You" by Coldplay. Wow! What more can you say. These people pick the music deliberately to bring new meaning to familiar music. Before the above performance, I didn't even really like Coldplay. Now, when I listen to them, I start to choke up, thinking about this performance. There are other songs that they have done, that are equally moving, and still some others that are just silly. I would encourage you to buy tickets if they ever come to your town, and to do more research on these senior rockers. Who ever said "youth is wasted on the young" obviously can't see the obvious advantages of age.

Others of this hidden layer of "popular" music clearly define their own micro-genre. Many of these groups were started on a dare, or a drunken joke. The latter is the case for Beatallica. This is a group that attempts to blend the music of the Beatles with the style of Metallica. As unconventional as this may sound to you, they actually pulled it off quite well. My brother, who works for Keely Electronics, and chats with superstars on a regular basis, was highly skeptical about this melding until he heard Garage Day's Night. You know, it's not exactly like I would pop this in my CD player to create the mood for the moment, but I can't listen to these guys without giggling with admiration for their drunken creativity and flawless execution of their goals. It's actually pretty funny that I've singled out two groups that emulate Metallica. Huh. I didn't even think about that until now.

I nearly forgot about one of my absolute fav underground indies! The unasked question is this: What do you get if you cross punk rock, Christian music, and bagpipes? And the answer that you didn't know you wanted to know is this: Flatfoot 56. And, with that, I will leave you with this little excerpt from this innovative (if not half-loony) band of odd, God-loving musicians.

So, that's it for now. Signing out. Time to listen to unconventional music that is still music, and not formulaic noise produced by the big music industry machine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I know, it's been a while. Let's talk.

Last night, Jenni pulled a folder out of our file cabinet, looked at the contents, and made a face. I asked her what that was all about and she flashed the cover sheet at me. According to our records, our combined income for the first year that we were married was... ...well, suffice it to say, embarrassingly low. I don't really need to be posting actual income figures here, at any rate. I know that we are making a lot more money now than we were then, but it was a real eye-opener to have it there in black and white, right in front of my eyes. For the first several years that we were married, if we had applied for welfare or government aid of whatever kind, we would have had absolutely no problem getting it. But, being the proud, enterprising, capitalistic, and hard-working conservatives that we are, we shunned such things, hoping to work through the hard times and improve our life by our own means, rather than accepting hand-outs. Well, there was one exception. We did receive a first-time home buyer's grant.

What does that say about us? What does that say about people who choose differently, and do accept help from the state? I don't think that it says anything about anyone, in and of itself. It means that there are resources available that may not be necessary, but are needed by a lot of folks. Here I am, wearing my alpaca Armani sport coat, feet crossed under my desk, decked out in stingray boots, and there is a pair of Prada sunglasses on top of my head. My Blackberry is sitting on my desk in front of me, and I am in my air-conditioned work office on my lunch break. Do I feel excessively successful? Sure I do. Would I like to be doing better fiscally? You betcha!

When my wife and I were well below the poverty line, did we feel blessed? Absolutely. When we were trying to decide whether we could afford to buy those fancy, portabello mushrooms to put in our ramen noodles instead of the regular white ones, did we feel like God was taking sufficient care of us? Well, our bills were paid, and we had food to eat. We had a house to live in, and two cars. We had a beautiful, healthy, baby boy who was growing like a weed, and we were in love.

What has changed from then till now? I don't worry so much about whether we can get milk for our son this week. I don't think about which overdue bills we need to pay this week, and which will wait until next paycheck. I'm wearing exotic leather, and designer clothing. Fortunately, we've been able to start saving money for future endeavors, i. e. - building a house someday, Christmas budget, the boy's college, retirement, etc.

So, what has stayed the same? I enjoy working hard. I don't take myself out to lunch most days, because I feel like it's a waste of money. I still do all of my own automotive maintenance, because I don't feel like it's a wise use of my resources to pay someone else to do something that I can so easily do. I still love my son, who is not so young and tiny anymore. (I think he's going to outgrow me by several inches, at least, thank you, Lord!) I'm still madly, goofy in love with my wife. And, I still thank God for the prosperity and blessings, same as back then.

I have known many people who will never have the opportunity (yes, OPPORTUNITY) to turn their nose up at welfare, feeling that others could probably use it worse than me. I grew up around kids, whom I'm sure will never have to make the decision between ramen noodles or mac and cheese for dinner tonight. And, I know full well that lots of people will never have to make the critical decisions on which collectors they really need to keep at bay for this pay cycle.

Why is that an opportunity, you might ask. If you are asking that, then you probably would have taken the welfare check. The pioneers to this part of our great country worked from sun up to sun down to feed their kids. They built their houses with only the support of their immediate family, and maybe closest friends, if they were lucky. The harvest moon was called such because it gave farmers the opportunity to work at night, because it provided enough light for them to do so. If I had accepted the hand-0uts that were available to me then, I would not be where I am today.

We do not become truly successful without hardships. As with physical training, if you are going to build muscle, and tone away flab, you will hurt from the work you have to do in order to achieve what you want. I am a pioneer. Sometimes, in today's world, I feel like one of the last pioneers. I want to go places and do things that no other human being has gone or done in the same way.

If you don't want the same results as anyone else, you can't do the same things that anyone else does. "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." I will submit for your approval, my personal spin on this sentiment: Those who DO remember history have the ability to repeat it. As in, if I want to do what someone else has done, I might consider following the example of how they got there.

Anyway, I've got to get back to work. I want comments though, people. I would love to hear that there are a lot more pioneers out there than I could ever imagine. I would like to hear that my little family is not alone in the world, in this sentiment. If you disagree with me, bring on the flames! But, if you agree, please do tell me so. Thanks!