Election 2020: Where Angels Play

From the National Affairs Desk:

It’s day-whatever in the never ending 2020 election and despite the long, drawn out process, there aren’t really any surprises. Sure, expectations weren’t met as far as a blue wave sweeping across the Senate and state houses, but those expectations were more wishes and dreams than realistic results. We are, after all, in a country where a lunatic has maintained a 40+ percent approval rating. In the end, the characters are playing their parts as we would expect, as in a trite sitcom, which is maybe all we are anyways.

Sitcoms have a formula and one of the truest components of that formula is the Golden Moment (known in the biz as the “moment of shit,”) where all the loose ends are bound up and the lessons of the day are learned. Here we are as a nation at our moment of shit and I have to wonder what lessons have we learned?

First: A Beginning

There’s been a bit of chatter out there about Abraham Lincoln and his first inaugural address. The south had seceded and Lincoln wanted to cool shit down and speak directly to those people who’d left the Union. Lincoln knew that the cost of a civil war would be terrible (though ultimately a cost we’d have to carry) and tried to plead with the south to reconsider:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Lincoln was an optimist. He believed in the human spirit and that deep, deep down we are good people, bonded more by what we have in common than divided by our differences.

Couple that with Donald Trump’s first (and only) inaugural address where he painted a bloody picture of American carnage and unending grievances. Almost from the beginning, Trump drew battle lines and called on his followers to remember whose side they’re on:

The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital,  there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now. Because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. 

It’s true that America’s working families were not in on many of the triumphs; they had been left to flounder as billionaire’s raked in more. But that was directly due to Republican tax policy and corporate pandering. Four years later, billionaires have billions more and you got a $1200 check. Did that feel like your moment?

Now: An Ending

It’s the Friday after the election and we’re still waiting for the race to officially be called even though we all know Biden has won. And I do mean we all know. Donald Trump doesn’t want to face it, but he knows it’s over. He knows Biden got more votes and his only play now is to simply deny. Donald Trump has lived a lifetime of denial; of his responsibilities to his wives and children, to his creditors and business partners, to his patriotic duty to pay his fair share toward what Makes America Great, and to the reality that every fraud eventually gets caught. 

SAD Donald Trump has spent the last several days trying to undermine faith in our most sacred system by undermining the integrity of our votes. We are nothing if we lose faith that we, the people are in charge. Rather than admit that Joe Biden had the better campaign and vision to garner more votes (by 4 million and counting), Donald Trump is trying to tear down the whole system around him. By doing so, he’s further boxing himself in. How can he admit defeat and follow the tradition at the heart of our nearly 245 years of self-rule and peaceful transition of power by conceding?

Four years ago, Hillary Clinton did it. Her first words were for her country:

Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.

Sure, she was disappointed and probably shocked and had a couple not-so-subtle jabs in the full text of the speech, but she’s a patriot and wished for the best for America. Right up to the end, she saw the promise and the possibility for America:

Finally, I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. And I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. 

Can you imagine any of that coming from Donald Trump? If this week is any indication, we’re in for two and half months of his undermining bullshit. I doubt he’ll concede at all or even show up to participate in the peaceful transfer of power at Biden’s inauguration. We’re likely to have two and a half more months of the oil barrel of lies we got last night. The vote is not rigged, you fucking lost. As we were told in the aftermath of 2016: Get over it.

The Stone Roses - Where Angels Play (audio only)

The Day After

From the National Affairs Desk:

It’s the day after and where are the good people? We should be cleaning up balloons and confetti and gobbling Excedrin like candies to relieve jubilant hangovers, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see if predominantly black voters can save us from the hypocrisy and greed of predominantly white voters. More pointedly, white male voters. It turns out that America is still sick from its original sin and I am not sure if there even is a cure.

Despite what is looking more and more like a win for Biden-Harris, It shouldn’t have ever been in question. That is, if we’re really that Shining City on the Hill. Exit polls are bearing out what the early polls showed re: Trump’s base of support. White males support Trump in large numbers, this despite an economy tanked by Trump’s bungling of a national health crisis, scattered civil unrest brought on by systematic police brutality, and four years of continued ugliness. Somewhere upwards of 60% of white American males looked at the mess Trump has created the last four years and decided they’d like more.

