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Other Voices & Outside Sources

Album Review: Matt Jaffe and the Distractions

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

Band: Matt Jaffe and the Distractions

Album: California’s Burning

Label: Elm City (ECI)

Rating: 3.8/5.0

Occasionally I will poke my head above the surface to see what is happening out among the littered wasteland of today’s rock music scene. Mostly, I retire back unimpressed. Everything is so derivative these days it’s hard to find an original sort of blend. Good bands use their influences in the essence of ordering one from Column ‘A’, maybe two from Column ‘B’. It feels like that progressively new musicians try to be all of one column or the other.

This trip to the surface I ran into ‘California’s Burning’, the latest from celebrated independent recording artists Matt Jaffe and the Distractions. Jaffe, a young singer/songwriter/band leader/sugary lil’ cutie pie, (MATT WHY WON’T YOU RETURN MY CALLS? DON’T RUN FROM YOUR FEELINGS!) is just barely 22-years-old and has already tucked quite a career under his belt. He was originally discovered by former Talking Head keyboardist Jerry Harrison while performing at an open-mic show. Harrison became a solid catalyst in moving the young Jaffe forward. It was at Harrison’s studio in Sausalito, California where Matt Jaffe, who was still in high school recorded his first set of demo recordings. Soon after Jaffe formed ‘The Distractions’ with Alex Newell, Sammie Fischer and Alex Coltharp. They recorded a 5 song EP, ‘Blast Off’ in 2015. A majority of the release was produced by Matt King Kaufman who co-produced the classic ‘The Modern Lovers’ with Jonathon Richman in 1976. So far the band has opened for some very notable bands and singers. With ‘California’s Burning’ Jaffe and the band is stretching it’s legs with it’s first full length outing.

The album starts with ‘Love Is A Drug’ which is straight up a phone call to a time where rock was full of good old fashioned flamboyance. The song runs through fevers of The Yardbirds and the Dead Kennedys’ guitar work after they got slow. Jaffe draws most influence from bands including The Replacements and Talking Heads. Throughout the album many eras of music are called to mind. The song ‘Fire On The Freeway’ for instance, calls to mind car racing scenes from all those cheesy movies on HBO after midnight back in the 1980s. ‘Hellhounds of Alcatraz’ is another track that conjures forth cinematic themes from that same decade. Think of supernatural dogs attacking tourists who are visiting “The Rock”. FUN!

I hear many bemoan the notion that most music today is cobbled together through digital means and the result is modern songs sounding like electronic farts, bleeps and whistles. Matt Jaffe and The Distraction is 100% organic, handmade music. A principle Jaffe insists upon carrying onto the stage which has made his band one of the most exciting live YOUNG bands to check out.

On the other side of the coin, the downside to ‘California’s Burning’ seems to be the endeavor feels a bit top heavy, with just a few of the songs carrying possible wide spreading potential and attention. The good songs all appear towards the beginning and proceed in a sort of descending manner. Not to say there are bad songs, I hear underdeveloped songs. Overall, a triumph of a release full of all the familar themes from rock music over the last 30 years, back when alternative music was still called “college rock” and that’s all there was. We look forward to hearing more out of Matt Jaffe and The Distractions and will be looking to catch them out on the road somewhere out there in that vast, littered wasteland.

EP Review: Jimmy Dudding

 

by: Joe Siess

Band: Jimmy Dudding

Album: The Masquerade

Label: No Label

Rating: 3.3/5.0

Jimmy Dudding strikes me as a man trapped in the wrong decade. The sequins and smoke might have faded away years ago, but Dudding keeps the spirit of the 80’s lit like a blazing kerosene lamp smothered in a thick fog.

He’s got this Electric Light Orchestra meets Prince meets a cheeky south Florida soft core smut peddler thing going on. The strange, occult, mildly suggestive undertones in Dudding’s featured music video, entitled Masquerade, make for an intriguing watch. It will either curl your toenails, or make you flutter with delight depending on how you take it.

Dudding’s music is high energy. That’s for sure. His style is unmistakably reminiscent of the 1980’s, however tracks on Dudding’s new EP entitled Masquerade, such as Lady Throgmorton and Dark Circus, are strikingly modern without abandoning the signature groove that characterizes his style and sound.

The Masquerade music video, available on Youtube, according to Dudding himself, is chock full of religious and political undertones, and is essentially a covert depiction of the perversions associated with what many refer to as the American Dream, but disguised as a kind of spiritual and cultural “machine” of sorts.

In my opinion, the video is the story of a paradise lost. The protagonist of the story, a young innocent girl, is cast into a warped, twisted, perverted society in which people distort their intentions and conceal their humanity behind masks. Sounds familiar.

Dudding writes that the story portrayed in the video is of the girl’s initiation into elite society, however the religious and cultural nuances create a multifaceted experience in which the meaning of the images and symbolism in the video can be interpreted in many ways.

When it’s all said and done, the masquerade is essentially a metaphor for all of our lives whether we know it or not. Specifically life in a society and culture that is inherently corrupt and depraved. While I was reviewing Dudding’s EP, I came across some of his other stuff on Youtube and was surprised.

A track called Over My Head struck a chord as it mixed the 80’s thing with a kind of rap, or slam poetry kind of vibe which I found to be rather nice. The fusion of sounds is lovely, and it for sure rears its head on the EP as well, especially on Dark Circus, which happens to be my favorite track on the album.

Jimmy Dudding is unique in his ability to effortlessly craft music from a variety of sources and at the same time avoid diluting his distinct style. He is weird and sometimes manic, but it all makes for a lovely effect. So if you are looking for a fresh sound with an old school vibe, then I would recommend giving Jimmy Dudding a solid listen.

