Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Twenty Years - Part II

San Francisco was a cool place to go, but not in 1992. They say there was a recession going on in California then, and I barely knew how to land a job even in the best conditions. So I stumbled through babysitting, landscaping, graffiti removal, and other bullshit, and in between I wandered the streets of the Castro imagining I had enough money to get a slice and go to the movies. The thing that sucked the most was that nearly every club was 21+, so I couldn't even go to any shows, and with the famous (and all-ages) Gilman St a hefty train fare across the bay, I never made it over there.

A couple good things did happen though. LIAR came out and I bought it, on cassette, at some place on Haight Street. Not Amoeba. I think it may have been Rough Trade.
And two days before The Jesus Lizard played a 21+ show at the Kennel Club, I ran into an acquaintance from home who just happened to work the door there. My outlook transformed from despondent to ecstatic in mere minutes as he casually said "sure, just come to the door and I'll let you in. We'll tell'm you got mugged and lost your ID if anyone asks."

Actual Flier, Savaged by a Cat.

Here is actual live footage of what might actually be this show.
Do you want to know who opened up that show? None other than the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Vaguely aware of Pussy Galore, I nevertheless had no idea I was about to see a band that just might blow the Jesus Lizard right off the stage. Boy did they get my attention. I guess they must have been touring on their first album which is sort of the same as but different than their second album, and then Extra Width came out the next year and this pace of record-releasing is similar to the way they play shows like where no song ends or begins and the whole thing just kind of runs together and at the end you are like "WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED TO ME."

Eventually, the euphoria of seeing these two amazing bands on the same stage in the same night wore off. San Francisco was cold, lonely and unforgiving, so I went home.

Sometimes I can't believe any of these bands are still putting out records and going on tour. But here we are, more than a decade into the new millenium, and there's a brand new JSBX record out and a JSBX show in Detroit next Friday. They may be getting old, but they can still cut a bitch, so you can bet I'll be there with my fucking walker and my orthopedic shoes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Twenty Years - Part I

Me and my driving companion at Niagara Falls

Twenty years ago I drove cross-country from Boston to San Francisco, where I had decided to live with some friends. My driving mate and I had brand-new driver's licenses and some foolish company called All America Auto Transport let us take this poor lady's Nissan Sentra for the conditionally refundable fee of $150.

NOTE: Not actual car

Me and my driving mate, whose new license was even newer than mine, did not want to pay tolls so we took US route 20 for the first two days until construction diverted us through LaPorte, Indiana, where we rear-ended a pickup truck and nearly destroyed the front end of the Sentra. After this we got on the interstate. At least it corresponded to the map.

The car had a cassette deck. 1992 was my year of cassettes, since it suddenly became very difficult to find new albums on vinyl and then I moved far away and left my turntable behind. My plan had not been to leave it permanently. I figured we'd get settled in SF, I'd get a job and save some money, and then have the rest of my shit sent out.

There are only two tapes I remember distinctly from this road trip. They were the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "BloodSugarSexMagik" and the Beastie Boys' "Check Your Head." Both albums still remind me of fall 1992, San Francisco, and all the accompanying ups & downs. No I'm just kidding actually. They both would if I still listened to the Chili Peppers album.

NOTE: Not actual cassettes from road trip. Those are long, long gone.

Even now, anytime I hear Robin Zander saying "this next one is the first song on our new album" and the opening beats of "Jimmy James", I can still picture our descent out of the Sierra Nevada with crystal clarity. There was a significant amount of traffic, and everyone else was hauling ass down the tight, curvy highway that winds down through the mountains. I clenched my new-driver teeth and grew some brass balls and kept up the pace all the way down. I probably left a stain on the driver's seat.

NOTE: This picture doesn't do any justice to what I'm trying to tell you. Just take my word for it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to get on the radio

Hello students. Hello non-students. Do you love the musics? If you enjoy serendipitous discovery and you need a way to blow off steam after classes/work, then get involved with WCBN.

You have a couple options.

  • You can come to a Sunday orientation session. These occur at 4pm every Sunday. You'll get a tour and then your guide will get you started on volunteer work, as well as show you how to make an audition tape.
  • You can also come visit us on Fridays at 6pm, for a program we call The 6 O'Clock Shadow. It's not a training or orientation session; rather, it's simply a chance for you to have a look around, pick out a few songs and play them with the DJ's assistance. When you're done, we hope you'll be interested enough to come back for a Sunday orientation session.