Florida Demo Breakdown
Trump actually gained among white males vs. his performance in 2016.

There was a lot of hope this week that Florida (and Texas!) would be bellwethers of America’s disgust with Trumpism. Serious people who sniff out the political winds really thought we’d see an acceleration of the purpling of these states–not driven by demographics, but by decency! White males instead created bulwarks and stopped the march in its place. While there are some real questions to ask about Biden’s under-performing among Hispanic/Latinos, the fact of the matter is that white males like Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans who enable Trumpism. 

Posts like this are usually met with a chorus of “not all Trump supporters are racist!” I guess. But one thing is as clear today as it was in 2016: Trump supporters are not as disgusted by racism and race-baiting as good people should be. That’s been true for generations in America and it’s true today. 

As I wrote yesterday, every election is an inflection point. It’s our opportunity to right the ship and put us on the path to achieving that “more perfect union.” That very idea is at the core of American Exceptionalism. As a patriot, I love America but have to admit I hate Americans. There is nothing exceptional about people facing permanent and inevitable demographic changes clinging to the scraps they have while the 1% clears the table. That’s begging and it’s demeaning. And I guess that breeds cruelty, but it’s maddening to see the ire misdirected year after year. We have a lot to clean up still and I’m just not sure we’re up to the job.

Election 2020: Revenge of the Turtle and the Used Car Salesman

From The National Affairs Desk:

Well, this is it, folks. Election Day 2020 is upon us and while it’s certainly not the end of the Trump nightmare–we have at least until January 21 for him to blow up the whole shithouse–it is the beginning of the end…one way or another. The big question before us these next few days and weeks is what exactly is coming to an end?

Will voters take back control of their government and toss out a serial liar and fraud, or will we enter a period of accelerated disintegration? What does The End look like?

Before we get to the end, I’m not even sure when it started. Was it Bush v. Gore some 20 years ago when the United States Supreme Court stepped in to stop a recount that Al Gore was winning to hand the election to a dim-witted son of a President? Was it before that when right-wing radio rose up to scream in the faces of delivery guys and salesmen stuck in rush hour traffic and mourning the loss of the Shining City on a Hill first promised, then condemned with the election of a Clinton

Or was it in an earlier, darker time when the whisper of a “silent majority” who valued law & order over justice was waiting in the wings standing back and standing by for the order to attack? And attack they did, with billy clubs, tear gas, mandatory minimums and a gerrymandering scheme to make LBJ blush. 

Who knows? All elections are an inflection point and this year is no different, except it’s not governing philosophies that are at odds, but the entire concept of a free and fair election. Will this be the end of four years of rampant grift, fraud and cruelty or the end of American-style republican (small “R”) democracy? Will the whole experiment blow up in our faces as an abject failure? The next few weeks will tell us.

And it’s not like we didn’t warn you.

This year is another clear test of character, represented on either side by everything that’s at stake. In one corner we have a flawed, but capable and decent man who has adjusted his messaging (and more importantly, his policy) to recognize the changing times we’re in. Joe Biden has been in the game a long time, which means he not only knows how to win but he knows how to govern. He knows politics is about compromise–not giving up what you believe in, but listening to others and finding the space to move closer.

Retired Naval officer Jonathan Gaffney gets it.

In the other corner we have Donald Trump. A compulsive liar and cheat who is considered a joke by everyone who actually knows him and his brand of “business.” The saddest part of this whole thing is that he’s duped a good 40% of this country into thinking he’s anything more than a clown with bad intent. He’s not even a good conman, yet here we are. We’ve been talked into a lemon, will we now double-down on the extended warranty?

We opened the National Affairs Desk in 2006 with a short piece on how straight shootin’ George W. Bush couldn’t hit the truth if it was the side of a barn. It seems quaint now, but the Valerie Plame story was heating up the charts back then. It was a real scandal (no, really) when the White House played fast and loose with classified information and the identity of covert officers whose husbands had the gall to submit intelligence that undermined the main argument for a war of choice. 

