Sunday, March 14, 2010

2009 Music, Movies and an Update

Well, due to my lateness once again, you’ve probably realized that getting this blog back on track is not going the way I imagined it would. But there is hope for the future as things have been looking up for us over the last month and a half. It’s been surprising as literally three weeks ago, I was on the edge of panic since we were out of cash and it looked like there was no hope for us to be anything but homeless. Then, suddenly, my online sales started skyrocketing. Shortly after that, Skip was accepted into Government Disability and now gets a good-sized check from them every month. Skip is also in the process of declaring bankruptcy, which is going to be a pain in the ass, but it’s better than trying to deal with bills we can’t pay. He is dealing with a gay bankruptcy lawyer who understands our situation completely. He also understands the laws we can take advantage of since this society will not allow us to get married, and I’m all for taking advantage of the bigotry of the US Government. (Ah Hell, I’m all for taking advantage of the US Government in any way.) Now that we’re not saddled with mortgage payments or paying off exaggerated interest rates on our credit card bills, we suddenly find ourselves with money saved in the bank and a hope for the future. And, as you can probably tell, I have no feelings of guilt about any of it.

As for the future, we’re still on track to moving out of California for good. We have dropped looking into anything on the East Coast, so New Hampshire and North Carolina are no longer possibilities. We just decided that we wanted to stay close to the West Coast. If I’m close enough to LA, I can keep my clients that I sell for. I can make a trip every two months or so to pick up new sale items and visit Disneyland and friends while we’re at it. Plus, I really don’t think I can live somewhere where I can’t find great Mexican food. So, right now we’re looking into Tucson, Arizona or Olympia, Washington (despite the lack of good Mexican food, they still have amazing seafood in the Pacific Northwest, which is almost as important to us). And New Mexico is still in the running as well. We will be in our house until at least July and I’m hoping we can stretch that into September. But one way or another, we have to make up our minds and get prepared to move this summer.

I’ll keep you posted as more develops. And I’m still going to try to get this blog up to a bi-weekly basis again, although that may not happen until we settled into our new digs later this year. So all I’ll promise is that I will get posts up on this blog as I have time to write them. I’ve come to realize that I really don’t have that many tour reports left to do. I’m sure there are plenty of stories I could tell if I could just remember them, but for now, there’s maybe two or three more blogs I can get out of my decade or so touring with bands. I’ll try to get one of those up next, probably my quick European tour with the Young Fresh Fellows and the Dharma Bums.

As for the rest of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’m not having much luck with those either. I haven’t gained any weight, but I haven’t lost any either. And my attempt to read at least one book a month has been futile as well. I have been buying books though, so I have a stack to read when I find the time. “A Single Man” by Christopher Isherwood, “The Gospel of Food” by Barry Glassner, “Footnotes in Gaza” by Joe Sacco, “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, “I Slept With Joey Ramone” by Mickey Leigh, “Kick It Till It Breaks” by Ira Robbins, “Heat” by Bill Buford, and “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon are all in that stack.

Now, I usually open the year with a column about music and then I do one about movies around Oscar time. Both of those have fallen victim to my predicament. But I’d still like to talk a bit about both, so what follows are short, cliff-note versions of what I would normally write. I’ll have to rely on you to look up things if you think they might be interesting. ( for music and for movies)


I no longer buy CDs much. In fact, I’ve been downloading all my own CDs and records and selling them on the internet. I used to obsess about owning and holding the covers, but no longer. I’m happy with just the music now. And with the money I’ve been making off these old CDs, I’m even happier. So I can no longer do a top ten albums of the year. But I still go see bands live a lot, or watch them on the late night TV shows and then check them out more online if I like them.

So, let me just point out a few musicians and bands that I heard this year that I think are worth your while to check out as well.

I really enjoyed seeing some younger bands for the first or second time. Amongst these were the Von Bondies, the Black Lips, the White Rabbits, Matt & Kim, Dengue Fever, No Age, Health, Melt Banana, the Doves, Travis, Adele, Xu Xu Fang, Lemon Sun, and Thom Yorke of Radiohead, for his first solo show.

A few “old timers” that I’ve seen before also toured this year. I was pleased and entertained by Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pet Shop Boys, Chick Corea, Moby, Tricky, Grace Jones, Fischerspooner, John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, and Kiss!

Then there were the old punk bands (and a couple of disco bands) that got back together and were still just as great as they used to be. Those included the Vaselines, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Dinosaur Jr, the Slits, Throbbing Gristle, Yummy Fur, KC & the Sunshine Band, the Village People, Kool & the Gang, and the absolutely wonderful Chic.

I was also ecstatic to see my old pals, the Zeros (, get back together and stun the audience with their greatness several times. And to top it off, even more old pals, the Last (, reformed in their original line-up and stunned as well with their one-and-only reunion gig. Oh, and speaking of friends, I finally got to see Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds ( and found them to be close to fantastic. I’m really glad to see Kid doing so well.

I should also mention that the return engagement of Los Angeles’ own Silversun Pickups was stunning as well and showed that they are only getting stronger as they tour the world to much acclaim. They are truly one of the best that L.A. has to offer these days.

