Gig Report: A Dispatch from the Fringe

The Berries were back at Art Bar’s friendly confines last night, for a show billed as “[Real City]’s Fringe Showcase”, and there’s a bit of a story behind that. A couple of months ago, the local alternapaper’s music listings mentioned the band Dr. Roundhouse in a less-than complimentary manner — not because of any particular performative failings, but because the previewer (who plays in another area band) just doesn’t care for their style of music. A bit of a teapot tempest arose, dealing with such issues as conflict-of-interest, the role of local music press in covering local bands, and the ethics of slagging a band in a preview, rather than a review — everyone agreed that if a band gives a bad show, the press should say so, but to blow them off in advance for what boils down to their accessibility seems out of bounds. One of the leading advocates for the Roundhousers was Pig Head Dog’s Bubbles Rubella, who put together a bill of bands that don’t quite fit into Real City’s critical mainstream. As a band that does our odd, 60s-driven kind of thing (and as a band that exists more or less in the no-man’s-land between the Midlands and Upstate, and as a band with members who range in age from mid-20s to 70), the Berries were a natural fit.

We were second on the bill, with the opening slot being occupied by our friends in Turbo Gatto. As ever, they were more fun than a barrel of mandrills, and the newlyweds Kevin (guitar, vox) and Gina (drums) overcame a couple of technical problems to lay their ailurophilic blend of the Stooges, Ramones, and White Stripes on a crowd that lapped it up like fresh cream (see what I did there?) It’s impossible to watch Turbo Gatto without sprouting a big, goofy grin.

After they cleared the stage, we brought our stuff on, and that’s when I discovered that I had left one of my cymbal stands (and the accompanying crash) back home in Mondoville. Fortunately, it’s not one I use very often at all — it’s at the far right of my kit, around the 4:00 position — and since I do most of my playing in the arc from 10 to 1 (with my vocal mike at the 9:00), it wasn’t a big loss.

We did our usual fifteen songs in 45 minutes, debuting a couple of new songs (Joseph’s “Who You Are” and my “Someone Else’s Girlfriend”), and the crowd really seemed to have a good time. In fact, by the time we got back from our post-set offload, we had sold out of our CD stock (which means we have to have some more made — but you can always download the album at our Bandcamp site) and had given away the last of our stickers (which means Justin has to design and print some more.) We even got a few calls for an encore, but since we weren’t the headliners, we didn’t want to step on another band’s time. Besides, best to leave folks wanting more, right? So we got our stuff out to our cars, and as Pig Head Dog was setting up, someone brought us a snare stand we had left behind, and Lex, our guitarist, carried it out to my van. That will be important a paragraph or two from now.

Pig Head Dog was debuting a new bassist, Brian “Juice” Barr (who doubles as a horror writer), and the set was filled with the usual moshing and mayhem, with a tilt toward the punky end of their “scumbag punk metal.” They broke out old favorites like “Emaciated Kim” and a couple of new tunes as well, and it’s cool to see them continuing to grow, while “the new guy” anchors the bottom end. By the set’s end, the band and audience were in a lather, the moshers and fans of hardcore were happy, and the rubber pig mask Bubbles had worn at the beginning of the set was hung up in the ceiling-mounted lighting rig. What else do you need?

At last, it was time for the headliners. But a couple of minutes before they were to start, Festus (the drummer for Pig Head Dog) came up to me and asked if I had somehow wound up with Dr. Roundhouse’s snare stand. (I told you that would matter.) A quick check of my van revealed that in fact, I not only had my Yamaha hardware, but had come into possession of their Tama stand. Oops — things can get confusing at these events. We got the stand back to its rightful owner, and it was time for Dr. Roundhouse to do their thing.

In the meantime, I was going outside to cool down a bit when I heard a couple of voices yell, “Dr. Moore!” I turned around just in time to get big hugs from a couple of former students, who had just happened into the venue without knowing that I had played there that evening. We caught up a little bit — they both seem to be leading interesting, happy lives, and one of them is engaged to a lovely young woman, while my big news from Mondoville is that we at last have a Taco Bell — while Dr. Roundhouse played a tight, groove-heavy set of danceable, bluesy rock. Good thing they had a snare stand — that’s much less dispensable than a spare cymbal. Sorry, guys!