“Ah, but that’s just how hardball is played!” you might say. But it’s not baseball we’re playing here, gang. It is a much more lethal game played by sharp-teethed reptiles like Mitch McConnell who will rip your fingers off like a snapping turtle. Yes, a Snapping Turtle.

One defining chapter was when Cocaine Mitch blocked the hearing for Merrick Garland, holding an open court seat for almost a year hoping his bet on the worst person in America winning the 2016 election would pay off. He hit the trifecta and handed the court to Donald Fucking Trump to shape for a generation. That turtle bites.

Hunter S. Thompson flashes victory signs
Hunter S. Thompson was an outlaw but not a crook…and certainly not a used car salesman.

So, this is it. This is when we’ll find out if “America [is] just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Hunter S. Thompson thought so, but he was one for hyperbole employed with dramatic flare. The question remains: how uncomfortable are you, really? Are you the salesman or the mark? Today’s vote will tell the world once and for all. 

 

At What Cost?

You’ve probably not heard of Marc Geiger, unless you’re into the business of the music business: He was, until recently, the head of the William Morris Endeavor Music Division, or more simply: he was an agent. Agent to the stars.

But you have heard of one of the things that Geiger was responsible for creating: Lollapalooza.

Create a phenomenon and make a lot of money.

Geiger has created a new company. He’s accumulated some $75-million in capital for it.

It is called “SaveLive.”

The “Live” is as in “live music.”

And while many of us might think that the way to do that would be to help fund the bands that are not out on stages right now because of the pandemic, finding a way to buy their music or swag or something, that’s why many of us are not clever business people.

Instead of the musicians, Geiger is looking to support the venues where the musicians would perform were it not that the number of venues that have had to keep their doors shut legally or economically is still high and those that are open have had to reduce the number of patrons allowed in, which is making their continued existence iffy at most.

As I’ve written about before, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has worked with Congress on creating the Save Our Stages Act—sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX), which just goes to show that music, like viruses, knows no party affiliation—which is wrapped into the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROS Act), which, unfortunately, is stalled in the Senate.

As NIVA recently wrote about its members’ situation and the financial straits that are being caused by the pandemic and how they need more industry-specific help: “Unfortunately, previous Payroll Protection Plans do not work for this industry because we’re shut, so sadly we’ve been forced to furlough about 95% of our employees. While nearly 90% of America’s businesses are operating, as gathering places, we are not.”

The longer this goes on, the fewer venues will remain. After all, the people who own stages may not have to pay many of their employees, but they still have to pay property taxes, utilities, insurance and other things that aren’t going to go away even when the virus does.

So enter Geiger and SaveLive.

At its most simple, the plan is for it to buy at least 51% of venues. That way the previous owner will have income that can be used to do things like keeping the pipes from freezing this winter (yes, yes, there are venues where it doesn’t snow, but you get my drift).

Geiger told the New York Times, “I believe the artist economy is going to be very big when it comes back. Artists will want to tour to get their cash moving again, and people are going to love going out more than ever.”

And so the venues will be there to support those acts. Thanks to Geiger’s company.

This raises some questions.

Continue reading At What Cost?

The Lovely Ladz video premiere: Nasty Blister

Video: The Lovely Ladz – “Nasty Blister”

Single out now on Mordorlorff Music.

Years before the Darkness, Steel Panther, Dethklok, even before Tenacious D, a group of teenagers in suburban Detroit decided they needed to live out their rock and roll fantasies and start a band. And not just a band. But an experience!

The Lovely Ladz unashamedly turned it up to eleven.

These kids were ready to take on the world: Dash Rip Rock (vocals), Mickey Trixxx (guitar, vocals), Jerry Rokker (six-string fretless bass), Stylez (drums), The Baby Velvet (guitar), and Don Wa (“freak outs”).

They had bad wigs, dumb props, lots of beer, and enough chops to pull it off. Pretty much.

I am fortunate to have experienced the Ladz once in a basement at Michigan State University around the time this previously unreleased single was recorded. They were ridiculous but impossible to ignore (it was a small basement). They were goofing on “hair metal” but their songs were as good as anything by Poison or Skid Row if not better. They were definitely funnier.