Look at some of these pages to pique your interest.
The WCBN homepage.
The 6 O'Clock Shadow.
The WCBN Blahg.
WCBN on Facebook.

Look at our gallery of awesome fliers and think about how if you were one of us, you'd create such better ones we'd weep with admiration.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Broadcast French on the radio during the day, using these handy tips!

I'm back, at last, to jaw at you again. Wow, the summer has really jetted by, and between all the fun stuff I've been doing, my job (which is also pretty fun,) and feeling grumpy again every time I look at my last post, I just haven't had it in me to write anything worth saying.

After quite a few weeks, my last six radio show archives are finally uploaded so it's time to reflect on something we have to do on the radio which is avoid broadcasting objectionable language during the hours of the day when children, who never hear bad words ever ever, might be listening to us. This could all become moot, since the Supreme Court recently ruled that the FCC couldn't levy fines for its unconstitutionally vague regulations, but for the time being, we continue to err on the side of not playing too many dirty motherfucking cunt cocksucking shitsquirt words during the day.

The idea that children who have never heard shocking language might be listening to WCBN closely enough to detect the occasional accidental f-bomb is as delightful as it is unlikely. However, not wanting to risk hefty fines or license removal or whatever horrible fates could befall us, I dutifully attempt to screen out bad language during my daytime show. Sometimes, though, you listeners insist on demanding that I play such tunes as The Jesus Lizard's "Blockbuster".

I'd like to think that rich radio stations with modern equipment have some sort of button bank with multiple sound effects which they can press and send a sound over the air that overrides whatever is being broadcasted for the duration of the material being overridden. My clever solution to this difficult challenge is to have another record spinning and then alternate which one is on the air using the faders on the control board. So when I know a singer is about to say something terrible, I simply pot down his volume while potting up the alternate. Sometimes I employ sound effects records, but really, almost anything will work. I think this technique was exceptionally well demonstrated on the 6th of July, about 40 minutes in. Check it out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We love you, Adam Yauch.

Fuck Cancer.

I've spent a lot of the last few days in the zone, which means wearing the can headphones at work to shut out my co-workers, shooting baskets alone at lunch hour (which is "very zen" if you know what that means) and in general struggling with how to articulate my feelings about losing Adam Yauch last Friday. In a place as potentially public as this blog you can be sure I'll still only scratch the surface. The obvious things that everyone can relate to are (1) he was a tremendous entertainer who enriched millions of lives and (2) cancer claimed him at 47 which is just so fucking terrible.

All the internet is on fire with reflections- most of them sloppy and sentimental like this will be- but the LA Times article and the Onion A/V Club thing were good, and there might have been one or two others I read before I stopped reading that I should be mentioning but you don't really need to read more and more about it. In fact it is taking me days to write this, so let me add the Free Music Archive post, and the one on Trust Me I'm a Scientist. Blake Madden really hits the nail where the other posts seem to have shied away, in a paragraph that begins with, "Personally, I’m pissed off."

For me, and a lot of people my age, if I may be so presumptuous, losing MCA might as well be the same thing as losing a friend from high school or young adulthood. Sure, maybe we haven't seen each other in a long time, we haven't hung out in forever, we may have only a vague idea of what each other is really up to day-to-day, but we still care and cherish the times we had together when we were reaching adulthood. We partied together every night of the summer between junior and senior year of high school, drinking cases of beer in places like unused playgrounds and riverbanks.

We were city kids who went to integrated public schools and we loved both hip-hop and hardcore equally, so to us it was a logical progression when the Beastie Boys came along doing both and combining their sensibilities. Right around the same time as Licensed to Ill exploded, I had a copy of the cassette-only "New York Thrash" on ROIR which is now available on CD and vinyl and includes two early Beastie Boys hardcore tracks. There's a lot of stuff on that cassette that's better than the Beastie Boys' two songs (Bad Brains! False Prophets!), but there they are in 1982 being very fucking punk.

As predicted, I can't really go on. I'm not deluded that the masses are flocking to read my blahg, but it's still the same as putting your words up on a telephone pole. A lot of what I'm thinking is still too personal to share, but I'll close by quoting myself from an email I sent earlier this week and then recommend you listen to the archives of my friend and fellow radio host Paul Simpson, this Grand Royal mixtape, and the first hour of my archive from last Friday. Having a trainee with me in the studio helped me keep it together, or else I would have been a sloppy mess and that's totally unnecessary.