As the set continued, I felt myself beginning to turn into a pumpkin, so I said my goodbyes and made my way back to Mondoville, getting to bed about a quarter past two this morning. So that’s another evening of my rock and roll moonlighting. We’ve got a show up in Simpsonville in a few weeks, and we’ll be back at Art Bar in April. And you know what? If this is the fringe, that’s not a bad place to be.

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QotD: Polarization Edition

I receive Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt newsletter in my e-mail each weekday, and I usually find it an interesting read, even when I’m not entirely on board with his positions. But in today’s edition, I found something that made a great deal of sense to me, to the extent that it’s the QotD.

When I’ve previously argued for Mondo’s Law, the idea that if your politics are bigger than your life, then you’re doing one of them wrong, I’ve been accused of being privileged (a term that I find to be a gimcrack version of Original Sin — an inherent depravity, a condition from which one cannot redeem himself except by accepting the tenets of a particular faith). In today’s Jolt, Geraghty talks a bit about that:

We’ve entered an era where one significant chunk of the American people – the passionate Left – have concluded that the driving force behind those who disagree is pure evil. Some might argue that this has always been the case, and that there are plenty on the right who perceive liberal Americans as pure evil.

[…] Folks on the Left are now arguing whether it’s okay to sucker-punch a Nazi in the face. Come on, now. Laws against assault and battery are there to protect all of us, even those with grotesque or abominable views. Outside of war or self-defense, the only Americans who should be punching Nazis are archeology professors on sabbatical. Once one murderous ideology justifies a sucker-punch without legal consequence, how do we rule out the other ones?

A little while back, Tim Kreider wrote in The Week, “A vote cast for Trump is kind of like a murder; there may be context to consider — a disadvantaged background, extenuating circumstances, understandable motives — but the choice itself is binary and final, irrevocable.” For most of human history, murder was perceived to be the ultimate crime, one of the few that even our compassionate society believed warranted the death penalty. Now we’re comparing the ultimate crime to a vote.

Over the weekend I saw some further social media discussion of the notion that “being apolitical is a privilege.” It’s not merely those who disagree who are being cast in the role of enemies, but even those who fail to care as much.

The easiest way to ensure that there is a violent conflict between Americans of differing political ideologies is to adopt attitudes like these. Blur the line between the genuinely hateful, dangerous groups and run-of-the-mill political disagreements. See anyone who disagrees or who could potentially disagree as a potential personal threat. Conclude that there is nothing redeeming or appealing about someone who disagrees with your politics. Ensure that the portrait of them in your mind is dehumanizing, with nothing worthy of respect. Contend that unprovoked violence against them, like punching them in the face without warning, is a justified response to how they offend you. Finally, adopt an attitude that anyone who is not explicitly with you is against you, just another part of the problem, and in need of reeducation.

We don’t have to go down this path. But to avert this, enough of us have to want to steer onto another one. [Bolding mine — Prof. M.]

To subscribe to Mr. Geraghty’s newsletter, go here.

Posted in Culture, Faith, Politics | 1 Comment

Potpourri on a Sunday Morning

I have an afternoon of grading and a Berries practice tonight, but I haven’t checked in for a while, and thought I might drop by.

***

I spent yesterday afternoon on campus, catching a basketball doubleheader, as our men’s and women’s teams faced their nationally ranked counterparts from Lincoln Memorial U of Harrogate, TN. Some years ago, I was a member of the review team that visited LMU when they asked to be admitted to our athletic conference, and it seemed like a solid place, but I may  have been biased because of the presence of one of my favorite fast food places nearby. The school traditionally has strong basketball programs (not surprising, as they have a genuinely spectacular arena, one that many larger schools would envy),  and as I said, this year is no exception.

The games followed a similar pattern. Newberry jumped out to large early leads, only to attempt to weather furious comebacks from the visitors. The men’s team was unable to hold its lead, but the women were able to ride out the storm and notch their second win against top-10 teams this year.