I Didn’t Recognize My Best Friend After the War

 

by: Isaac McShane

I saw a meme today that really tore me up. The message it sent was upsetting, along with the sad truth that our media is littered with such crap, but what upset me most was who posted it and how destitute he’s become. When you are friends with combat vets you learn to moderate your feed to reduce the propaganda and negative rhetoric without leaving your friends list in the single digits. It’s impossible to filter all of it and the news in social media is often heart breaking.

My childhood best friend is an Iraqi war veteran. He’s proud of having served his country, and should be, despite coming back a changed human and not for the better. During our adolescence we adventured back and forth across the country without a care in the world and got into plenty of trouble along the way. After he came back things went from bad to worse and we were regular weekend warriors at the county jail, mostly for petty crimes like bar fights or smoking a joint on the beach. We partied hard. I knew things wouldn’t get better unless I made serious life changes. By the time I left the salt life I didn’t have much to my name and moved far away to a place I had no contacts and started over from the beginning. It took me ten years to clean by name up and there’s nothing more liberating than earning your own freedom.

My old running buddy spent that decade developing a terrible drug problem, along with an accelerated case of pathological lying, kleptomania, unchecked aggression along with other developmental dispositions.  He had a kid, went back to prison, his dad died, then his wife ODed and died. It was almost as if he was attracted to burning bridges, a bi product of being institutionalized on both ends of the spectrum.   I love him, I love his family, but he’s volatile and that breaks my heart. In his world that is ok. He is calloused to breaking the hearts of those who love him.

As petty as it is, I will remain friends with him but again I have unfollowed him, in the social media sense as well as my interest . When I saw the post, my immediate reaction, like most of the time, is to bang out a witty or semi-profound explanation of why I so strongly disagree with the post. And like most of the time I chose against it. Such a rebuttal is feudal.  He’s full of hate, ignorance, accustomed to friction, close minded and stubborn as a mule. Of his kind there are many.

Maybe he’ll read this one day and understand it better than a “public confrontation”, but the purpose of this story is because I don’t think I can explain my position to him, I have to try to explain it to anyone who reads this.

From what I gather about the country’s current political opinions, I would guess that if two people read this, fifty percent of them would either misinterpret or resent my position.  Before I describe the meme I will disclose that the humanitarian in me wants to save every human life, but the predominant realist in me wants those who work hard to get what they earn before those who take handouts for granted.

The meme was a picture of a dirty, scared, blonde haired, blue eyed little girl. Need I say more? Yes, I need to say more. it read “Please share this if you think America’s own homeless children should be taken care of before foreign refugees”. That’s the meme. Before you draw your own conclusions, I’d like to say that I get the underlying message. Like dogs and cats, it’s inhumane to breed and deal (inbred) purebreds when there are so many rescue dogs and cats in our own neighbors who desperately need shelter. If you can’t help yourself you can’t help others. We don’t have our shit together and we have to take care of our kids, America’s future, before we can use those resources on anything external. I get that.

If I were to have banged out a hasty response upon my immediate reaction, it would have said something like this: If a foreign refugee has spent their entire life honestly working hard  to come to America to seek sanctuary from a volatile environment, they will be lucky to make it through the application process. If they are fortunate enough to navigate their way through the dense bureaucratic red tape beforetheir approval and make their way to America, following the refugee assimilation program for the next six to ten years to demonstrate their commitment to becoming a contributing member to our society, I think they are a greater asset and are therefore just as important as someone born into their citizenship and having been dealt a shitty hand of cards with parents dead and in prison.

I feel strongly about that because I’ve been in his shoes and I’ve learned to open myself to understand other people’s perspectives. I’ve been in the dark and I’ve seen the light. Additionally, I lost all my rights, spent years feeling inferior to my fellow citizens, worked hard for a long time to restore my rights. Many of us our fortunate to be born into such a great place; we are born into freedom. That is a foreign concept to most of the world. The only thing greater than freedom is the act of freeing, known as liberation.

The only thing I have left for him is tough love. I hope his daughter isn’t influenced by him. He will never see anything but red, white and blue soaked in blood. I wish I never saw that meme. I wish he never posted that meme. I wish he never went to war. I wish We never went to war. I wish we didn’t repeat so many mistakes from the time we colonized this county and conquered its previous inhabitants.  I wish we maintained the original values of strength in numbers, all are welcome. My family has been here for ten generations but we came here as Irish refugees.

Flogging Molly Kicking Off Summer Tour

 

– A Gonzo Today Report

Flogging Molly kicked off their summer US tour today in Las Vegas. The seven piece Irish Punk band has been on the scene since 1997 and even earlier if you count their early days playing at Molly Malone’s.

On St Paddy’s Day they will be playing in Inglewood, CA at The Forum with special guests, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Mariachi El Bronx.

Flogging Molly hasn’t put out an album since Speed of Darkness in 2011. We here are hoping that this is a tour that could spark some brand new material from the Irish punkers.

If you haven’t seen Flogging Molly before with their mix of traditional Irish and punk rock this is your opportunity.

Follow this link to see when they are coming to a town near you.

Drug Run – Chapter Five: The Break-in

 

by Dr. Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

 

Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson and two drug-running brothers completed the first leg of their drive to Los Angeles, never imagining that their product-filled van was about to be broken into by the obsessed son of an extremely unscrupulous and powerful FBI man.

 

The phone in his room was ringing, and he hurriedly unlocked the door and rushed in to answer it. He was sure who it was.

Axel Hasselburger had been staying in the Watergate Hotel on his FBI business trips to the capital since the elegant establishment had opened in the late 60’s. He saw no reason to change lodgings because of the infamous scandal that had toppled his hero, Richard M. Nixon. The events that triggered Nixon’s resignation had all occurred in the adjoining office complex on the sixth floor, not in the hotel itself. Still, he sometimes felt deeply annoyed when hearing the name “Watergate.”

It was indeed who he thought, and the voice asked at once “How did it go?”

“Very well. The Senator won’t be around to retire. It may take a year or so, but that will go by quick.”

