in defense of nü metal

i have never seen anyone say anything positive about the genre of nü metal, as such. this has irked me for ten years. i've never heard people use the term "nü metal" as anything but pejorative, but there is some very good music that is popularly described as such.

people deride the music that falls under that umbrella as boring. meaningless. repetitive. dull. sure enough, there is a lot of subpar music that qualifies as nü metal. most people view Korn and Limp Bizkit as the standard bearers of the genre. Korn isn't my favourite band in the world. i always found them to be extremely boring, and many of their songs sounded the same. "Freak on a Leash" was a good tune, though...it was an apt anthem for a misunderstood teen, and i was a sixteen-year-old high school loner when the song came out. furthermore, they were one of the first bands to hit the mainstream with a detuned amalgam of rock, metal, rap, and funk. they weren't the best of the bunch, but i respect their role in beginning to clear out a place in the music scene for the genre...and even though they were usually boring, they never made me want to weep for humanity.

[as for Limp Bizkit...well, there's really no defense for Limp Bizkit. they were one of the worst bands of the nineties, if not the very worst. that's one point, probably the only point, on which the nü metal haters and i see eye to eye. their music sounds like party pop-rap with guitars.]

the term nü metal is a fairly vague one, to be sure...it started as almost a synonym for rap-rock, and then started to refer to bands who were in that same grey space between grunge and metal, but didn't necessarily have as many rap influences. by the early aughts, very few popular nü metal bands [save Linkin Park...] had or retained much rap styling at all. the term is less than specific...but none but the broadest terms for music have very fuzzy great areas, and i'm going to stick with the nomenclature because its spectrum is familiar to anyone who knows a bit about nineties music.

anyway...there was a lot of schlock promulgated under the umbrella of nü metal, and people bring that up to disparage every band with that handful of influences. but, the fact remains that there's a lot of schlock under any given musical label. just like wheat and chaff coexist under any musical label, there is good nü metal and bad nü metal. from here on out, we focus on the good; there are a lot of gems that people roll their eyes and dismiss because it happens to be nü metal. there are a lot of songs in that style that honestly portray emotion, that have compelling melodies, and prove that the flak that people give the genre as a whole is very often unwarranted.


their first album was full of rap influences which have faded away as time has gone by. although their first album, Down With The Sickness, remains their best to date, they still put out solid music and they're one of the few late nineties or very early aughts bands who remains recognizable, about as good as they were. my favourite song of theirs is "Remember"--it sets the mood of being fixated on something that happened in the past, and the melody haunts.

Drowning Pool

Drowning Pool is not the same band they were back in the early oughts. Dave Williams, their lead singer, died in the summer of 2002...that's the only time i've ever cried when a famous person has died. the new singer isn't nearly as good. his voice went from screaming to growling to singing so seamlessly, and Sinner rocked from start to finish. i'm sure you all know "Bodies" already...this is the video for "Tear Away," which is a little more like the rest of Sinner and a better song to boot.

Finger Eleven

Finger Eleven is one of my two favourite bands [the other being Cold]. even in their earliest music they never had much of a rap influence, but the grunge, metal, and funk influences pervade their music.1 [in fact, before they were Finger Eleven, they called themselves the Rainbow Butt Monkeys, and were more of a funk band than a rock band.] their first three albums were fantastic...really, the only dud on any of them was "One Thing." everything else, fast or slow, was good, solid rock--like this, their song "Quicksand" from their first album.

Linkin Park

i got into Linkin Park my first year of college. that was right when Hybrid Theory was coming out and "One Step Closer" was on the radio all the time. i caught more and more flak for liking them as they got more and more popular, but i don't care. their songs are catchy, they have great beats, and back in 2000 they didn't sound like anything else that was on the radio. maybe it's the sulking emo kid in me...but my favourite song of theirs has always been "Numb." it's a little less peppy than most of their stuff, but it's a great song all the same:


Orgy was the first rock band i ever liked who features techno beats prominently. i'm not sure if their music actually falls under the outer fringes of nü metal or not, but between the time they got popular [1998], their close ties with Korn [they were on Elementree Records, Korn's imprint], and the music styles they fuse...i include them here. they had a little more techno-goth and a lot less grunge than most bands in the category, but they definitely smoothed the path to the radio airwaves for clearly nü metal bands like Linkin Park. this is my favourite Orgy song, "Dizzy"--the last song on their album Candyass, and one i recently mentioned in 74 Minutes or Less:


okay, so their later music consists of attempts to reproduce the success of "It's Been Awhile." they morphed from the realm of nü metal to the realm of...well, almost adult alternative. that doesn't make Tormented, Dysfunction, or about half of Break the Cycle any less awesome. back then the songs were raw, and Aaron Lewis had the sexiest, breathiest heavy rock voice i knew. this was the song that got me hooked on them: "Just Go."

finally, four more bands who have done something compelling with the genre have been recent subjects of posts on this blog: 3rd Strike, Lifer, Flaw, and Videodrone.

so, the next time you hear some music snob dismiss nü metal offhand, take him to task for it. for every Limp Bizkit, Crazy Town, or Hed(PE) who makes your ears bleed, there is a Finger Eleven, Drowning Pool, or Videodrone to bring the rock.

1 if the only songs of theirs you've heard are "One Thing" or anything on Them Vs. You Vs. Me, you're going to be wondering what i'm talking about when i say there's a funk influence. that stuff is dross. i'm as bitter about Them Vs. You Vs. Me as i am about Underneath by The Verve Pipe. the whole rant is too long for a footnote, though; don't be surprised to see a full entry about it at some point.

keep reading...

Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing: Thursday, January 31

"No Light" is one of my favourite early-aughts one-hit-wonder songs. i still need to get Lost Angel, the album it's on; one of my friends in undergrad would play it in his car sometimes, and it had a lot of solid songs on it. despite the fact that this was the one big single from it, this was always my favourite song on it. it has more rapping than most songs i enjoy, but it doesn't sound forced or unnatural like way too much of the rapping in rap-slanted nü metal. it feels like that's how the song is supposed to go.

keep reading...


Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing: Wednesday, January 30

back in the late 1990s, MTV did a cover band competition. there was a band on there called Strangers With Candy who did a rollicking cover of "Take On Me" by A-Ha, and they won the competition. i watched, and thought it was a shame that they weren't putting out original songs.

a few years later, they did put out original songs. they renamed themselves Lifer, and in 2001 released their self-titled album. seven years later, i'm still addicted to their song "Swallow." the tune is low, thick, and atmospheric. the lyrics...well, it took me a few years to figure them out, but they're a bit on the naughty side. the song is blatantly about a carnal need for sexual release.

this song wasn't a single off the album, and no one has made a video for it. [well, on YouTube, anyway...i'm sure i may have had some luck on PornoTube, but i'm trying to keep supergig PG-13.] i'm sure you can provide your own visuals mentally, though...just listen to "Swallow" by Lifer.

keep reading...


Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing: Tuesday, January 29

Blue October is a great band, and Justin Furstenfeld has one of the most gorgeous voices i know. This song, "Amazing," was the last track on their 2003 album "History For Sale." last tracks on an album always seem to be long, winding, and introspective...sometimes the experiment works, and sometimes the experiment fails. i'm almost never ambivalent on the final track of an album; i either love it or hate it.

this song works...to say the least. it's the best of their best. it's such a sad song; i can't decide of the person speaking knows he's a schmuck or is just going through a self-esteem crisis, but he's crying out for someone to love him. with a song this beautiful, it would be hard to resist.

keep reading...


Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing: Monday, January 28

Welcome to the newest regular feature on Supergig: Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing.

in short, it's the song of the day. i will make a few comments about it, but it won't be the extremely long kind of post that i usually make. [hence, quite suppressed.] then, i'll post a song that means a lot to me. [hence, quite revealing.]

for any of you who are wondering...yes, the title of this feature is a song quote. it's a title from the song "I've Suffered A Head Injury" by The Verve Pipe, a song that snarks on the music industry for producing schlock. the goal of Quite Suppressed Yet Quite Revealing is to imbue your life with a little less schlock...and a little more rock.

we'll start this with a song that has been stuck in my head for days now: "My Letter" by Flaw. it's a song about being confused about where things stand with someone, so confused that it destroys any hope of a future. luckily i've never been in that situation before...but it's a scary idea, and Flaw treats it powerfully.

the band never made a video for it...so this video shows the lyrics on the screen.

keep reading...


74 Minutes or Less #4: The Best Chicago Music You've Never Heard

welcome to the fourth installment of 74 Minutes or Less.

74 Minutes or Less is the weekly supergig playlist. the concept is simple: i pick a theme, i choose at most 74 minutes of music that fits the theme, and i discuss it here. if you, or i, or anyone else thinks the playlist is so awesome that it deserves to be compiled and burned to CD for posterity, it won't be a problem--because it's no longer than 74 minutes.

this week's theme is the best Chicago music you've never heard. some of these bands are still together, some of these bands have broken up, and some of these bands are somewhere in between--they have the same name as before, and one or two of the same members, but the music is so different nowadays that they're hardly recognizable as their former selves.

over my five years living in Chicago, i racked up a lot of music by just picking up demos at the many, many local shows i attended. most of it was unremarkable. some of it was really, really bad. but, there were the occasional songs that were good enough to make me take notice. they were good enough to get me to start following the band, and good enough to stay on my regular playlist even though the band may be long gone.

to get on this list, i had to have first heard the song on a demo, an independently produced and locally released album, or at a concert in the Chicago area. [obviously, the band also needs to be from the Chicago area.] if there is a link from the song title, then the song is still available online for free download on their band page or MySpace...so check it out there. most of the other songs were distributed freely to me on demos--so if one of the descriptions intrigues you, leave me a comment or an email, and i'll share the love.

so, here it goes--74 Minutes or Less of the best Chicago music you've never heard, in alphabetical order by band.1