I also want to point out a few artists for special attention. While I worked with Thin White Rope, I used to get kids sending me the tapes and recordings of their own bands. This usually was accompanied by a spiel or note explaining how much they loved TWR and how much they were influenced by them. More often than not, the music they gave me sucked and I couldn’t figure out where any TWR influence was at all. Most of those bands and performers have fallen to the wayside. I still get an occasional tape or CD though. The difference is that these days, the music is usually damned good. For those of you TWR fans out there, and I know a number of you read this blog, please check out:

Trent Miller & the Skeleton Jive – ( An Italian folksinger now living in the UK, Trent channels Guy Kyser’s voice without sounding like a copy of TWR. His songwriting is wonderful and well worth the effort to hunt down. And you can do that at his Myspace page, or by finding his CD, “Cerberus”, which is available in this country on

The Desperate Ones – ( Paul Simmons is a long time fan of TWR and has been sending me his psychedelic recordings for years now. I’ve always liked them and now, with this new batch of songs, which will hopefully be an album sometime soon, I love them. Check out the band’s Myspace page for more recordings.

Chris C & Swingin’ Danglers – ( Taking their name from TWR’s fan club, this band just plain rock in a very wonderful way. You need to check them out on Myspace as well.

Doc Holler – ( This is Guy Kyser and Roger Kunkle’s bluegrass band, so you know you’re going to want to check them out.

And one big, last shout-out to my pal Doug Gillard (, from Death of Samantha, Cobra Verde and Guided by Voices, whose new album, “Call From Restricted” is a wonderful pop-rock collection that reminds me a lot of early Wire in that his catchy pop songs are not afraid to stretch out and try something new. It’s a very exciting album and you all need to check it out.

By the way, I’ve already heard some great music this year, including Yeasayer, Broken Bells, Hot Rats, Massive Attack, and an amazing new album by the Liars.


On the movie front, I managed to see 77 new movies (and that doesn’t take into account all the movies I saw from past years either again or for the first time).

Here are my top ten movies in order:

Hurt Locker
A Single Man
Up In The Air
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Shapphire
A Serious Man
Sin Nombre
(500) Days of Summer
An Education
Inglorious Basterds

These are the other movies I thought we excellent:

Adventureland, Avatar, Big Fan, Broken Embraces, Coco Before Chanel, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I Love You Man, In The Loop, Invictus, Julie & Julia, The Messenger, Ponyo, A Town Called Panic

These movies were very good and well worth seeing:

Bright Star, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Crazy Heart, Disney's A Christmas Carol, District 9, Drag Me To Hell, The Girlfriend Experience, Goliath, Goodbye Solo, The Hangover, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, The Hole, Humpday, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Informant, The Last Station, Monsters Vs. Aliens, Moon, My One and Only, Nine, 9, Paranormal Activity, Paris 36, The Princess & the Frog, Star Trek, Sunshine Cleaning, Taking Woodstock, Zombieland

These movies were a let down for various reasons. But I still found them interesting enough that I don’t regret seeing them:

The Blind Side, Il Divo, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Loss of a Teardrop Earring, The Lovely Bones, Paper Heart, Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation, Watchmen, Where the Wild Things Are, The White Ribbon, X-Men Origins: Wolverine

And these two movies are the only two I saw this year that out-and-out sucked. Interestingly enough, they were both seen at film festivals and as far as I know, they haven’t been able to pick up distribution. So hopefully no one will have to sit through them again:

After.Life, Surveillance

These are the excellent documentaries I saw:

Capitalism: A Love Story, The Cove, Food Inc., It Might Get Loud

And these documentaries were very good and well worth the effort to try to see them:

An Englishman in New York, On/Off: Mark Stewart from The Pop Group to The Maffia, Of Time and the City, Outrage, Shouting Fire: Stories From the Edge of Free Speech, Something's Gonna Live, Who's Afraid of Kathy Acker

I also have DVD’s of “Anvil: The Story of Anvil”, “The Damned United”, and “Hunger” sitting near my TV set and I hear they’re all great. But I haven’t had time to watch them yet, so they’ll have to go unrated in this article.

A few comments about the Oscar’s. I was pretty happy with everything that won. There were some changes I would have made with who got nominated though. For Animated Feature, I didn’t see “The Secret of Kellis”, and I don’t think many people did since it never really opened. And as much as I liked “The Princess and the Frog”, it had its problems. I would have much rather seen the absolutely wonderful “A Town Called Panic” get nominated in place of either of those two.

I liked all the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees, and I was happy with who won in both categories, but secretly I was hoping that Colin Firth would have won for Actor and either Carey Mulligan or Gabourey Sidibe would have won for Actress.

I didn’t see any of the Foreign Language Films except for “The White Ribbon”, which I didn’t much like. But, as you can see, I have “Sin Nombe” as one of my top ten movies of the year and I was very disappointed that it didn’t get a nomination.

And I thought “A Single Man” really got shorted. It should have also been nominated for Best Picture and Director. I don’t think that “Avatar”, “District 9”, or “The Blind Side” deserved Best Picture nominations. The first two were very entertaining and I liked them a lot, but there were many better pictures. “The Blind Side” just wasn’t very good, despite Sandra Bullock’s wonderful job of acting. And I’m sorry, but James Cameron just didn’t deserve a Director nomination, no matter how much his entertaining, but over-rated movie made at the box office. (And don’t even get me started about Avatar’s win for best Cinematography, in a movie that was mostly animated.)

And that’s about all I have to say about the movies of 2009. I can start concentrating on those of 2010. I’m going to be seeing “The Runaways” and “Green Zone” this week, and I’ve already seen “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s a good, entertaining movie, but it should have been a great movie. I liked all the acting and most of the dialog, but the story itself is trite and overdone. I would think that Tim Burton could have come up with something a bit more original than the “young Real Earth child saving the Magic Kingdom from Evil” story that seems to be in every fantasy movie made in the last couple of decades. And the 3D was unneeded.


And on that note, I’ll sign off once again. I’ll be back as soon as I can, hopefully with a new tour stories entry. Take care of yourselves and thanks for reading. -MLC