“Hmm. It will have to do. Did Mister Trouble ask any questions?”

“Several, and was dubious.”

“OK. He’s second guessing too often. Recommendations?”

Hasselburger didn’t pause. “Termination.”

“Noted.” There was a click.

He hung up and sat down on the bed, loosened his tie and kicked off his shoes. An image of Imants came to mind again. This time he acted on it and called the house in Dallas. His longtime maid Magnolia picked up, sounding sleepy.

“Magnolia.” Imants’ father seldom said hello.

“Yass, Mista Hasselburger.” Her voice changed pitch to the cautious deference she used with him.

“Check on Imants. If he’s asleep, don’t wake him.”

“Yessah.” She put the phone down, and in her absence he took off his socks, marveling briefly as usual how good it felt. But his mind snapped back to his train-wreck of a son. His mother had ruined him. Damn her.

On the phone he could Magnolia in the distance calling Imants’ name loudly. Clearly not asleep in his bed. He nodded slowly. His instinct was right again: something was wrong. He’d have to fly back tomorrow, early.

Imants had boldly pulled his father’s Monte Carlo into the motel lot and parked at the far end. Confused by what he had observed so far, and suspicious and jealous of Suze and the Carter brothers, he ground his teeth together.

This is abnormal behavior, he reflected yet again. Why is she doing this? It doesn’t make any sense. Imants felt the familiar burning, churning sensation of angry frustration. Why was Suze doing this to him?

He watched with a confused frown as Suze went into one room and the two men she was with went into the adjoining one. That van she’s driving. Gotta search that van. Better park further away. He fired up the overpowered engine.

Suze hadn’t realized how tired she was until she had shucked off her clothes and gotten between the sheets. But she couldn’t fall asleep at first. She turned over several times.

God, I’m horny. It’s been months. Those sweetly musky Billy smells from the farmhouse towel must have gotten to her. Or perhaps his proximity riding in the van. She thought about touching herself, but the squirming sensation faded, and she drifted off.

She was startled awake by a dream of her father, talking with her as they walked along one of their favorite paths at the old house. “It’s all so much clearer now,” he stated in his firm voice. “I was wrong about a good many things, but I love you, baby, and tried to raise you right. The Golden Rule, that’s the most important one.”

“Yes,” she said, nodding vigorously in agreement. Then it hit her, jolting her into a state of lucidity. “But Daddy, you’re dead.” She started to wake, but fought it, holding on, staring at his dear features. He held a finger aloft, semi-mockingly, a gesture she loved that he only did with her.

“Be careful, Suze. Be very careful.” He faded, still smiling. She awoke with moistened eyes.

Oh Daddy. Was that really you, or me missing you? She became aware of the sound of rain outside, and a metallic noise she couldn’t account for. The van was parked just outside the motel window. The van. She sat up abruptly.

Imants had been semi-tutored in various arts by his father’s visiting FBI co-workers, who found Imants amusing. Lock-picking was one of the skills he had learned, but he wasn’t an adept. Fumbling awkwardly with the picking tool in the steady rain, he had finally got the back of the van open. It’s just music cases. They are a band, going to play some town ahead.

But then Imants caught a faint whiff of an unusual odor. Drugs. He risked a glimmer from his flashlight. Just cases, but still… Drugs, definitely. I need to open one of these cases.

He stood on the bumper and reached into the few feet of free space beneath the van roof to pull on a smaller case, and managed to partially dislodge from it the rest. He hopped down, reached in and pulled harder. Thunder rumbled in the medium distance.

Suze leapt up, trying to find her clothes in the dark. Frustrated, she attempted to pull the bedspread off, but it was tucked extremely tightly. She peeled it back, yanking at it. Another clunking sound from outside. Some damn thief tryin’ to wreck my deal. Enraged, she grabbed a pillow, holding it in front of her nude body, and threw open the motel door.

Imants, confounded by the multiple straps holding the smaller case in place, failed to notice the door opening, the faint sound masked by the rain.

Suze bounded out and shouted “Hey you!” She whapped him in the head with the pillow as hard as possible and Imants froze, his back to her. Suze, infuriated by her lack of impact, yelled again and kicked him as hard as she could with her bare foot, right between his legs.

Emitting a loud, dismal groan, and keeping his face averted, Imants ran off, bent over and limping noticeably, as the light in the brothers’ motel room snapped on. Billy and Rob, the latter with a handgun, ran out cursing; they were stunned at the sight of Suze who stood naked in the rain, pillow in hand, next to their violated craft, as a dark figure shambled away hastily into the dim first light of dawn.

Rob recovered first, pocketing the pistol, looking around at the nearly empty parking lot. “Let’s go. Get dressed, we’ll lock up.”

Suze nodded, suddenly realizing she was both naked and wet from the rain, as well as in shock from the events, and she turned for her open door.

Billy watched, waited until her door closed, and then pointed to the van. “Look which case he was goin’ after.”

A half hour later they were seated at a breakfast cafe a few miles away. The three sat dazed over their waffles and sausages until Billy looked up and spoke quietly in a mock-dramatic movie announcer voice.

“One woman, alone, armed only with her wits and a fully loaded pillow… versus the most dangerous thief in the state of Texas…a vicious menace working under the cover of darkness.” Rob put his fingers to his lips, but struggled to hide his grin. Suze chuckled quietly, and looked around, but the few cafe patrons ignored them.

“Ya missed it, but I got in a kick to his tallywhacker that he’s still feeling.” The brothers nodded in near unison, impressed.

“Well, damn. You just earned your whole salary the first night,” Rob said slowly.

Billy nodded again. “No wonder he was runnin’ so funny. But Suze, how come you ain’t in Playboy Magazine yet?” He tilted his head with a mild leer.

“Oh ya’ll hush,” she said quietly, turning a bit pink in the cheeks. She finished her coffee, pushed back her plate and stood abruptly. “Gonna visit the ladies room.” This time they both watched her go.