  • "Maybe" by A.D.D. (3:27)
    • i don't like a lot of female-fronted rock. i like the sound of a man's voice screaming and growling a lot better than i like the sound of most women trying to do it. i say "most women," because Margie from A.D.D. is a refreshing exception to the general precept. the song is snarky, angry, and powerful. i wish i could have a karaoke track of this song, though...not that i could do it well [my own voice is far more suited to art songs than to heavy metal], but i have spent so many years singing along to this song that i'd love to try it in public at least once.
  • "Hole In His Head" by The Burbanks (2:09)
    • this is the only song a band has ever played for me in a concert...the singer knew it was my favourite, so at a show at Hogs Head McDunna's back in the spring of 2004, he dedicated it to me. i don't know what this says about me, since it's not a happy song lyricall. but, never have i heard a more fun, exciting, and energetic song about a guy shooting himself. i don't know what happened to The Burbanks, though...their bad website is still up, but they haven't played shows in years. that's a shame, because they were so good at simple, straightforward, and fun punk rock songs.
  • "Urban Tragedy" by Charleston Dueling Society (5:09)
    • this song is a sad story, almost gratuitously so...it's about a guy who wants to propose to his girlfriend on new year's eve, and finds out a week later that she died in a drunk driving accident. in fact, the only dead lover song that i can think of that's more gratuitous than this one is "Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ray Peterson. i don't care...i'm a sucker for that stuff sometimes.
  • "It's A Stick-Up" by Dead Man Holiday (4:24)
    • in a moment this band appeared, and in a moment they were gone. they rose from the ashes of Red River, played two or three shows, and disappeared. luckily, i caught one of those shows, a show at The Metro on August 15, 2003...with Escape From Earth, Empyrean, and Inept. they were full of energy, and one of their songs really made an impression on me. i didn't know what it was called, but it was that song that made the crowd jump around and start yelling about a stick up. i managed to grab a demo on the way out, greedily opened it, and looked for a track listing. sure enough, track #4 on the four-song demo was "It's A Stick-Up." success. Dead Man Holiday did re-form about a year after those first few shows, but the lineup was almost completely different, as was the music, and they got very angry on the message boards if any of the fans brought up old Dead Man Holiday songs like this one. it's a shame, because so few songs have ever gotten my adrenaline running like "It's A Stick-Up."
  • "Bad Human" by Disonic (3:56)
    • this song has one of my favourite quotes of all time: "how can i explain the feelings and the thoughts within...when every word deserves another." it's how i feel most of the time...i can't express anything without rambling on and on. [hence, the extremely long entries here!] the song always gets me in a self-reflective mood.
  • "Blister" by Ditchwater (3:08)
    • this song makes me want to push people and throw things. there's screaming, growling, and heavy guitar riffs. it gets my adrenaline flying. the lyrics are just as straightforward as the song...someone's making fun of him behind his back, and he wants to beat the offender up. Ditchwater was never good at being subtle; that was always part of their charm. what they were good at was making me want to scream and mosh. and, sometimes...that's really all you need.
  • "Bottled" by Dysception (4:38)
    • the entire Three-Thirteen EP by Dysception was gold: it had this song on it, as well as "Inside My Cage" and "Pity." lyric writing was never their strong point; the lyrics are as trite as the song titles make you think they would be. but, no matter. if i'm having a bad day because i'm stressed out with or pissed off at someone, screaming along to Dysception's songs is such a tension reliever. as a side note...when i saw them in concert, Tim always had the best shirts. during the concerts, he would wear a shirt that said "will drum for food." after the show, when it was time to go out drinking, he would wear a different shirt: "will drum for beer." i loved those shirts, and would have bought one if they had sold clones at the merch booth.2
  • "Beautiful" by Escape From Earth (4:14)
    • i never understood why Escape from Earth never made it big outside Chicago. they're on hiatus now, but circa 2003 or 2004 they were one of the biggest bands on the local scene. they played a ton of shows...and regularly played The Metro, the holy grail of concert venues for local rock acts. their music was so radio-friendly that i sometimes feel a little bad for liking them as much as i do...i still have that lingering teenage discomfort with the idea of laying back and enjoying a well-crafted pop song for what it is. in short, Escape from Earth wrote a lot of well-crafted, fun, interesting pop songs. the best of them were their two ballads: "Beautiful" and "Without." i always liked "Beautiful" a little better; whereas "Without" is mourning the loss of a lover, "Beautiful" turns inward and considers the tensions brought about by the fickle monster, self-esteem.
  • "These Days" by Inept (3:31)
    • i have seen Inept more times than any other band...sixteen times, to be exact. and, they only played this song two or three times out of those sixteen. that always frustrated me...because not only does it have an interesting melody, but the lyrics eschew the traditional emo-rock themes of most of their songs in favour of being an extremely thoughtful protest song against the Iraq War. at least this one was recorded, though. my other favourite song of theirs, a tearjerking acoustic number called "Didn't Know You Well Enough", never was...and i only heard it once, at an acoustic show they played at The Fat Bean coffeehouse in Naperville.
  • "Nerve Gas" by Kill Hannah (3:44)
    • i know...Kill Hannah is a little out of place here. this is supposed to be the best Chicago music you've never heard, and you've probably heard Kill Hannah before. but, you've probably not heard this song or anything else off of American Jet Set...and i first heard Kill Hannah back in 2001, when someone in my dorm told me i needed to hear them, and brought me out to the Metro to see them play with Caviar and Ashtar Command. most of the album is very good, and i had trouble picking one song to put on this playlist. it was down to this one and "Get Famous"...and i've been more into this one these last few months. i still can't figure out what the lyrics mean [although i do see that they evoke an inscrutable post-apocalyptic fantasy world], but the song is Kill Hannah at their gloom-pop best.
  • "Schizome" by No Fate (4:49)
