team reasonable is fucking dead

finalheadergoodA couple years ago I wrote a post that was more or less me eulogizing the loss of PastePunk. It was a hugely important website for me. Deep in my heart I wanted to try and matter to someone as much as that site mattered to me. I really don’t think I ever succeeded in that, but it was worth a shot anyway. No one is going to eulogize this dumb blog, so I’m going to have to do it myself.

I got into writing this thing because I love punk rock. I love how it gave me a scene to be part of when I was younger. I love how it gave me an escape when shit got bad. I love the people I’ve met because of it. I’ve spent the last 7 and a half years (inconsistently) writing about bands that I thought were cool. I wrote a couple negative reviews. Three, I think. I still stand by two of those. I learned early on that it was more rewarding to write positive things about stuff you like than negative things about stuff you don’t. There are a shit million “focus on the negative” blogs on the internet. Fuck being that.

There is a thing Aaron Cometbus wrote that I’ve always loved. He said:

“I wanted a new lifestyle too, a new lease on life, but couldn’t make that change. I was still paying off an old debt. Sounds dumb, but punk had saved my life, and part of being a punk for me was taking on the responsibility to give something back. Save someone else’s life and safeguard my own. I had a lot of work to do.”

I’ve done about as much as I can, I think. I’ve been involved in punk rock, in one capacity or another, for more than half my life. I’m 32 years old, and I know that isn’t old in the grand scheme of things, but I feel less and less connected to whatever the “punk community” is. No one wants to keep reading an old punk’s opinion on music that is largely defined by youth. And I certainly don’t want to be the internet version of the weird old guy who keeps showing up at all ages shows.

I’ve been threatening to pull the plug here for the last two years or so. Every bit of promotion I do is instantly made pointless by me cutting myself off at the knees every chance I get. I got a bunch of readers following me when I was on Blogger, so I switched to WordPress on a whim. I caught an offhand link in a Slate article that sent over a thousand people my way in the course of an afternoon, so I fucked off for six months and wasted a huge chance to expand my readership. I made a Facebook page thing, and maybe 20 people liked it. I lose readers every year, and have been since traffic peaked in 2014. People would 100% stop sending me promotional materials if they saw how low my views are. I don’t want to sound all morose and bitter. It’s (mostly) been a fun thing. I’ve found some of my favorite bands because of this. I’ve gotten to interact with bands and labels that I love.

Thanks for reading though, especially the ones who’ve stuck with me since 2010. This blog will stay up for as long as WordPress exists, or until I decide to delete it. Could go either way.

I’ll still be on Twitter yelling about shit on occasion. Get at me on there. I guess I’m on Instagram and Snapchat too (teamreasonable and thejoekelly). Those are mostly pictures of my cats though. Probably not worth a follow. I’m keeping the email address active, so catch me on there maybe? teamreasonable @ gmail.

Anyway. See you around.

 

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FEATURE: My 2014 In Live Music

I went a little over two years without seeing any live music. It certainly wasn’t something I was trying to do, but it happened. This was pretty unforgivable for someone who blogs about music. This is even more unforgivable given my immediate proximity to Chicago. There were literally bands here always.

But, somehow, I went from July 2011 until November 2013 without seeing any live music. It was a pretty big drought. As is forever the story of my life, it was almost always due to money problems, health problems, or scheduling problems. I work 3rd shift on Wednesday through Saturday nights. This means I end up missing damn near every show. That two year span was a lot of disappointment. I’d see a band was coming, only to see the show was on a Friday or Saturday night. Meaning I had to work.

Luckily that streak was broken. I got back into the swing of things this last year. I got to see a pretty fair amount of bands. Here is my 2014 in live music:

March:
NONA / Pet Symmetry / Meah! / The Valenteens
(@ TOWNSHIP)

April:
Dowsing / Donovan Wolfington / Bluebirds / Per Aspera
(@ TOWNSHIP)

May:
Dowsing / Little Big League / Winter Classic / L. Mounts
(@ TOWNSHIP)

June:
Lemuria / Cayetana / PUP / The Menzingers
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

July:
Braid / Jason Douglass Swearingen
(@ TOWNSHIP)

September:
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) / Joie De Vivre / Free Throw
(@ TOWNSHIP)

December:
Lemuria / Lifted Bells / Prince
(@ BEAT KITCHEN)

American Football / Braid
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

Ten of those bands ended up on my year end lists.