Imants sat miserably in his father’s car a block away, watching the doors to the cafe and trying to sit comfortably despite his aching groin. He was numb both that Suze had kicked him in his most sensitive spot, and his growing belief that she had likely fallen in with drug dealers.

His mind grappled with the problem of what to do. He had managed to maintain the tail from the motel to the cafe, but now what? The rain had stopped, some part of his mind registered.

That his worst fears about her were coming true, he had no doubt. But, she needs to be rescued. If only I could speak to Suze, reason with her, show her she is off the true path. His thoughts, as they sometimes did when thinking about her, became chaotic and cloudy.

Imants pulled out the worn picture of his mother he kept in his wallet, the last one of them together, earmarked and worn. He preferred to remember her smiling with her arm around him, a small eight-year-old boy, not the mental picture of his mom leaving, tears streaking her face, her face lined with worry and care, somehow hideously bruised. No, I can’t lose Suze. I can’t.

He became electrifyingly aware of how confused and mixed up his feelings were about Suze.

They had met at the neighborhood church, where Imants had been praying for deliverance with tears streaming down his cheeks. He’d opened his eyes to see Suze standing in front of him, radiant at 13, blonde hair glowing in the light. “You okay?” she asked in concern. I am now. God has answered my prayer. I am to be saved.

Suze hadn’t really wanted to know Imants. She felt some obligation to him because he attended her church, but she instinctively knew he was creepy, and likely creepier than she could imagine. Later, Imants attended the local high school, a year behind her, and she had stood up against the near universal hazing directed at Imants, but it was a losing battle, and only seemed to make his obsession with her get worse.

Imants shook his mind free from his repetitive train of misery. He adjusted his pants again. He knew he had to do something, but had no idea what.

When Suze emerged from the shabby restroom, her hair was pinned up and she had put on a bit of makeup, her walk full of confidence. Damn right, I earned my pay. Something horrible happened, that guy she’d kicked… but still.  If that’s the worst, this trip will be a blast, especially with Billy boy by my side. But that was a gun Rob had. She pushed the thought away. Onward.

Rob had paid the tab and the brothers stood outside in the sudden bright sunlight. She pushed open the heavy smudged glass door and joined them, smiling with good cheer. Billy grinned back brightly, adjusting items in his shoulder bag: newspapers, a Carlos Castaneda paperback book, bananas.

“All ready?” Rob asked. Her nod was firm and quick. He glanced at her, and then a line of dark clouds on the horizon to the north. He grunted. “I wanna get the hell out of Texas today.”

She nodded again. “Me too. Let’s hit the road, jack.”

 

To be continued in Chapter Six: Trouble Highway

Album Review: Goth Brooks’ Moonshine and Mascara

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

 

Band: Goth Brooks

Album: Moonshine and Mascara

Label: Unsigned

Rating: 2 or 3 or 4 outta 5 (I hate this rating crap.)

 

The complicated aspect of how things change over time are sometimes only realized when expressed in the simplest of truths.

About ten years ago on the 4th of July I was visiting the town where I grew up in the rural parts of Southern Illinois. We were there to catch some fireworks at the park and to eat one of those funnel cakes.

Obviously because I had been gone for a couple years I came back to a town a bit different but in wide reaching corners. As my wife and I pushed our way through the crowd we ran into Tim Stine, an old pal of mine from high school. As he and I were pouring over the details of what we were currently doing for work, we started talking about the shifting culture of the town. He said something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s weird to come out here and see all the Goth girls hitting on the Rednecks.” The juxtaposition of both those elements made me laugh out loud and the point was rigidly driven home. Little did I know there were weirder times ahead for our muddled refinements. Alan Jackson replacing Robert Smith in The Cure fell to the bottom of my expectations list and time went on. But…I had most arrogantly forgotten about the notion of ‘Rap-Metal/Rock’, a major mistake on my part. The reward for my oversight came recently in the form of ‘Moonshine and Mascara’, the debut album by the industrial-country band ‘Goth Brooks’.

This offering right out the gate (YEE HAW!) is as upsetting, beguiling and lovely as a herd of drunk and horny cattle making their way into the mosh pit at a Marilyn Manson concert. Springing from the darkest home on the range…eh hmm! Phoenix Arizona. This mash up band consists of Mike Lee on country vocals, “Werm” Jonah Foree screaming out the gloom and “3pac” Xian Austin holding them all together with some tasty danceable drums. They have dared to answer my deepest, darkest question of “What if?” When I was first handed this assignment by Mr. Kidman at ‘Gonzo Today’ I really wanted to hate it and in ways I suppose I do. The nature of a true Gen X old fart is to apply skepticism first as your main filter to reality. (We’re not impressed.) But we are also known to recognize originality and tongue-in-cheek wit. Who remembers that first smile you got when listening to ‘GWAR’ or ‘Green Jello’ or ‘Ace of Base’? Exactly, maintain an open mind.

The whole trouble kicks off with the majestic cadences of ‘Motherf**kers From Hell’. It reminded slightly of an anthem for a bad guy wrestler walking into the ring during a three dollar match. You can almost smell the odor of vinyl mats and a blend of armpit odor. A real victory jaunt across the landscape of pain and torture, all to sampled bits of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘Fishing In The Dark’. It embraces thematic elements of what it’s like to have the darkened heart of a cowhand who really doesn’t give a “toss”.

“Ghost riding, gun fighting, cattle driving, motherf**kers from hell.”

The poignant stories told during ‘Achy Breaky Twerkin’ relate to the listener the struggles of stripping for cash in provincial America. “Mullets just don’t age like wine.” If you have never sat in attendance in a dive “bikini bar” called ‘The School House’ located in a town of less than fifty people or travelled over to the local Elk’s Club to catch the “Man Muffins Revue”, you’ll never get it.