    • local Chicago bands wrote some very good songs about being insane in an evil way--this is the first of two on this list. this song is about being aware of the fact that you're the evil kind of crazy, and portrays that inner fight between honestly acting on it and tactfully hiding it. the band was all high school aged when they wrote the song, which makes it even more impressive because they don't sound nearly so young. the guitar solo at the end is a little overdone, but other than that, the song is very well put together.
  • "Cook County Sheriff" by Ratbag Hero (2:29)
    • it takes a special kind of band to write a tongue-in-cheek song about drunk driving. it takes a special kind of band to write a song from the perspective of the drunk driver who died as a result of his own folly...and then have the gall to blame the cop who didn't ticket him for drunk driving and therefore prevent the death. it takes a special kind of band...and Ratbag Hero was a special kind of band. all their songs were about things like booze, girls, partying, and the south side of Chicago...and the songs evinced the same mood as hanging out with them offstage. they weren't serious, but that was the beauty of it. they kept it real more than any other band i ever knew.
  • "Koo?" by Red River (4:47)
    • if "Schizome" was the contemplative song about being crazy, "Koo?" is the song about embracing the insanity. Red River was Chicago's horror-metal band in the late nineties and early oughts. they took the stage dressed in bizarre costumes, complete with fake blood, fake chainsaws, and mannequins that had seen better days. this song fits that picture perfectly...it's about blaming everyone else for your being crazy, resigning yourself to it, and going on a murder spree. there's nothing happy about this song except for the way the groove makes you feel. this is one of those songs that makes you feel a little bit bad for liking it so much, but it's so catchy and fun despite its macabre subject matter that you'll go back to it again and again and again.
  • "The World Is Ours" by Reforma (3:37)
    • you may recognize the name Reforma from the reference i made during my discussion of the Madina Lake concert; Dan and Mateo from Madina Lake used to be in Reforma. it seems as though all references to this band have disappeared from the internet save the occasional Madina Lake fan desperately begging message boards for any of their music. it's too bad, because they were so good--better than Madina Lake, even. rock, dance-pop, hardcore...they mixed it up with panache, and made the crowds go wile. this song came in two versions: the recorded version titled "The World Is Ours", and the live version which they called "Sorry." i wish they had recorded "Sorry"; the lyrics are almost the same, but the singing features a lot less melody and a lot more yelling. i could never decide which version i liked better; it depended on my mood. but, either way, it was my favourite Reforma song.
  • "The Nurse With Amnesia" by Shades of Fiction (3:12)
    • Shades of Fiction just broke up about two weeks ago...and that makes me sad. they didn't say why; they just put up a one-sentence MySpace bulletin saying they were done, and left it at that. they put on such passionate shows. the lead singer, Picasso, was always stellar...and it always made me so sad that i missed his band before Shades of Fiction, Crash Poet. they played Chicago a lot, but i just never got the chance to see them. at least i saw Shades of Fiction two or three times during their lifespan. and...this song was the best of their work. Picasso's voice just soars throughout; no other word suffices to describe it.
  • "Simple Song" by Shooting Blanks! (3:38)
    • Shooting Blanks is so much fun. they call their music "drunkPunk," and this song is exactly that. it's a fun little ditty about being drunk at a party, seeing a cute girl...and being too shy to do anything about it, and resigned to being happily oblivious in a few minutes after passing out. they broke up back in early 2007, but reunited for a fantastic show at The Mutiny back in november of last year. hopefully they'll at least sporadically reunite for shows, because the Chicago scene just isn't as goofy without them.
  • "Sorry Illinois" by Shot Baker (2:40)
    • this song is a cover; Francesco Ostello performed the original. the original is a slow, lilting piece of acoustic folk. Ostello presented the idea...but Shot Baker made it awesome. they took the song and morphed the melody into a loud, fast punk rock song. the songs evoke two different moods about leaving...the original makes you feel like the speaker is just rambling on, but Shot Baker's cover makes it feel like the speaker is frustrated, restless, and needs to leave to maintain his sanity. as someone who finds it almost too easy to feel trapped or frustrated, i find Shot Baker's mood far more relatable. even if you are a little more easygoing, Shot Baker is worth listening to if you appreciate raw punk rock.
  • "Fallen" by Synikal (4:01)
    • it is strange that this band has dropped off the face of the earth...four years ago, they were everywhere. they were never one of my favourite bands in Chicago, but they played with everyone i liked, so i ended up having to watch them perform a lot. they were also one of the few bands on the scene who had a promoter...this guy Dmitri who was always talking them up, passing out flyers, posting about them on internet fora, and otherwise getting the word out about them. sometimes i wonder if that guy had any other job than promoting Synikal. as boring as most of their music was, they had two songs that were fantastic: this one, and "Someday." "Fallen" is remarkable because of its total disconnect between music and lyrics: the music is upbeat and exciting, whereas the lyrics discuss growing apart from someone. it works, though...the excitement feels like a desperate attempt to push past the frustration.
  • "Stars Don't Shine" by Three Words To Live By (3:20)
    • i know nothing about this band. i never did know anything. i never saw them, although according to Metro History they played the Metro once, almost exactly four years ago. that's all i can dig up about them now. i picked up their demo CD from somebody on my way out of another show at the Metro one day, and then lost the CD in the shuffle. i listened to it a few times later in 2004 or early in 2005, and then forgot about it again. i just rediscovered this song last week when it came up in shuffle play on iTunes, and i wonder how i let it slip under the radar for so long. it's a lot more low-key than most songs i listen to; it's not loud, fast, or hard. but, it's a great song for a sad day, or even just a pensive day. it broods about a missed opportunity, a mistimed attraction...and does it honestly, without being overblown.
total time: 70:53.