Hopefully 2015 is as eventful. Though, with the apparent loss of Township, I feel like Sunday night shows are going to fall by the wayside. That is definitely a bummer.

So, bands I like, you are on notice. Please play Sunday shows when you come to Chicago. You will be my best friends, and you may end up on a year end list on a blog that not very many people read. Deal?

Drinking Pitchfork’s Beer: A Shitty New York Adventure

Crappy picture I took during Waxahatchee's set @ Converse Rubber Tracks

My friend Autumn and I go back a number of years to two different punk houses in the Chicago suburbs. The first house was The Capital, it was in Aurora. The second was in Bartlett. The Bartlett house didn’t have a name, and was the home base of a horror punk band. So, yeah, that was a thing that happened. She moved out to New York after the house broke down.

Anyway, after years of avoiding it, I finally went out to New York to visit for a week this past December. Mostly we just kind of wandered around Brooklyn. It was every bit as hipstery as it is made out to be. Like, one new hipster girl got on the Q for every one that got off of it. It was ridiculous. That really has nothing to do with this story, but it was maybe worth noting (probably not).

I was on the computer looking at show listings on December 14. I found out about a free Waxahatchee/Mutual Benefit show. Totally a thing I would want to see. It was at Converse Rubber Tracks in Williamsburg. So, it was a relativity painless trip. Flatbush to Williamsburg. Really just the Q to the G, then walk a few blocks. This is certainly not a bad trip in general, but for one problem. We had to make that trip in a snow storm. Oh, and also the G train is total bullshit.

After a bunch of boring shit no one cares about, we finally made it. Only we forgot to RSVP for the show. The person doing door was super uncooperative, but finally agreed to let us in. We had gone to the event thinking it was just a free show. It turned out to be the launch party thing for Pitchfork’s print quarterly.

Mutual Benefit was just starting when we got there. Immediately we went to the bar to get some drinks. Turns out the drinks were free. Free drinks being the best drinks (of course). Mutual Benefit were absolutely fantastic.

The editors of Pitchfork did a panel discussion/Q&A about the magazine when Mutual Benefit finished their set. Michael Azerrad was the guy moderating the panel. It was weird. The panel was, more or less, Pitchfork jerking themselves off. Made tolerable only by the free booze.

Waxahatchee played after the panel talk went on for what felt like an eternity. Everyone in the building was talking through her set. It was kind of a bummer. Well, it would be had she not been absolutely great. The set was fantastic. Some old, some new, some Great Thunder stuff worked in, and some covers. Autumn actually grabbed the setlist off the stage when the show was over and gave it to me (sorry). I have it in a folder at home.

So, the show is over and everyone is still hanging out. Mostly it was a bunch of people trying to schmooze and network. I’m much more focused on drinking as much beer as possible, which probably makes me the worst music blogger ever. Totally uninterested in making connections.

The long and short of it is that the night ended with Autumn, her boyfriend, and I getting shit-plowed on free booze. Free booze that was provided by Pitchfork.

Sorry, Pitchfork.

Digging Through the Compilation Shelf.

compgridCompilations were a fucking way of life. They were the best route to find new bands. They were around long before the internet was THE INTERNET. They were around long before Spotify, BandCamp, SoundCloud, and other services made it easy to “try before you buy.” They’re things that don’t really happen anymore. One part is because of the internet. Another is the overall decline of brick and mortar record stores. They’re not financially viable to manufacture and distribute anymore, and it’s kind of bummer.