The strongest point of the whole album is the third track ‘She Thinks My Hearse Is Sexy’. Within this song there are artfully assembled pieces of Ennio Morricone, floating ghosts of the Revolting Cocks and greasy slabs of neo-country beefcake Tim McGraw. The simple repetitiveness can make you understand why this track would be a favorite for the gloriously unwashed and their grease painted counterparts in the haze of a small town bar. Hopefully it lands on the radio in full saturated rotation because this is what we truly deserve in this moment of human existence. Something to truly reflect the confusion of living within this current multiverse reality but, you know, a toe tapper? Have we truly taken music to it most outer limits? Will it begin to go backwards now? Upon further reflection could ‘Goth Brooks’ be the very pinnacle of musical achievement?

In fact all of these songs qualify for the playlist for all strip clubs. Not only do they qualify I think they should be mandatory. It also qualifies to go good with bong time with your friends. It truly is dark fun. When asked I would say this epic first release is truly original. In that, I have listened to it several times rocked my ass off and enjoyed some sinister giggles. But I still really don’t know if I should be laughing. Which is the true beauty of it. Perhaps, these guys will prove that at the absolute limits of the progression of music instead of rolling backwards we can always shift sideways. No one ever said it was supposed to be a straight line anyway.

Album Review: Mountain King Self-Titled

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

 

Band: Mountain King

Album: ‘Mountain King’

Label: Self-released

Rating: 4.8 outta 5

In life I am a firm believer in the notion that sometimes things don’t come to you until you absolutely need them. Like when your electric bill is due NOW and you are broke. But as fate would have it, your tax refund arrives. Whew! Heat stays on tonight, baby! I truly respect the idea that no plum shall be eaten before it’s time lends itself to many situations in life, especially in those times when music saves you.

The sweetness you crave is worth waiting for, yet somehow you don’t realize it until that moment.  Then you wonder how the hell you ever survived before without it.

Lemme tell ya, I hate the radio. I reside in a mainly rural area. The choices as you can guess are very limited. New crap country radio stations, mixed-genre-middle-of-the-road-hits-from-back-then radio, classic rock (If I hear ‘Free Ride’ one more damned time!), sports, Christian worship stations and sometimes late at night right-wing talk show programs. So being caught without an auxiliary listening option can ruin a long car trip.

This happened recently to me.

Bound to the seat of the car for about an hour in both directions and I had left my MP3 player back at the house on my desk with the sudden realized exclamation of “FAWWWWK!”. A quick glance into the center console of the car and I find two CDs. The first was a horribly damaged copy of ZZ Top’s ‘Recycler’ album (it came with the car) and the second CD was a copy of the June 2015 debut album of the Illinois indie-rock ensemble ‘Mountain King and the Plateau Queen’ simply titled ‘Mountain King’. I had forgotten it was in there, with relief and excitement I immediately shoved it into the pursed mouth of the car’s CD player.

The amped up drum kick of the first track ‘Moon’ seemed to accerate and lift my car as I made my way through the winding turns and hills of southern Illinois, the soft fragrant breeze of a rare warm night in February breathed itself through the cracked driver’s window complimenting the experience. The song slips, slides and builds into intermittent percussive orgasms. Excitement at every turn!

Eventually, the song turns you loose in the lilting, comforting beginning of ‘John Coffee’. Both songs set the very undeviating mode of shifting dynamics throughout the whole of the album. Another consistency is the magnificent and moody guitar work coupled with James Beeson’s vigorous vocals.

The band draws power from a score of influences such as The Beatles, Dr. Dog, The Black Keys and The Band just to give you a general idea. There are elements of each of those groups plus much more within each track. Yet it’s entirely a unique sound. A sound they themselves describe as “Interstellar Indie”.  If there is one thing to be said about this group is that they ooze talent and exude their own kind of vibe.

The diversified ambience of the album is reflected in the songs ‘I Mean No Offenses’ and the very radio friendly ‘I Fall Flat’ and it’s extremely catchy hook, “My head ain’t feeling right, I can’t stay up all night with you.” One more definite recommended stop on the tour is ‘Crystal Ball’. From the very beginning of the song you are zapped into a swirling drum and guitar flavored cloud, tossed about and finally smacked into the powerful, operatic vocal opening of the door to the rest of the magic. The words, hauntingly beautiful come to mind, a dream. ‘Mountain King’ is truly a mighty first outing for this band. You can contact them through their ‘Facebook’ page and have a listen to a few of the tracks over on ‘Youtube’ as well. But show em support and buy the album! This is a band that the world needs to hear more of. Incidently, they have a new release scheduled soon. Until that moment arrives I will keep myself company with this enthralling introduction…to be continued.

Drug Run – Chapter Four: Night Drive

 

by: Doctor Rocket with Ms. Gonzo

Last time, as you recall, Texas rock singer Suze Benson took the wheel of a van loaded with illicit drugs, and headed off with two desperate brothers on a major drug run to Los Angeles. She little dreamed she was being tailed by an FBI man’s obsessive son, who was determined to save her soul, win her heart and punish the young men corrupting her… punish them severely.

 
“Ten-four, good buddy,” Billy drawled into the CB microphone, exaggerating his Texas accent in his deepest tone. He let go of the hand-held mike switch with a click, and turned towards her, dimly lit in the dashboard light. “With him comin’ along behind us, no cops on our ass, this will be a snap.”

Suze grinned, nodding her head. The brothers had wanted to try out the radios right away, and they had already chosen handles for their identities that suited their tastes. Rob was Rootin’ Tootin’ and Billy’s handle was Wheatbread, which cracked Suze up.

“Why Wheatbread?” she laughed. He looked over at her, and felt a rush of emotion combined with cautionary inhibition.

“Because I made some Swiss Cheese sandwiches before you got to the farm. Got us a cooler behind the seat. Want one?”