Quoting myself:

"With one paragraph, he [Blake Madden] approaches one of the thoughts I keep having, which none of the other articles I've read (not that I've read more than 4 or 5) have dwelled on. The brutal unfairness of it. How come we get to hear every day about disgusting monsters like octomom and the tanning mom and whoever else, murderers like Dick Cheney who get to live long lives, all the useless pieces of shit in the world, but a righteous dude like Adam Yauch doesn't even make it to 50? This is why people invent religions, to cope with crap like this. "Oh, God needed him in heaven" or some shit."

Paul's amazing three-hour tribute show
The Grand Royal Mixtape
Tight Pants, May 4, 2012

Goodbye, MCA. You were always my favorite.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Let's Trade Tapes!

I'm spending a lot of time lately with cassettes. This isn't because I'm a neo-hipster (I'm too old for that) although I have heard that cassettes are trendy again for them. It's actually because I've got a new old car! It has AM/FM/cassette so now I don't have to drive around wearing headphones!

Recently - really, really recently for this blahg - I explained to you how playing records on the radio every week was not necessarily a great boon to my music awareness. Well, this is a continuation on that thought, to some extent.

Being a radio DJ has also made it dramatically harder to create a good old mix tape. There's more than one reason for this so let me see if I can explain. In a sense, I make a mix tape every GD week, on the radio. I guess some people plan extensively for their shows and then of course there are commercial radio stooges who don't get to plan at all because a robot is doing it for them, but I don't plan at all beyond taking a few records from home and maybe thinking of what I'm going to play first.

I arrive about 30 minutes before the show, pull out a bunch of things I think I want to play, and with that stack, whatever I've brought from home, and listener requests (if I can get to them) I do the show. I've gotten really good at flying by the seat of my pants to a point where if a song is longer than four minutes and I have something in the queue after it, I feel bored and over-prepared. Describing it makes it sound like every show must be a total trainwreck but I listen to my archives every week and seldom gasp in horror.

With a mix tape you have the luxury of time, and also to go back and record over "She Blinded Me with Science" when you realize that hearing it once every ten years is enough. Futhermore, you are presumably creating something that you or a special someone will listen to more than once, whereas a radio show airs once and is then forgotten. It should be anyway. Unless you save archives. Anyway, they're different. Which is why it's ironically so much harder now to make a mix tape.

Perhaps this is all complete bullshit. Making a mix tape is a skill and an art. If you don't do it for ten years, you're going to be out of practice, just like the time last week when you tried to play "Michelle" on the recorder for your special someone but you couldn't do it because you hadn't played recorder since second grade. The more you do it, the better you'll get. So if you also have a car with a cassette deck, or you're a neo-hipster on the 'tapes are cool again' bandwagon, then let's make each other some tapes. I like ones I can sing along to while driving.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Being a radio DJ has kinda ruined how I listen to music.

I am old. I have been buying records for a very long time. Before I became a radio DJ, I used to bring records home and listen to them, the whole things, over & over. I could pull out any record I owned and know what all the songs were by name. If they didn't jive over time then I would get rid of them, mostly.

This is because duh, we listen to music because we enjoy it, right? I mean you kids today don't have any concept of an "ALBUM" but humor me for a minute. The bands work very hard on the package, including the song order and artwork, so out of decency you need to listen to the package as it was intended. Back in the mix-tape days, getting to know an LP intimately would help you make tapes no one would ever want to record over after you gave them to them.

These days it's totally different. Thank god a lot of record stores let you preview records at least, and I do. I play a couple seconds of a few tracks to see if they get my attention enough to play once on the radio. Sadly, this is frequently where my attention ends. I play the record on the radio a few times but once I stash it in my stacks, I forget about it.

Of course the record gets rediscovered every so often. I may stumble upon it while looking for something to play and I go "oh yeah, I forgot about this!" Like the proto-Birthday Party Boys Next Door record I keep forgetting I have.

Or I'll be listening to an archived show (this helps us become better DJs) and have to check the playlist and be reminded of something I played once that was awesome, like the Plungers "Let's Get Twisted" record.

The good thing about this is [re]discovering awesome stuff in your collection. Remember Rye Coalition? When they first stepped on the scene I gobbled up their early 7" records and the split 12" with Karp. Then they put out their first LP and I left Amerikkka for an overseas adventure which lasted almost 10 years. I guess they're still making records, but anyway, right now I'm rediscovering "Hee Saw Dhuh Kaet."