Without pulling the shitty “back in my day” card, the decline of record stores and readily available physical products has been the biggest change in music that I’ve seen. I’m old enough to remember a time before file sharing, iTunes, and web commerce as a viable option for music existed. Small record labels, if they had websites at all, still lived on mailorder. You printed out a form, mailed them a money order or some shit, and waited. Oh, how you waited. It wasn’t the most conducive way to discover music. You could read liner notes, but if bands didn’t thank any other bands it was a no-go. So you turned to local record store, and their “compilation” section.

I’ve always been broke. That definitely made it hard for me to discover new bands in my teenage years. I couldn’t afford to buy albums all the time, and it had to be worth it if I was going to drop the $16 at Tower Records. So I always dug through the compilations. At around $2 a pop, they were the best things in the world. If i was curious about some new band on Lookout! Records or something, just go grab their most recent one. Same with Asian Man, Epitaph, Fat Wreck, Go Kart, Matador, Hopeless, BYO, Vagrant, Deep Elm, and so on et cetera. You’d get to hear that new band you were wondering about, and probably some unreleased song from a band you liked already. How could you go wrong?

The first compilation cd I ever bought was probably Mailorder Is Still Fun. As I touched on in another thing, Asian Man Records was my jam. I was mail ordering a bunch of records, and decided to get this compilation. As a teenage ska fan, it was the best I could have hoped for. Slow Gherkin, Less Than Jake, The Chinkees, and MU330 were all on it. Through that compilation I got introduced to Korea Girl, who I still believe to be one of the most criminally underrated indie rock bands in the world. I heard Alkaline Trio and The Broadways for the first time. 16 year old me was stoked. And that compilation was already 2 years old by the time I bought it.

It all spiraled from there. The first time I heard Camber, Planes Mistaken For Stars, and Brandtson was on Deep Elm Sampler #3 (Sound Spirit Fury Fire). The first time I heard The Mr. T Experience, Bratmobile, and Common Rider was on Lookout! Freakout Episode 2. And Hopelessly Devoted To You Vol. 3 was where I first heard Dillinger Four, The Queers, and The Weakerthans (it also sparked me into buying one of my all time favorite records, Left And Leaving). Marc’s A Dick And Gar’s A Drunk: The Johann’s Face Story is where I first heard the Traitors and No Empathy. What I’m saying is that compilations were always important to me. In that spirit, I wanted to make a quick list of my favorite compilations. I’ve linked them to their respective page on Discogs. In no particular order.

Honorable mentions go to Short Music For Short People and Fat Music Volume 5: Live Fat, Die Young (both Fat Wreck Chords). The former for absolutely fucking nailing the gimmick. The latter for having one of my favorite Propagandhi songs.

If this kind of stuff had a resurgence, I’d be right there ready to go.

September 20, 2003 – Thursday/Death By Stereo/Murder By Death

thursdayticketOn September 20, 2003, I got on the train to Chicago to go see Thursday. I don’t really remember the show very much. I’ve been to a whole lot of shows in the intervening 10 years. I do remember certain things about it though. Some things are more superficial than others. I was just a few months out of high school, and had really only gone to locals shows. The shows I went to were either at the venue I volunteered at, garages, backyards, or basements. Going to see a post-hardcore band in Chicago at a major venue was a huge adjustment, especially when you’re used to seeing crusty ska/punk bands in a garage in Wheaton. But, if nothing else, it kind of affirmed my belief in the music I listened to. None of my friend’s gave a shit about that kind of music. Even the punks were too busy being “punks” to even attempt to listen to something more involved than power/barre chords and vague sloganeering lyrics (Bush administration era punks were TERRIBLE [myself included]).

My friend Lamarr and I got to the House Of Blues late. We actually ended up missing most of Murder By Death’s set. This was a month before Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? came out. I ended up buying a copy of Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing. That record was fantastic. Murder By Death kind of lost me when they more or less became a country band. Not as a slight against them, but it just hasn’t done much for me.

Death By Stereo were the other opener. I always thought that was weird. I was never really stoked on them. Not even as a shitty punk teenager. They did put on a great show though. I remember Efrem jumping from the stage to the floor, and doing a song in the middle of the pit that had formed. It was a great thing to see, even for a non-fan.