I sat in my usual area, one seat to the Newberry side of midcourt, but things were a bit livelier than usual. LMU brought a fair-sized contingent of fans, and two of their men’s players (both doing redshirt years) were a couple of rows behind me, encouraging their teammates, doing friendly trash talking, and generally having a good time. It bugged some of the older Newberry supporters, but I actually thought it was fun having them there, and bantered with them a bit, scoring a point when I noted that we had beaten them earlier in the season, and another when I pointed out that one of their bigs — a 6’8″ guy with long dreads — looked like women’s star Britney Griner. “Oh, man,” one of the players laughed. “That’s what we call him!” And later, when the result was still in doubt, I turned back to the kids and said, “Win or lose, this has been a good game, and a good time.” They agreed, and as they left a few minutes later, I wished them a safe trip home.

The crowd for the women’s game was thinner, but fortified by concession stand nachos, I stuck through that one as well — I have students on each team, and try to see both teams when I can. The officiating was kind of wobbly, which led to a fair amount of jockeying from the Newberry faithful — not all of it good-natured, alas. At one point, a call went against LMU, and one of their fans jumped up and started berating the ref. I hollered over, “Hey, we don’t like him either!” It got a laugh. As I made my way to the exit after the women had completed the upset, I congratulated our coach, and I could hear the kids celebrating in the locker room. It’s a good sound on a late Saturday afternoon. Or anytime.

***

Last night was the 70th birthday of Berries guitarist (and former director of the college library) Larry Ellis, so after being home for a few minutes, I headed to his birthday party.

Or thought I did — I had misplaced my invitation. When I got to his house, I saw the cars of family, friends, and band members, and the lights were on, so I went up and knocked on the door.

No reply. So I tried again. Nada. So I tried calling on my cell phone. No reply. So I tried ringing his son-in-law (Berries guitarist and Mondoville alum Lex Martin). Not only is there no answer, but the power dies on my phone at the end of the call. So I knocked again. Nothing. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I kept trying for a while, and finally went home, briefly charged my cell phone, and texted still another Berry and asked where things were going on. At a house on a cross street, as it happens, about 40 yards (and quite visible)  from Larry’s place. “Didn’t you see the tiki torches?”

“Um.” So I made it back — an advantage to living in such a small town is that we’re all close together — and sure enough, there were the torches. I got there in time for the second half of the celebration, and a good time appeared to be had by all. So happy three-score-and-ten, Goofy Foot, and I’ll see you at practice tonight. I can probably remember where that is.

***

While all this was going on, Mrs. M was in Greenville, where she met up with my niece –my brother’s daughter — who was up there visiting friends. I had already committed to Larry’s party, so I couldn’t go, but I learned that my niece is doing well, and working on a degree that will qualify her to teach English, which makes me smile. I also learned that my brother is doing reasonably well in Kentucky. He’s considered a model prisoner; he’s taking a variety of classes, including one in sign language, and serves on various committees, such as an inmate grievance board and apparently some others. My niece saw him a bit before her 21st birthday a few months back, and they talk pretty often.

While his facility is primarily a way station where prisoners stay before being sent to their permanent assignments, Mike is one of about a hundred or so who are permanently billeted there, and of that small number, he’s one of only three lifers. But he seems to have settled in, and I hope he’s as comfortable as he can be.

People ask me from time to time about Mike, my feelings toward him, and my thoughts on his incarceration. We don’t talk, and haven’t spoken since shortly before his trial — indeed, I doubt we have much to say. But I don’t wish him further ill or suffering. He’s my brother, and I love him and he’s experiencing what I think are appropriate consequences for what he did. His absence creates gaps for the people who loved and love him, and I feel sorry both for them and for the knowledge that his actions led to that absence, and I can only imagine it would be far worse to carry that knowledge about myself, as he must.

My brother will turn 47 next week. His sentence — and his life, and mine, and his daughter’s life — continues.