They never released anything back in the day. In fact, “Nasty Blister” is the only song the Lovely Ladz ever recorded. Captured in 1993 in Saginaw, Michigan, with engineer Dan Palmer who had been in a band called Bungee Deth Fest with Ladz drummer Stylez (secret identity: Matt Favazza), they recently found the original master tapes. Mickey Trixxx (a/k/a Dan “The Fox” Edwards) finally mixed and mastered them for this release, revealing their tender side: “Nasty blister on my private part / Nasty blister on my blackened heart…”

Continue reading The Lovely Ladz video premiere: Nasty Blister

New Flaming Lips video: Assassins of Youth

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Assassins of Youth”

The Flaming Lips - Assassins of Youth [Live Video]

Directed by Wayne Coyne and Blake Studdard. From American Head, out now.

2020 is so weird. One day, maybe in a couple decades or so, people are going to look back at videos like this and wonder wtf was going on. Sort of like how we feel when we see photos of tuberculosis sanitariums from around the turn of the previous century.

But good for the Lips. Leave it to Wayne Coyne and his compatriots to figure out a way to host a real live rock concert in the middle of an infectious pandemic. Put everybody in their own individual space bubble. And why not? It looks fun. Might get a little stanky in there after a while, but it’s probably worth it. How bad do you miss live music?

Coyne says, “The job of the Flaming Lips is to get you in a room, get you excited, get you to forget about the world’s problems and entertain you for an hour. But if we do that without this pretty radical protection, then we’re going to kill you.”

Killing your fans is not a good business model for bands. But neither is patiently waiting for Congress to pass along some financial help to people who have been put out of work by this virus. Bands are getting creative, hosting livestreams and trying to stay connected with their audience online, upping their merch game, etc. But how much longer will they be able to pay their bills without touring? It’s a bad situation and it’s not getting better anytime soon.

I was young yesterday
But everything is changed after today
And I don’t know what to do
Oh my younger self, oh I miss you.

So maybe we should all buy ourselves a space bubble. It looks like you can buy them at Walmart for $159.99, which isn’t so bad. Product description is a little scary: “A sealed water ball has enough breathable air for an average sized person to stay inside for 15-20 minutes without refilling. YOU MUST CHANGE THE AIR AT LEAST EVERY 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR SAFETY.” So there are definitely some logistical issues to work out. We’d need to find a way to pump new covid-free air into the balls. Clubs might have to widen their doors a little so we can fit through. So I don’t know…

The more you learn about space bubbles, the more impressive it is that the Lips were able to pull this off with an audience of 100 fans!

The Flaming Lips: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Louis Armstrong, Kenny Rogers

The sixth episode of the final season of the Johnny Cash Show aired 50 years ago today on October 28, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Tennessee Ernie Ford, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and the great Louis Armstrong along with the usual regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

Unfortunately, this is another episode that has not aired on GetTV. We can derive how the show went down based on the detailed notes from the Country Music Hall of Fame and some help from the friendly uploaders of YouTube.

The best part about this episode, of course, is Louis Armstrong. We wrote about this before, inspired by a great article in the Oxford American by Charles Wolfe in 2007. Armstrong and Cash cover Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel #9,” which Rodgers first recorded forty years earlier, in 1930, with none other than Louis Armstrong on trumpet. You can see how excited Cash is to play it with him.

So here we are 90 years after the original recording, watching a fifty year old performance of a historical summit of American genres.

• Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”

Tennessee Ernie Ford, June Carter and Johnny Cash – “Nobody’s Business By My Own”

First Edition “Heed the Call”

Louis Armstrong – “Crystal Chandeliers” / “Ramblin’ Rose”

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash – “Blue Yodel No. 9”

• Johnny Cash – Come Along and Ride This Train: Outlaws

Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Nine Pound Hammer”

• Johnny Cash – “Children Go Where I Send Thee”

Tennessee Ernie Ford and ensemble – “I’ll Have a New Life”

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Louis Armstrong, Kenny Rogers

New Jim White video: The Divided States of America

Video: Jim White – “The Divided States of America”

THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA by Jim White.

From Misfit’s Jubilee, out October 30 on Fluff and Gravy.