As far as Thursday went, I was bummed that their set was heavy on songs from War All The Time. It made sense, seeing as that record had just been released less than a week prior. I guess I was kind of bummed because I hadn’t had time to really listen to the album. It hadn’t connected to me quite the way Waiting and Full Collapse had. Shit, it still hasn’t. That aside, they played a great set.

What I remember most was the overall atmosphere. The House Of Blues has a shitty layout. The floor is boxed in, and there’s limited access to the it. Those access points are hard to get to on a half full show, never mind a sold out one. But, I was still straight edge at the time, so having to stand around by the bar wasn’t my idea of a great night. Eventually, through force of will (and being generally larger than most people at the show), I worked my way down to the main floor. The crowd was moving as one singular being. It was remarkable because no one was trying to mosh. If there is one thing Chicago fans love doing, it’s moshing at inappropriate times to things that don’t need it. I had worked my way up to the front left of the floor, but ended up at the rear right by the end of the show. The main hall is on the second floor of the building, so you could feel the floor shift under your feet as the crown moved. It constantly felt like the floor could have buckled at any time.

So, you know, that was pretty great.

(Originally posted on Tumblr)

Misfits Of Ska

Sorry I missed a review this last week. I have one coming up in the next few days. To make up for that, here is a thing I wrote about Skankin’ Pickle over on my Tumblr:

One year in high school I ended up having two art classes and a math class with this cute girl who listened to great music. I tried so hard to be cool in front of her. Which was difficult for a fat dude in a Rancid t-shirt. We’d talk about The Brady Bunch, starting a cult, how creepy Patrick Duffy (not the actor) was. Obviously we would also talk about music. Like how great Operation Ivy was, or how Pinkerton was the best Weezer album. I was still a little shit, but I knew about enough punk and ska bands to hold my own.

I think we were talking about the Suicide Machines or something. Somehow we got on the topic of Skankin’ Pickle. She asked if I’d heard of them. I totally hadn’t. But, not wanting to look like a total dummy, I said “oh yeah of course.” I totally lied, but had gotten away with it.

A few weeks later I was on my way to school. My car wasn’t working, I missed the bus, it was winter, and I was running late. It was a classic four alarm clusterfuck. About 10 minutes into a half hour walk to school a car pulls over. It was the girl from my classes. I get in the car and “Skatanic” by Reel Big Fish had just finished playing. Then I hear a guy talking briefly about whether they got “Degrassi Junior High” in Petaluma. The band then goes into the beginning “O Canada,” and then it then tore into this quick ska-punk song.

It’s so damn catchy. I ask who it was. She just kind of looks at me and said “Skankin’ Pickle,” like I had just asked the dumbest question ever. Here I was, after saying I knew who that band was (and how much I liked them), asking who sings one of their MOST WELL KNOW SONGS. What a dummy. The song was “I’m In Love With A Girl Named Spike.” The record was Misfits Of Ska.

That day I learned to never pretend to know about bands that you really don’t. You just end up looking like a dummy. This situation also birthed my undying love of all things Asian Man Records and bands featuring Mike Park.

Is Spotify Bad For Business?

Yes, people still buy CDs. Shit, some people still buy records and cassettes. I know, right? I am one of those people. I have been a purist for physical copies of things. This is not to say that I don’t dabble in digital media, obviously I do. As someone who reviews things on the Internet (and is poor as shit), it is not really feasible to be constantly out buying new releases. That is where online services like Spotify come in handy. There is a debate on this matter though. Are digital distributors, especially streaming services, helping or hurting?