***

Mrs. M took advantage of the run Upstate to visit a Whole Foods, which doesn’t exist in Mondoville, and she brought back soy “ice cream” sandwiches for the Spawn (who became fond of them as a dairy-allergic child) and a pint of Graeter’s ice cream for me. Graeter’s is one of the culinary treasures of my Greater Cincinnati days, and one of the high points of my life here in Mondoville was when I discovered a supermarket in Real City that carries both Graeter’s and canned Cincinnati-style chili. The Spawn came down here a few minutes ago, and debated consuming one of her “ice cream” sandwiches before breakfast, opting instead to be mature and eat her oatmeal first. I face no such dilemma, having eaten my ice cream last night. So on the one hand, I’m less mature than my teenager. But on the other, it was quite good.

***

The Berries will be back at Art Bar next weekend, and we’ll be debuting a couple of new tunes, so we’d love to see you there, or failing that, at the Soundbox in March or back at Art Bar in April. Gig reports will of course follow.

***

On the writing front, I managed to cross another item off my bucket list last week, when I joined the Mystery Writers of America. I’ve wanted to be a member for decades, but only if I could qualify as a full/active member. Associate memberships are available for fans and friends of the genre, but I felt like I should “earn my way in.” And now I have — or at least I officially will when the board confirms my membership in March. And I’ve already received a token of membership:

mwa-pin

But as I said in the afterword to Broken Glass Waltzes, no one really writes alone, and I’m thankful for the folks who have encouraged me to keep doing this stuff over the years — other writers, friends, teachers, and these days, Mrs. M and the Spawn. I think of them all when I look at the pin.

***

Alas, these papers and exams will not grade themselves — I know; I’ve tried to let them — so I’d best close. But what would one of my potpourri entries be without a bit of music? So here’s one from a guy who started his rock career as a drummer for a garage combo called the Iguanas, from whom he derived his stage name as he became one of the more fabled front men in rock history. This is probably my favorite of his songs, and it frequently puts me in the mood to write. So with a rhythm section composed of Soupy Sales’s kids, here’s “The Passenger.”

See you soon!

 

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Observations on a Super Bowl

I watched the game for the first time in a few years last night. In recent years, I’ve sometimes had band practice during the game, and other times I just wasn’t interested in staying up that late. Because my team of choice hasn’t been to the Big One in nearly 30 years, I typically don’t have a rooting interest, and this year was really no exception. So I don’t even really know why I was watching, but I did.

As for the game itself, it was entertaining enough, I guess. One thing I thought was interesting was that a number of folks on my Facebook feed were condemning Atlanta for choking in the final quarter and overtime, as New England rallied from 25 points down. I didn’t see it that way. I wasn’t paying rapt attention, but I didn’t see the Falcons playing badly (beyond some of the defensive penalties that seem to have become de rigeur in the contemporary NFL), even during the New England comeback. New England’s players simply began making really good plays. Sometimes you can play a good game and lose anyway, and that’s what I seemed to see last night. To say Atlanta choked implies that they lost the game, rather than that New England won it. I think the latter was the case last night.

None of the commercials particularly registered with me last night, beyond my sense that more and more companies are making perfunctory bows at the altar of Goodthink. This year’s theme appears to have been the Noble Immigrant. Fine, I reckon — I think it’s possible, indeed admirable, to feel sympathy for people trying to get here, even as one recognizes that there may be good reasons not to let all of those folks in. But really, why the hell should I care what 84 Lumber’s political positions are, or even that they have them at all? How does that affect the quality of a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood? Once more, we see the contemporary urge to Politicize All the Things, which in turn results in the shrinking of the civil/private sphere. And as someone who likes the private sphere, I weary of these encroachments.

And of course, there was the halftime show, featuring Lady Gaga. When I mentioned that to the Spawn before the game, she was amused, and said that the programmers were a few years out of date. I considered telling her about Up With People, but decided not to inflict that upon her. (Note: Up With People still exists! I had no idea…)

So her show was pleasant enough, I guess — it offered inoffensive spectacle, which I suppose will suffice for this sort of thing. I wasn’t shocked, but I wasn’t particularly engaged either; the whole thing seemed rather anodyne, the image of Exciting Entertainment without the actual excitement. Craftsmanship was abundant, but there wasn’t much art, which actually sums up a great deal of contemporary music to me.