Way back in 2001 in the early days of this web site we used to host a streaming “radio station” where the handful of people who had enough bandwidth to do so could listen to a couple hours worth of handpicked songs by the GLONO posse. We used a precocious site called Live365 that might have been a little ahead of its time. We abandoned it once they started charging you to use it, but it was (sort of) fun for a while.

The reason I mention it is because one of the songs we featured, selected by Johnny Loftus, was “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” by Jim White, which blew us all away back then and still does.

Well, it’s almost 20 years later now and I wonder if Jim White still thinks “things is always better than they seem.”

Maybe not. White says, “I’m typically not the political type but these times we’re riding out here, they’re anything but typical. At this moment in our collective history it makes sense that voices normally content to remain silent should be lifted in outrage, howling, exhorting our minds and hearts to focus on a singular goal—higher ground for all, not just the rich folks.”

It’s hard to be hopeful in 2020. We’re all doing what we can, but the cards are clearly stacked against us. Can you even imagine a time when we’re not as divided as we are right now?

Objects in the Mirror May Be Closer Than They Seem

The Road

While it might not seem to be, when bands go out on the road, touring, that’s business travel. They’re not out there because they want to sleep in a bus or collect loyalty points at a chain motel where the room smells like cigarette filters and feet. It’s their job the same way the proverbial traveling salesperson is racking up the miles on that rental Impala that has a mysterious noise coming from under the hood that increases slightly with every mile clocked on the odometer.

The musicians show up at the venues large or small, hoping they’ll make the nut that will continue to allow them to make it.

Although bands aren’t corporations per se (of course, I’m talking here about bands that are clawing along in buses, vans and beaters, not those who probably have empty office space in Delaware that is the address of their incorporation papers), they are businesses, in effect, that face the same sorts of logistical challenges on the road as the aforementioned salesperson.

Good news, such as it is, for those bands who are facing the consequences of COVID-19 is that as McKinsey points out in an examination of business travel trends of the moment, “For Corporate Travel, a Long Recovery Ahead” by Andrew Curley, Rachel Garber, Vik Krishnan and Jillian Tellez, “Looking first at the distance of business travel, regional and domestic trips will likely see a return before international travel does.” So odds are for the foreseeable future, competition with non-domestic brands bands will not be much of an issue. And for those who may have car sickness, better lay on a bigger supply of Dramamine because the McKinsey report continues, “Within domestic travel, trips that can happen in personal or rental vehicles may replace short regional flights until companies’ comfort with sending employees via airplanes increases.” While taking the Delta Connection may seem a bit extreme for many bands purely from a financial standpoint, there are those musicians who need to get to a gig that would be outside the realm of a drive—although that verb should have been in the past tense—needed—because it is still the case that most venues are closed and will continue to exist in that state for the next several months—or they’ll simply stop existing.

All of which means that this whole discussion of business travel is a moot point because if bands have no place to perform, it just may be that they’ll have to disband.

That is a consequence of C-19 that will silently echo for years after the vaccine has been injected into our systems.

Continue reading Objects in the Mirror May Be Closer Than They Seem

New Neil Young: Homefires

Video: Neil Young – “Homefires”

Homefires - Neil Young Archives

From Neil Young Archives Volume II, out November 20 on Reprise.

Oh man remember back in the oughts all the angst around the original Archives collection? After originally mentioning the project in the liner notes to Lucky 13 in 1993, he didn’t get serious about it until around 2006 when he started talking about it and trickling out some live shows (Fillmore and Massey). And then in 2007 he posted a fancy landing page and suggested it would be released that September. Then the set got pushed back to February 2008. Then he announced it wouldn’t be released on CD, then it would be. Then it got pushed to early 2009, January, then February, then June, which happened. Finally! Eight CDs and a 160-page book for $72. It was very exciting even if it wasn’t as comprehensive as people thought. There were a bunch of cool, unreleased songs on it.

He’s been giving us hints about Archives II since 2010. And now you can pre-order it. 10 CDs with a 252-page book for $249.98. Inflation!

If the 12 unreleased songs on it are as good as “Homefires” it might well be worth it. But I think I’m going to wait to see if the price comes down. I’m thrifty like that.

Rock and roll can change your life.