The biggest problem facing services like Spotify are coming from the labels and artists. The way a lot of them were at issue with iTunes and eMusic, they are now at issue with streaming services. The difference being, download services offer a very tangible thing. Your product was downloaded this many time, we made this much money selling it, we split the percentage this way. Streaming seems a bit more nebulous. The royalty percentage is there, but it is based on streams instead of hard sales. While a band is almost certainly going to get more streams than downloads, they are going to get less in overall payment. This makes sense from the perspective of the people running the service, but seems damaging to the people making the content. I have three playlists on Spotify right now. They are three things I am going to review (new releases from Classics Of Love, Lucero, and Dan Vapid & The Cheats). My streaming of those is not the same value as me purchasing those. While it beats the hell out of me illegally downloading them, it does seem unfair. But, from a strictly pragmatic view, something is always better than nothing. It just seems weird to me.

But, to provide better context, we need to go back (way back) to the late 90s. See, I grew up in a time where music was not free online. I mean, yeah, illegal downloading did exist pre-Napster, but it wasn’t so fucking ubiquitous. Now I can do a simple Google search and find anything, but you had to do work to find things back then. Napster came along in 1999 and shifted the way music was consumed. It has only snowballed from there. The industry was never able to rebound. They simply did not adapt. They still haven’t. Now we have a generation of kids who have never had to buy music. Suddenly, music went from being something you actively sought out, listened to, and enjoyed to some passive thing that didn’t mean anything. The best visible consequence of that being the mass closing of retail record stores. People stopped buying music, the industry shit the bed because they couldn’t figure out how to adapt, and music became just another thing to be consumed and disposed. While eMusic has been around since 1998 (and the original MP3.com a year prior), they primarily dealt with smaller independents instead of playing games with the majors. The biggest innovation in paid for digital music came when the iTunes music store launched in 2003. But, by then, the tide had already turned. Illegal was still king, in digital media.

Streaming as a way to fight illegal downloading is nothing new. Rhapsody has been around since 2001 (with roots going as far back as 1999). It was the first major program that offered unlimited streaming for a flat monthly price. The problem then was that there was no mobile application for it. This was pre-smartphones. So, it was stunted from the get go. If you weren’t at the computer, you couldn’t use the service. It still didn’t have the obvious upside of downloading. Rhapsody is obviously still around, and has made various mobile versions of it’s service. But, there was never as much hype around it as there was around Spotify. The problem is, the issue of artist payment is still a fucking issue a decade later.

There is an interesting quote from an article by Mark Mulligan on Music Industry Blog. It is from a post called “Making Freemium Pay: An Artist’s Perspective.”

“The simple fact is that the disparity between paid downloads and streaming is unsustainable. It just isn’t tenable that 3 paid downloads from Amazon can still deliver 50% more revenue than all the streaming services combined over the same period and yet have less than 1% the activity level of those services.”

 Of course, there is always a counterpoint to that. There was an interview with Ryan O’Neal, from the great Chicago band (and Team Reasonable favourite since 2001) Sleeping At Last, over on Hypebot. Apropos streaming services and illegal downloading he said:

“I’ve noticed over the last couple years that within 24 hours of Sleeping At Last releasing new music, it will pop up in google searches as pirated download links. One click and the record starts downloading. Crazy how fast things get distributed illegally now, and it’s definitely a bit of a bummer.. but I like to believe that the majority of music listeners are well-versed in the right and wrong’s of downloading music illegally and choose to access music through popular and legal options (ie. Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc) Honestly, Spotify is a huge help in this department – It gives instant access to an enormous selection of music, and although artists don’t get much money from it, it probably nets people that used to just downloaded it entirely free and illegally anyway.”

So, there is the argument. In the debate, kids who want free music are going to get it. It is really a matter of how. It is a false argument though. To say that “hey, it’s better a band gets a few cents instead of nothing” seems logical, but it isn’t fair. Obviously it is up to the individual artists and labels to decide if they go down this road, but I can see why the wouldn’t.

Articles to read:
The Awkward, Unanswered Questions That Led to Coldplay’s Spotify Embargo (by Mark Mulligan)
Musician Ryan O’Neal On Spotify, Kickstarter & Leaving Interscope To Go D.I.Y. (by Tyler Hayes)
Beggars Group passes artists 50% of streaming revenue (Music Week)
3 Reasons Spotify May Never Be the OS of Music (by Kelland Drumgoole)