So the NFL season comes to an end, freeing me to see if my beloved Kentucky Wildcats can get things back together by the end of basketball season, and to see if the Cincinnati Reds have anything interesting to offer as we move into the Rite of Spring that is baseball season. See you soon.

Posted in Culture, Family, Music, Politics | 1 Comment

Criminally Cool

One of the highlights of my first trip to New York City a couple of months back was a chance to go to the Mysterious Bookshop. From the moment I learned of its existence, I wanted to go there eventually. After all, I love bookstores and I love crime fiction. It’s like my personal Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of shopping, and unlike the candy, I don’t have to worry about the Spawn’s suffering a fatal allergic reaction because of my visit.

Even cooler was the fact that my first visit there was for a panel signing for the launch of In Sunlight Or in Shadow. I definitely felt big-time, and the copy of James Ross’s They Don’t Dance Much that I picked up was both a book I enjoy and a cool souvenir.

In any case, the NYT has a nifty article on the shop, and it’s worth a few minutes of your time. And should you drop by, tell them Mondo sent you.

Posted in Culture, Literature, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Focus on the Affirmative”

… or at least on Yes. The band that may very well have been the most commercially successful prog rock group (depending on how one thinks of Pink Floyd) in the movement will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this fall. While I’m well aware of the Hall’s oversights and puzzling inclusions, I’m certainly glad to see this. I’m even more tickled to see that they’ll be inducted by Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush.

But I also had a “Yes moment” last night. I went down to Real City to see Berries pals Turbo Gatto and New York Disco Villains at Art Bar (both acts putting on terrific sets — I was grinning so hard I may have sprained my face), and afterwards, I swung by a supermarket in an effort to find non-dairy “ice cream” sandwiches that the Spawn adores. Alas, they were out, but the moment that really disturbed me was when I heard something really odd over the store’s sound system.

It was Yes’s classic song “Roundabout.” Sort of. The singer sounded like Jon Anderson, but the song was being performed over a sort of lounge-jazz setting. I was so bumfuzzled that I just stood in the store’s aisle, with the sort of face a dog makes when you speak to it in a language you don’t normally use. Was this some bizarre cover?

So of course, after I made my purchase, I went to the car, got out my cell phone, and did a search, where I discovered this, of which I had no previous idea:

I haven’t decided yet whether this is better or worse than Clapton’s horrible revision of “Layla”, but it’s… well, it’s something.

Posted in Culture, Family, Music, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

An Explanation?

As most of my friends and associates know, I did not support Donald Trump’s camapign for the presidency, and it is my hope to have as little to do with his administration as I can get away with. However, neither am I particularly interested in proving him to be the Antichrist or a slack-jawed imbecile, which puts me at odds with most of my facebook feed.

One thing that lots of my writer and academic friends like to do in the process of knocking Trump is jeer at his use of the word bigly. What a maroon, right?

Well, maybe not so much. Trump’s mother was a Scots immigrant, and a facebook friend contended that far from being a neologism or solecism, bigly is in fact a Scots word, if a rather archaic one, and that he may have picked the word up in his childhood. As I find stuff like that of more than passing interest, I decided to go to the mountaintop, or at least the Oxford English Dictionary. Sure enough, there were actually two different entries for the word. I took a look at the adverbial form (as opposed to the adjectivial usage), and found that it can be used to mean forcefully or with strength and vigor. Admittedly, it’s not a common word, but it has a pretty long history — the first cited use is around 1380-1400, and the most recent citation in the entry appears in Hugh Walpole‘s Fortitude (1913). And now, perhaps, there may be another.

Of course, none of this is proof that Trump knows or knew the word — it may well have been misspoken, or the result of inarticulacy. However, it does at least offer plausible deniability, I think, and I have to admit that I would find a certain charm in the idea that this obscure word has reappeared thanks to an intrafamilial transmission.

Still wouldn’t vote for him, though.

Posted in Culture, Literature, Politics | 3 Comments