that was 74 Minutes or Less #4: The Best Chicago Music You've Never Heard. if you've got a thematic idea for a future playlist, comment or email me at superherogirl@gmail.com.

1 and...if you have heard any of these tracks before you read this, please tell me. i apologize in advance for disappointing you by promising music you've never heard. however, i also congratulate you for having discovered one of these hidden gems.
2 ...despite the fact that i can't drum for food, beer, or anything else. when i was singing in a band in college, the drummer in my band tried to teach me a very simple drumbeat. i failed miserably at it when i started trying with both hands--and let's not even talk about when i tried to use my feet as well.

keep reading...


we connect like puzzle pieces. look into my eyes, no words are needed. where have you been all my life?

few people ever gave Videodrone enough respect in the 1990s. they were signed to Elementree Records and lumped into the same corner of the music world as Limp Bizkit, Staind, Orgy...specifically Korn and the bands that they [or their progeny] popularized. Videodrone always seemed to get swept under the rug. they didn't fit in...they were still just a little too rough-edged to gain much mainstream appeal, and their music wasn't easily adaptable for such tastes.

i first heard them in the summer of 1999, when they opened for Orgy. even though Orgy had the more memorable stage presence, Videodrone had the better music. i bought the album soon after the concert, and eight and a half years later it still remains in regular rotation. i always thought it was a shame that the self-titled album was the only one they released, because it was so good.

the group did release a few other recordings under the name Cradle of Thorns, but the music under that name was so different from the music that Videodrone put out that they can hardly be considered the same band. i didn't find the old Cradle of Thorns music very interesting. it had a lot of anger and a lot of edge, and featured Ty Elam's strong voice, but the band had not yet learned how to put together a compelling melody.

that all changed with Videodrone. one member of the band left so the band renamed itself...and exhibited a previously unreached level of songwriting prowess. the only song that reminded me much of Cradle of Thorns was "L.S.D. (Lucifer's Stained Dress)." to this day, that's the one track that i still skip over. i listen to everything else. it's just as angry as the Cradle of Thorns stuff, and just as emotional...but it expresses the emotions more melodically than the older songs.

this is the only song for which they ever made a video: "Ty Jonathan Down."

that's one of my favourite tracks on the album...but to hit the highest points, you need to listen to two other songs: "Faceplant" and "Alone With 20 Bucks". "Faceplant" is a song about cheating, but from the cheater's point of view. the speaker is an asshole, a commitment-phobe...but there's enough there in the song that is so human that even someone who is not slimy can relate to the fears expressed. "Alone With 20 Bucks" is most likely about someone who is out looking for a prostitute...but focuses less on the act and more on how artificial and detached it can feel to have grown up in modern society.

that's the beauty of Videodrone, and another thing that sets it apart from Cradle of Thorns: even though the topics of the songs range from horrible to just sleazy, they portray the topics in a way that any person who isn't hiding behind rose-coloured glasses can relate to. even though the album came out near the end of the decade, their self-titled album is easily one of my top records of the nineties.

Videodrone has been dead and gone since 2000, but technically Cradle of Thorns has been revived. i say technically because it lacks any original members other than Ty Elam. musically, it lies somewhere in between the old Cradle of Thorns and Videodrone. it's a little more melodic than the old stuff, and features fewer attempts to be scary for the sake of being scary.

however, the music isn't quite as interesting. they've got four songs posted on their myspace to listen to: two songs from 1990, and two songs from the new incarnation of Cradle of Thorns. as for the new songs, i'm disappointed. both of the new ones have a melodic idea that feels like it's building somewhere, but never seems to get there.

the melody in "All Over Again" is especially engaging at first listen. after about a minute and a half it gets disappointingly repetitive. the verses are so promising; the melody tantalizingly builds, and feels like it's going somewhere interesting. however, the chorus and the bridge do not feel like the places where the song is supposed to go...on the contrary, they lack the energy of the verses, and hinder the progress of the song.

in other words...Ty has a gorgeous voice, but was obviously not the only force behind Videodrone's music. it doesn't matter if it's new Cradle of Thorns or old Cradle of Thorns...i'd rather have Videodrone any day.

keep reading...


74 Minutes or Less #3: 1998

welcome to the third installment of 74 Minutes or Less.

74 Minutes or Less is the weekly supergig playlist. the concept is simple: i pick a theme, i choose at most 74 minutes of music that fits the theme, and i discuss it here. if you, or i, or anyone else thinks the playlist is so awesome that it deserves to be compiled and burned to CD for posterity, it won't be a problem--because it's no longer than 74 minutes.

this week's theme is 1998. 1998 was the first year during which i was a music fan from beginning to end. i had my awakening in the middle of 1997...but by the time 1998 rolled around, i had a decent idea of the lay of the musical land, i had a handful of bands i liked, and was building on that through such groundbreaking sources as the internet and MTV's 120 Minutes.

[of course i mean "groundbreaking" sarcastically. i was fifteen, sixteen years old. what do you expect?]

i determined what music was from 1998 by album release date. it's the fairest way to do it...my memory is a little fuzzy about what songs are from specific years. some 1996 or 1997 songs i did not hear until that year, and some 1999 or 2000 songs i sometimes think are from 1998, because everything just lumps together in my brain as "songs that i really, really liked in high school." furthermore, even though i discovered some of these songs significantly later than 1998, it's still a testament to the wonderful state of music that year, and it was my folly that i didn't hear the song until later.

i decided to go by first album release date and not by single release date or album reprint release date. this may mean i miss out on some great songs that hit the height of their popularity in 1998, but if i do lists for other years, they have a fair shake of getting on the list for the year the album first came out. i had to draw the line somewhere, so there's the line. it's a little heartbreaking, because i have to exclude "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger. that song defined the summer of 1998 for me, but Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone? was originally released in 1997. it was re-released by a major label in 1998, but since the album in its entirety was released by Arena Rock (an independent label) in 1997, it is a 1997 song by the rules i laid down for this project.

i also don't include songs from greatest hits albums, also to avoid double-counting. seriously, though? that's just cheating. a song compiled on a Greatest Hits album in 1998 is not a part of the musical landscape of 1998 by virtue of that coincidence. it still belongs to the year during which it was first released.

with those ground rules, i present: 74 minutes or less of the best music from 1998, in order by album release date.