“Sure!” Suze suddenly realized she was not only famished, but thirsty. “Got anything to drink?”

“Some soda cans. Rob said no beer.”

“Damn…” He’s right. We got a ton of pot back there.

Billy quietly chuckled. “Truth is, I put some in anyway. Carlsberg Elephant.”

Suze laughed. “You rascal. And imported too!”

They listened to the Dallas radio as they drove through the darkness, munching and swigging their bottles. Billy punched the radio buttons, eliciting “…more scattered thunderstorms, locally heavy in some areas.” Billy grunted, peering up ahead, but the earlier lightning in the north and west had stopped. He took another bite of sandwich.

“Billy why’s this taste so good?”

“Veggies I guess, we had some good tomatoes and bell peppers in the garden.” They chatted on about how delicious home-grown veggies were, compared to store bought, moved on discussing the beer, the beer name, elephants in general, and how sad zoos were. They wound up laughing when the conversation shifted to music. The found they had a lot in common, especially regarding the Blues.

After they got through the Dallas metro area the van and Rob’s Delta 88 exited the interstate and headed west on 380 towards Decatur. The wind was picking up but the van was riding solidly because of the load in back. The chat wound down and Suze had a moment to think about her life, and feel thankful for her freedom.

Imants, sweating as he drove, reevaluated his situation as the miles wore on. His father had not given him permission to drive the souped up Monte Carlo. It was Father’s pride and joy, and he was mortally afraid of the consequences of something going wrong. It wasn’t too late to turn around. But it would mean defeat, bitter and final. Suze appeared to be under the spell of bad people. In that van up there. Evil men. Godless Evil.

He clenched his jaw, brain whirling, and reached into his father’s Gladstone Bag. For all his life, the bag had been his father’s sacred item, always in the FBI man’s possession. Perhaps he had left it for him to find! But even as the thought hit him, he knew it to be untrue. His hand hit something. He pulled it out.

A gun! Imants tossed it back into the bag hastily. This was the opposite of… of… Suze standing delightfully nude as he watched through that farmhouse window. He felt a powerful blast of desire. Suze, so beautiful, a Goddess… bedeviling dream come true. God had made her for him, had shown her to him.

He reached into the bag, pulled out the pistol again. Hefted it, eyes on the distant taillights in the blackness ahead. His member stiff, guts roiling. Jesus, help me. And what about Father? God forbid he should come home and find his car missing. FBI Sector Chief Hasselburger would whip him silly.

In distant Washington D.C., Axel Hasselburger looked at the six other men at the long table. “Make no mistake, this incorruptible bastard is one of the biggest threats we face. So we are unanimous?”

Nods, some enthusiastic, some faint. The man at the far end, in the shadows, spoke slowly. “Taking out a sitting U.S. Senator… does it get any more serious?”

Imants’ father looked up, and repressed several sharp retorts. “Yes,” was his only reply. His listeners found it chilling.

Somehow his questioner found the nerve to speak. “Of course, the Church Committee…” The man stopped, started again. “Will it be done…”

Hasselburger frowned and interrupted. “In a way so that no one will ever know. He won’t last next year. He’ll get a statue or memorial, and the message will be sent.”

Hasselburger began putting documents in his briefcase, signaling meeting’s end. He missed that Gladstone Bag tremendously, he realized again, as the men stood and left. It was in the Monte Carlo, safe in the garage. He thought about troubled, unpredictable Imants, and suddenly frowned. His instinct, so trusty over the years, was kicking in. Something. Something was wrong.

In Texas, aware of the importance and seriousness of their journey, Suze’s musing gave way to the current situation. She felt a surge of optimism, pleased and bemused to be at the wheel of a van loaded to the top with God’s special and wrongfully illegal plants. Her earlier fears had dissipated and Suze became exuberant. “Wooo, we are regular desperados like Cheech and Chong!”

Billy, riding shotgun casually with his feet on the dashboard, looked over at her. Suze had her window down to catch the breeze, and he admired her in the dim light. “If yer finished, gimme that empty.” He flipped both the glass bottles out his passenger window, and grinned. “Less of a bust. Let’s see if Rob starts hollerin’.”

He turned down the car radio, turned to face her, and chatted about music some more and then spoke of her band, which Rob had joined three months previously, at the start of Suze’s blazing run of summer gigs at the Last Chance Saloon. Billy had seen many of those crazy nights, and expressed his fondness in strong language.

“I liked Suze and the Bruisers, too,” he said, speaking of her first band.

She laughed, astonished. “You saw the Bruisers? We were too wild to last. But damn I loved those boys.”

She found herself telling Billy about her earlier experiences. Suze was living with her then-husband and performing at clubs for the first time, but when her dad died, she’d moved back into her family home to help her mom. And had never moved back in with her spouse. The marriage was a miserable experience she was relieved to be free of.

Suze’s sister worked as a nurse in Los Angeles, so a lot of the morbid details of her father’s funeral arrangements fell on Suze’s shoulders. It was eventually decided that her mom move in with her more stable and now-pregnant sister, so Suze had also had to help her mom dispose of a lifetime of stuff and sell the house. The mortgage had taken most of the profit. Suze’s voice tailed off, and she sighed.

Billy knew only a few bits of this, and was horrified by the larger tribulations of her life, of which he had known little. Troubles were a downer, he wanted to talk music to change the mood. “I’m just glad you kept your music going.”

“Only thing that kept me sane.”

“I hear that! Well. Rob and I used to sneak into The Ruby to see you. I was there the night the guitar player fell off the stage.”

Suze giggled loudly, sliding back into a state of amusement. “His last night.” She fell silent a moment as a spatter of rain hit the windshield. “Frank was so unpredictable, but when he was hot, he was the best player I ever had; he could make everyone in the room freekin’ wig out. He had those Mike Bloomfield blues chops down cold.”