Tell me what you've [re]discovered lately.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tight Pants Obsession of the Moment: Franz Ferdinand

I was toiling away at work today when I got a sudden earworm. I just had to hear the first Franz Ferdinand album, but I didn't have it with me because duh, I was at work, so I was reduced to playing youtube videos. They actually got the job done pretty well.

I realized that I know almost every word of this album, but not proudly because it's one of my guilty pleasures. As if I need to care what anyone thinks. As if I'm somehow losing punk cred with myself for being in love with this record.

So for the record, I'm in love with Franz Ferdinand (the record.)

I used to think sheepishly that it was pop bubblegum and was apologetic for liking Franz Ferdinand, but this is a genius album. Today I realized it not only is kind of like a Gang of Four record for the aughts (ahh, well, before Gang of Four actually made a new record for the aughts), it is also like a Talking Heads '77 album for the aughts. I'm making this parallel mainly based on lyrics and therefore attitude.

Plus I really enjoy saucy, fuckoff lyrics like "come on home, but don't forget to leave" and "I know I won't be leaving here with you." A girl can sing along with this record from start to finish. That is why I never take passengers in my car.

There aren't many albums I can remember hearing for the first time. By this I do mean a song on the radio or friend's house or whatever, not literally the whole album, but the implication is you hear the song and then you procure the album that comes with it, unless it is a single. What I also mean is the details are clear: not only do you remember hearing it but you remember where you were, what you were doing, maybe what year it was.

I was in Prague the summer of 2004, hanging around a friend's apartment and thought it would be neat to turn on a radio and check out some Czech radio and maybe discover some Czech bands but of course pretty much every station was playing English language pop or rock. It was under these conditions that I first heard "Matinee."

Do you think the nice Czech DJ came on the radio like we do at WCBN and clearly announced the name of the band and song? It was weeks before I heard it again, and I'm lucky it was a huge smash because it did reappear by way of Asian MTV. I used to live in a faraway land, you see, and I was in Prague on holiday from my Southeast Asian residence where I lived for six years.

So thanks to MTV and Asian CD piracy I bought my first copy (a burned CD in a plastic envelope with a shittily computer printed album cover and song list) of Franz Ferdinand and listened to it quite a bit for quite a while. Next six Tight Pantses, you're going to listen to it too.

...but if you're still looking for punk cred, how's this: drummer Paul Thomson was also in the wicked awesome Yummy Fur, although he wasn't on their incredible first album Nightclub. (See how uuhngschpugg can't admit that Franz Ferdinand is a good record.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Into the Future, with Gramma K

I have some things to tell you.

1. I have handed off the Program Director duties to a new recruit, so prepare to witness my transformation from the Wicked Witch of the East into Glenda the Good Witch.

2. I invented a super-fast-amazing way to create my playlists without typing any html myself!!! (No, not by making the new PD do it.) This may result in Tight Pants playlists being more up-to-date!

3. I can personally confirm that The Listenership (WCBN's 40th anniversary commemorative smoked pale ale created for us by Logan at Arbor Brewing Company) is delicious and won't fuck you up too much. You can safely drink it on a work or school night, so waste no more time and get down there in WCBN's honor.

4. Not being a native of Michigan, I have never been able to wrap my head around the fact that this bridge is privately owned. How is that possible? It's so fucked up I can't digest it at all. So I did some googling to see how many other major international, or even interurban, connectors there were in the USA that were privately owned and I found this website which is pretty cool. Bridges!

Happy Friday, which it will be soon. See you at 3pm.

Friday, January 6, 2012

WCBN IS TURNING 40! Arbor Brewing Company helps us celebrate with BEER.

Hello friends,

Some are saying 40 is the new 30. The age until which a growing number of modern Americans are waiting to settle down, become half a marital unit, and begin to breed. But not WCBN. In its heart WCBN will always remain single, independent, and carefree. Actually it wouldn’t be that bad if WCBN reproduced.

Anyway, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of WCBN moving to FM on January 23, 1972, Arbor Brewing Company has brewed up a smoked English pale called “The Listenership.” You may join us in its unveiling on Wednesday, January 11, at WCBN’s monthly movie screening. This month the movie will be “Jailhouse Rock.”

Doors open at 8:30pm in the Tap Room Annex of the Arbor Brewing Company in downtown Ann Arbor. No one is sure how long this brew will be available (true greatness is always fleeting, so be thankful WCBN has existed as long as it has) so make sure you show up for the movie if you want to get a taste.

Your truly,