  • "Meet Virginia" by Train (Train, released February 24, 1998) (4:00)
    • ten years ago, this was an anthem of my teenage frustration. i scared one of my classmates with a quote from this song that was written on my backpack: "well she wants to live her life/then she thinks about her life/throws her hair back as she screams/i don't really want to live this life." he thought i was suicidal. it wasn't that...i was just frustrated, as any high school loner was. and, the plaintive screaming, almost crying, in this song was anthemic. i'm only sometimes so disillusioned anymore, and find it easier to see Virginia's beautiful side. it's not the defining song it was in high school, but i still really like listening to it.
  • "Airport Song" by Guster (Goldfly, released March 4, 1998) (3:13)
    • there's no deep meaning behind why this song is on here. the bongo drums have a good beat, the harmonies are tight, and it's catchy enough to pop into my head at the weirdest of times. it's just a fun song. they played it quite a bit on the radio over that summer when i was at nerd camp...and then i didn't hear it again for a few years afterward because they never played it at home. i missed it.
  • "Untitled" by Fuel (Sunburn, released March 31, 1998) (3:58)
    • forget the singles; this song is Fuel at its best. it's so simple: the song has very few lyrics, but they all go to the heart of being stuck in a rut and feeling frustrated. the music fits the mood perfectly...it's a simple, repetitive guitar motif that just feels like banging on that wall that you're trapped behind.
  • "I Got The Hook-Up" by Master P (I Got The Hook-Up (original motion picture soundtrack), released April 7, 1998) (4:14)
    • some songs are so hilariously awful that they stick with you. this is one of them. sure, it's one more piece of that ubiquitous pabulum that Master P's No Limit Records put out during the late nineties. but, this song made me laugh then, and it still makes me laugh ten years later. it's repetitive, it's ridiculous, and that's all part of its charm. it's the title theme to Master P's movie about a skeezy stolen cell phone schemer...and if that subject matter can't underlie a song so bad it's good, i don't know what can.
  • "Waking Up Beside You" by Stabbing Westward (Darkest Days, released April 7, 1998) (6:34)
    • i'm not prone to the emotion conveyed in this song: this song is about profoundly missing an ex, whereas my general practice is to cut an ex loose and never look back. still, this song is gorgeous...and a perfect ending to Darkest Days: a concept album about the psychological process of getting through a breakup. in this song...the speaker is done being shocked, he's done with his unrealistic expectations of moving on too soon, he's done being mad...and he is just sad now that he is finally coming to terms with the fact that it's over. it took sixteen songs to get here, and it's a worthy ending to a powerful cycle of songs.
  • "Open Road Song" by Eve 6 (Eve 6, released April 28, 1998) (3:17)
    • i hate driving, but i love driving songs. i love the feeling of being in transit...being neither here nor there. it feels like i'm progressing and improving, but since i'm moving i really don't have to do anything about my cares until i get to a destination. most driving songs just make me feel happy and carefree. this song is sort the meta-driving song: it's a great driving song about driving with a great driving song on the radio.
  • "Give" by Cold (Cold, released June 2, 1998) (3:50)
    • i didn't get into Cold until 2000 or 2001, but i remember reading a review of this album in a guitar magazine when it came out. i ignored it, but realised later that i was an idiot for ignoring it. i had cheated myself out of two years of quality time with this album. this song is the best of it: the guitars drive forcefully and the lyrics convey honest, unbridled anger. it's a perfect anthem for those bad days when you don't want to throw a pity party, but just want to slap people or break things.
  • "Stay Awake" by Dishwalla (And You Think You Know What Life's About, released August 11, 1998) (4:15)
    • everyone knows Dishwalla for "Counting Blue Cars"...a song i think is a rather boring example of nineties pop-rock. i never much liked it. that's why this song took me by surprise. it has a little bit darker feeling to it, and an almost techno-sounding use of guitar feedback.
  • "Dizzy" by Orgy (Candyass, released August 18, 1998) (3:21)
    • i always feel so bad for liking this song. the lyrics verge on the misogynistic ("you're just another pretty face in a roomful of whores/no, you don't mean much"). but, i always end up ignoring it because the song sounds so cool. Jay Gordon's voice sounds like a robot in the beginning, and as he repeats the same lyrics over and over again, he sounds more and more like a person...it's as if he realises what's going on and moves from robotic detachment to human indignation. the effect of the transition is interesting, and stays just as fascinating after many listens to the song.
  • "At The Stars" by Better Than Ezra (How Does Your Garden Grow?, released August 25, 1998) (3:43)
    • Better Than Ezra's greatest songs are all their melodramatic ballads. "Desperately Wanting" is probably their best one, but this one is not far behind. it holds it own. it's the second of three driving songs...although, unlike the other two, it doesn't have the vibe of driving to take advantage of freedom. it's a very atypical driving song. instead, this one encompasses the opposite feeling: driving because things where you should be are so bad that the road is the only place to disappear. it brings a feeling of freedom...but freedom through avoidance, and not because you're actually carefree.
  • "Keep Away" by Godsmack (Godsmack, released August 25, 1998) (4:50)
    • this song stands the test of time far worse than anything else on here. it's a bit boring, and extremely trite--a teen angst anthem that only a teenager could appreciate. but, i loved this song so much in high school that i had to put it on here. i have such a soft spot for it because i went to such great lengths to hear it. it came on a radio station that only came on in the car, not in the house. so, if my parents ever needed an errand run around 9pm when the countdown on this station was on, i would beg them to let me drive, because it was the only way i would ever be able to hear this song.
  • "Coma White" by Marilyn Manson (Mechanical Animals, released September 15, 1998) (5:38)
    • most songs by Marilyn Manson are spooky in an overdone way...they try to be scary and shocking. that's why i don't care for a lot of their music. it sounds forced. however, this one is genuinely spooky. they didn't try to tell a story about death and destruction and apocalypse...instead, they painted an honest picture of a drug addict falling further and further away from reality and human connection. no one was preaching anything. no one was glorifying anything. the song is very well-done: it taps into a real human fear of disconnection with other people. for that, it's spooky.
  • "Black Balloon" by Goo Goo Dolls (Dizzy Up The Girl, released September 22, 1998) (4:09)
    • this song is just pretty. there's very little else to say about it...the song itself is very simple, although every time i think of harmonies that could be added to it and start trying to sing them. they're nice enough and they make harmonic sense...but they don't ever work as well as the original. the sparse arrangement works; this song doesn't need glitter or flair.
  • "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans (Gran Turismo, released October 1, 1998) (3:36)
    • this is the last of the driving songs on here; 1998 was a great year for driving songs. everyone associates The Cardigans with that awfully annoying "Lovefool" song. i couldn't stand that song; it was far too cutesie for my tastes. this song is a far better use of Nina Persson's voice. instead of sounding simpering, she sounds sultry. unlike the other driving songs on this list, the subject matter has nothing to do with driving a car...but the song is so perfectly suited for flying down the road that i can think of nothing else when i listen to it.
  • "Every Monday" by The Marvelous 3 (Hey Album!, released October 27, 1998) (3:23)
    • i had heard "Freak of the Week" back in 1998, but i didn't hear this song until several years later. i love the part in the first verse where the speaker "talked to the city that knows me by name/and all the bad things that i do." most of the song is just a really catchy breakup song...but that line does such a good job of portraying how a place can feel like home. a home city really is like a good friend...you can do all kinds of awful things there, and still feel close to it. that's how i feel whenever i'm in Chicago...i've been at my best there, i've been at my worst there, and i feel a personal connection to the place no matter what.
  • "The Kids Aren't Alright" by The Offspring (Americana, released November 17, 1998) (3:00)
    • the lyrics are a pointed description of failed teenage lives, but that's not why it's one of the best songs of 1998. the guitar riff at the beginning of the song is. it smoothly braids together the elements of the song in one interesting soundscape before the verses unpack it. many introductions try to do this, but few succeed nearly as well as this one.
  • "Turn the Page" by Metallica (Garage, Inc., released November 24, 1998) (6:06)
    • Bob Seger originally did this, but Metallica found a good thing and improved on it. i was never a fan of Bob Seger's version; i always found it to be far too languid for my tastes. Metallica put some much-needed energy into the song. the basic melody is the same as the original, but what they did with it was far more interesting. they did exactly what you need to do when making a cover: they put their own take on it. it wasn't Metallica trying to copy Bob Seger. it was Metallica taking Bob Seger's melodic idea and turning it into one of the best Metallica songs ever.
total time: 71:07.