“Yeah, I was there the night he stood on top of his Twin Reverb. That was like a fifteen minute solo, right? And he was doing those fills when you were singing…Turn on Your Love Light. So cool. Rockin’!”

Suze giggled again, closer to a guffaw. “Goddamn, I am amazed you saw that! It was a special night.” She looked over him with a look of mock rebuke. “How were you even there? A bit young for The Ruby then, weren’tcha?”

Billy was animated. “Yeah, but Rob knew the bouncer. He knows a lotta people. Anyway, I convinced him to take me, the hardass, and…”

The CB crackled into life. “Watch your speed there, Wheatbread. You’re a bit high.”

They looked at each other and burst into laughter. “His ears were burning! I love it,” Suze said. A sudden spatter of rain hit the windshield as she let up a bit on the pedal.

Billy pushed the handset switch. “Copy,” he said in a quiet tone, let up the switch, and chuckled loudly, “At least he didn’t see those bottles. Better not let him know we’re having fun.”

Hmm. Yes. And that was strong beer. She felt tingly, damn pheromones, huh. She looked over at him again. “Billy. What are ya’ll gonna do after this, in California?”

Billy shrugged in the darkness. “I’d like to try surfing for a day or two. Get shitfaced after this. Buy a cool car, maybe a Stingray! Drive it back to the farm, I dunno. We might have another run like this one in a couple weeks, then I could get my own place in town. Girls don’t like coming out to that ol’ farm; my last girlfriend thought the place was too funky.”

“Last girlfriend huh?” she teased. “What a ladies man!”

“Well, and she was a bit kinky. I didn’t understand lingerie until… and the fur handcuffs, man, and, well, that was just the start.”

Yikes. And I thought he was still a kid. She debated a neutral sounding question or something to tease him with, but he spoke first. “What about you? What are you gonna do when you get there?”

Right, what about me? “Now that I’m sorta rich… get a car, get a place with a view, visit with my mom and sister and my baby niece. I wanna start a new band, write some tunes.” Suddenly a great hunger to do this, and more, grabbed her. Those demo cassette tapes, gotta get ’em out to the right A&R guys!

“Well shee-it. We’re gonna miss ya in Garland. Why ya leaving’ us?”

“Oh God, too much to say. I just need a change.” No way am I going to talk about Imants, any more about the ex and all the rest now. The radio voices sang, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with – love the one you’re with. Yes, perhaps so. She looked over at Billy to find him looking at her. She felt a surge of, of what? Lust? She had been so shut down since the divorce…

A massive bolt of lightning lit the sky ahead, but there were still only a few drops on the windshield. They rode in silence for a few minutes, until another bright bolt from the sky illuminated the front interior of the drug-filled van, this time with a goodly boom of thunder. “Wow!” they both exclaimed in reaction to the blast.

Rob’s voice crackled again from the CB. “That was close. We better stop at the next motel. Looks pretty hairy up ahead.”

 
To be continued in Chapter Five: The Break-in

The Clown In Chief and the Juggalo Army March Washington DC

 

by: Brad OH

What is a Juggalo?

The question has been asked and answered in many ways. To music critics, Juggalos are the tasteless followers of the ‘World’s Most Hated Band’, the Insane Clown Posse (ICP). To ICP themselves, it has been asked and answered in the form of a song which provides a litany of silly explanations, but little in the way of deeper insight.

By Juggalos themselves, the most common answer is ‘Family’.

Finally, to the FBI, the rap fans who call themselves Juggalos are classified as gang members. This became the reality in 2011, when the FBI listed Juggalos as a hybrid gang alongside the likes of the Crips in their National Gang Threat Assessment.

It is for this reason—after a frustrating series of lawsuits—that the ICP are calling upon the Juggalos to stage an official march on Washington in hopes of finally having the Juggalos removed from the Gang list.

“We have tried to use the American judicial system to achieve justice and we failed. So on Saturday, September 16, 2017, we are taking our fight to the streets. Literally,” says the official page for the march.

And so, the current Clown-in-Chief will face one of the stranger events in an already whacky first year in office: an army of face-painted Juggalos taking over the Washington monument in defense of Civil Liberties.

Juggalos in Washington DC

As garish and unbelievable as this all sounds, there can be little question this march is being held for good reason. Since the 2011 classification, Juggalos around the country and beyond have been directly impacted by the label. Incidents including loss of child custody, denied entry into the army, and prolonged border delays (this writer himself being a victim), have been reported. In more extreme cases, Juggalo related tattoos have seen minor

infractions bumped up and booked as gang crimes on account of this dangerous ruling. Veteran Juggalo chronicler Nathan Rabin says, ‘This dubious designation is yet another instance of law enforcement singling out people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for surveillance and harassment while simultaneously ignoring or excusing the crimes of the wealthy.’

But where did this start, what is the FBI’s defence, and where does it all go from here?

Admittedly, there have been several cases of people who identify as Juggalos committing some pretty heinous acts. Further, U.S. Justice Department attorney Amy Powell has stated that ‘a new 2013 FBI report on emerging trends does not mention Juggalos, and that the 2011 report, while still online and not superseded by any other report, is dated. “It’s increasingly unlikely to be used by any state or local agency as a source for any particular action,” she said.’

Still, the idea of labelling large subsects of people as potentially dangerous in order to better identify the true dangers is an increasingly frequent and altogether disturbing trend—especially when it results in such direct impacts on innocents. We’ve seen it with the government’s attempts at preventing terrorist activities by blocking or deporting immigrants from select groups (or simply bombing them in advance), and we’ve seen it with the two-sided attacks on voters of all ilk during recent elections. It would seem, in fact, that this ‘enemy-minded’ thinking is fast becoming the go-to approach for a government which has continually failed to justify or show any positive merit from the ever-growing list of freedoms it derails. ACLU Attorney Saura Sahu has claimed that “the FBI document created interpretive rules for law enforcement agencies and branded Juggalo tattoos, symbols and merchandise as gang-related. “They’re supposed to have an

impact on state and local law enforcement and they do, and usually it’s a really good one. It’s just that this time, they went too far here…

“To call someone a gang member or gang-related is to call that person a criminal… These guys are standing up against what happened to them, but they are also standing up for millions of music fans,” Sahu concludes.

As it stands, Juggalos are still subject to potential detention, harassment, and disproportionate punishment for no reason beyond their musical predilections.

It is the shocking and rather unpredictable result then, that the idea of thousands of clowns marching on the highest office in the country is indeed no laughing matter; not for the government now pressed to justify such a ham-fisted attempt at law-enforcement, and not for the Juggalos desperate to clear their name.

So too should it be a more serious concern for the millions of others watching this unfold, resting on the fence about exactly what all of it means. Juggalos are—admittedly—an easy target, and Juggalo watching may soon become the extreme-sport version of people watching, but to sit idly by with no strong reaction as one’s own government brands a large subsection of people as criminals for their taste in music is pretty high up the list of things which could prove that in the end, you are the real clown. It is a direct affront against the notion of free-speech by a nation increasingly hell-bent on snuffing out that quintessential right.

The very fact that this march needs to happen at all naturally raises one rather disconcerting question: ‘if they get away with doing this to the Juggalos, who’s next?’

If the reader of this article can immediately think of a couple of other music fan bases or other social groups they might not mind seeing criminalized, it is not surprising. But to allow such a thing to actually happen is a precipitous slope grounded either in absolute ignorance, or real hatred.

“If you can go out and brand any musical fan base as a gang, it could have terrible effects,” says ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg.

Of course, it’s not just any musical fan base being labelled here, and not just any band. It’s the Juggalos, and the Insane Clown Posse.

When Bruce Springsteen claimed to have killed 10 innocent people on his 1982 song ‘Nebraska’, there were few people clamouring for his immediate capture. That’s because by and large, people can understand some level of artistic licence. They can follow along with the idea that not everything an artist claims in character is necessarily the full truth.

When ICP claimed in their 2002 song ‘Gang Related’- “Do you rep the Hatchetman, you’re in a gang,” there was a good deal more difficulty sifting the fiction from the fact.

What is it that separates ICP from so many other artists? Part of it, no doubt, is their scary persona and the rather gloomy corner of pop-culture to which Juggalos have been relegated. Another factor, perhaps, is that ICP was—in its nascent form—a legitimate street gang.

Starting out as the ‘Inner City Posse’, ICP’s original members—along with several inner-city Detroit friends who saw no other future on their dilapidated streets—endeavoured to be a real street gang, who rapped and wrestled on the side.

This idea fell apart after many arrests and confrontations with rival gangs, and the remaining two focussed on their rap career, changing the ICP from the ‘Inner City Posse’ to the ‘Insane Clown Posse’ we know today. This transformation involved not only greasepaint and the establishment of an extensive background mythology, but also a significant transition from young gangbangers to successful marketers and businessmen.

It took only six years for the band to go from wannabe gangsters to platinum selling artists, and the label they established, Psychopathic Records, has served to employ countless other potential gangsters in the metro Detroit

area ever since. This is to say nothing of the countless Juggalos for whom their music has often been a source of comfort and inspiration.

So, while gang-banging certainly has it’s place in the history of ICP and the Juggalos, it can also be argued that ICP and Psychopathic Records as a whole have done significantly more to improve the lives of many Detroit residents than has the government—who largely sat on their hands as the city fell in upon itself as auto-plants and steel-mills disappeared overseas, and citizens were left to a near-hopeless stretch of poverty and unemployment.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the US Government and the FBI do not see things this way.

And so here we are. On Saturday, September 16th, 2017, there will be a strange sight indeed at the Lincoln Memorial. At around 12:00pm—or significantly earlier, if I know Juggalos—painted faces will abound and the Faygo will fly (seriously—watch out for the flying Faygo). In addition to the march, there’s a free concert, and myriad other events. If my experience with Juggalos has taught me anything, it will be an exceedingly unusual scene for Washington regulars.

Rest assured, there will be loads of soda, grease paint, strange costumes, loud chants, and possibly a few impromptu backyard wrestling matches.

Violent J of Insane Clown Posse

So too will there be signing, laughter, familial love and general merriment. Juggalos—despite their reputation—are not so unlike the majority of people after all, save for their unself-conscious willingness to open themselves up, have fun, and be whatever they feel is most suited to them.

It’s not such a bad lesson for the rest of us…even if you prefer more ‘mainstream’ music and ‘designer sodas’.

The hope here, of course, is that this demonstration of unity will change the minds of the powers that be and elicit an official recognition that being a Juggalo does not qualify one as a gang-member, nor expose one to any of the legal penalties associated with it. With the current intellectual capacity of the

administration, this may be a high hope, but even if the Juggalos fail to sway the legal process directly, it can be hoped that a peaceful demonstration and rational explanation of this outrage may change the minds of casual observers, and even the more justice-minded members of the law-enforcement community. It is, after all, not laws which are the true arbiters of justice in a society, but rather attitudes, beliefs, and the deep-held commitments to respect and decency which each member of that society harbour.

So what is a Juggalo? Well, they’re a lot of things. If the Juggalos are boorish and silly, they are also compassionate and sincere. They are odd, unique, and quintessentially their own breed of person. And yet they’re people all the same, and equally deserving of respect, dignity, and personal autonomy as any other group. If this march is able to demonstrate that to the world at large, then it should be a good day on the carnival grounds after all.

So keep it real Juggalos, and much clown love!

The ‘Juggalo March’ on Washington takes place Sept. 16th, 2017. All details for the event can be found here.

Brad OH writes for www.BradOHInc.com, and has been Down with the Clown since 1999.