that was 74 Minutes or Less #3: 1998. if you've got a thematic idea for a future playlist, comment or email me at superherogirl@gmail.com.

keep reading...



King Steve was listening to the radio this morning, and the deejays posed an interesting question.

If you were stranded on a island and only had 3 albums (that aren’t greatest hits) which 3 would you choose?

i used to think a lot about finite lists of CDs that i would take with me, because it used to be an issue. which five CDs am i going to take to this party? which twelve albums am i going to toss in my CD book to take on the car trip this weekend? what three CDs am i going to put in my CD changer to provide the soundtrack to my afternoon?

i don't think about that very much anymore. my stereo [with a three-CD changer] kicked the bucket when i mailed it from Chicago to St. Louis back in 2005. that was about the same time that i got a shiny new laptop, with sufficient hard drive space import my CDs. i downloaded iTunes and used my computer as my stereo. last summer, it got even easier to take my music around with me, since i finally bought an iPod. my iPod has more memory than my laptop does. i can take my entire music collection with me.

it's an amazing thing. i used to be out of luck if i got a hankering to listen to something later in the day, and hadn't tossed that album in my bag that morning. that was a common annoyance. now? i've got sixteen and a half gigs of music sitting in my back pocket right now, and if a song that pops into my head is anywhere in my music collection, i can turn it on instantly. in other words, i'm spoiled.

the concept of only be able to bring three CDs to a desert island is absurd. if i knew i was going to be stranded somewhere where i couldn't use my iPod, but could somehow play CDs...i'd stuff as much of my music in my bag as possible. if i didn't know i'd be stranded on a desert island...i'd just have my iPod with me, and would be sore out of luck.

but, it's an interesting gedanken experiment. what three CDs would be the most satisfying to listen to over and over again...as my entire musical universe. i'm most concerned about the music having a broad emotional range. i need things i can listen to when i'm happy, sad, angry, alienated, and any mood in betweeen.

so...these are the three albums i'd take with me if i were going to be stranded with only three albums.

ReadySexGo by The Marvelous 3

yeah, i know. the cover is kind of scary, in that it verges on pornographic.

but, it's the most fun album i have ever heard. it stands up to repeated listens like no other album. i listened to this album over and over and over again when i was working at the law library as an undergrad...it was a very good friend of mine while i barcoded books. Butch Walker is rather popular nowadays as a songwriter, but the stuff he performs solo doesn't hold a candle to the music he wrote and performed with this band.

"Get Over" and "Grant Park" are fist-pumpers that combine grandiose eighties arena rock puffery in the choruses with catchy, silly stories in the verses. "Radio Tokyo" is an interesting ballad...and the lyrics would keep me thinking on the desert island, as i still have not figured out what they mean. even the song they wrote to make fun of big, sweeping rock ballads, aptly titled "Cigarette Lighter Love Song," is a very well done rock ballad in its own right.

by all logic i should not like this album a whole lot. by all logic it would be a train wreck. the Marvelous 3 generally made catchy, intelligent power pop. this album, their last, was a middle finger to their record company who was about to drop them--they deliberately made an arena-rock album to piss them off. but, it doesn't matter if he's writing power pop, acoustic music, or arena rock--Butch Walker is a brilliant songwriter, and can write anything he wants. and...not only is the ironic, sarcastic arena rock is the best of what he is written, but it is one of the most interesting, enjoyable, and repeatable albums i've found in my life as a music fan.

Pop Smear by The Verve Pipe

thematically and musically, this is probably the weirdest compilation of songs by one band on one album, ever. to hit a few of the most interesting points...it has a lullaby ["Sleepy Town"], a folk ballad about a Waco-like cult leader ["Out Like a Lamb"], and a song that snarks on politicians by stringing together a deliciously confusing thread of puns and wordplay ["Senator Speak"].

it was a close call between this album and The Verve Pipe's self-titled album, since i love them both for such similar reasons and they both stand up to repeated listenings very well. it would also be a bummer to be marooned, never to hear the song "Generations" [my favourite song from the self-title] again. but, The Verve Pipe contains a bit more in the way of sappy, wistful love songs. they're well done, but i'd prefer an album that's a little more lyrically sarcastic in its treatment of love, in the songs that treat the subject. Pop Smear is.

Secret Samadhi by Live

conventional wisdom says that Throwing Copper is Live's best album. conventional wisdom is wrong.

sure, there are some really good songs on that album. but, there are still a few that i skip past. that's not the case with Secret Samadhi. it's hard to believe with the light adult-contemporary albums Live has been releasing for the last five or seven years, or even from the fact that the most popular single from this album was "Turn My Head": but Secret Samadhi rocked. hard. "Century," "Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe," "Freaks," "Heropsychodreamer"...that album contains so many songs that are full of energy and make me just want to push people and throw things.

the final track on the album, "Gas Hed Goes West," is one of the most interesting road songs i've heard. sonically, it has the same freedom as a classic road song. the music, the melodies...it's all perfect to blast when you're flying down the road. but then, you listen to the lyrics--and they are jaded. it's sung from the point of view of a cynical guy who is intrigued and yet almost disgusted that someone can still feel any sense of wonder in life.

so...those are the three albums i would take with me if i were stranded on a desert island, or anywhere else where i was somehow restricted to three albums to listen to for an extended period of time.

what are yours?

keep reading...


the supergig guide to rock and roll etiquette

last weekend i saw Madina Lake, Every Avenue, Good 4 Nothing, The Shower Scene, and Evident Phase at the Creepy Crawl. the concert was good...well, at least three of the bands were. one was mediocre. one was awful.

and, the behaviour by some of the rockers and some of the fans was just inexcusable.

Madina Lake is one of my favourite bands from Chicago, and they always put on passionate shows that make the crowd go nuts. they're a little bit emo and a little bit rock. i've known them all since they were in their previous bands...Mateo and Dan used to be in Reforma, and Nathan and Matthew used to be in The Blank Theory. Madina Lake's music is significantly different from either of these old bands, but just as worth listening to. their song "Adalia" is one of the defining songs of my law school life...what can i say? law school can make a girl feel really emotionally disconnected sometimes, just like the subject of this song. furthermore, even though this band has gone further than any of their previous bands, they haven't gotten too big for their britches. they're still really nice guys off the stage, and act exactly the same way now as when they were playing much smaller venues to much smaller crowds.

Good 4 Nothing has an awful [and awfully trite] band name...but their music was amazing. they played fast pop-punk with tight harmonies and fun stage presence to match; i'm glad they made the trip over from Japan to play. The Shower Scene is a local band from Carbondale, Illinois, who plays really solid emo. they're a fairly new band, but i'm expecting really good things from them in the future.

i wasn't too crazy about Evident Phase. the instrumentalists were competent enough, but their original songs were not all that interesting, and their singer couldn't sing. they weren't the worst band i'd ever heard, but i have no desire to hear them again.

and then...there was Every Avenue. they were one of the worst live bands i have ever seen. their music stole every cliche that Fall Out Boy uses, but performed them significantly less competently. furthermore, the lead singer had a terrible attitude. so terrible, in fact, that he inspired me to create:

the supergig guide to rock and roll etiquette!

1. do not act entitled to the crowd's adoration.

merely standing on the stage does not entitle you to the crowd's love and adoration. you must earn it by playing good music.

this sounds like a simple enough principle, but Every Avenue didn't quite get it. during the show, the singer and one of the guitarists kept asking for the crowd to cheer. their noses stayed turned in the air, their body posture haughty. they carried themselves liked they owned the stage, the club, and all of the people inside the club. that may work in Michigan, where they are from, and where they doubtless know enough people on the music scene that they might be able to get away with acting like they're hot stuff. they may be big fish in the small pond there.

but, they didn't know anyone here. they needed to work for their cheers, and they didn't. they played extremely boring music, and alienated the crowd some more by acting the way they did. they complained about how dead the crowd was, and told us we could do better than that when we did manage a lackluster noise.

it was rather impressive, really, how quickly they lost the crowd. they were the fourth band to play--they played right after Good 4 Nothing and right before Madina Lake. Good 4 Nothing had the crowd jumping, moshing, and going nuts despite the fact that almost no one there knew who they were. the crowd was buzzing--enjoying the high from a really good punk band, and excited to see Madina Lake next. we didn't need much to keep the high going, and Every Avenue failed to deliver even that marginal bit of interest to keep the crowd's pulse going.

and yet, they acted entitled to everyone's love. it wouldn't have been so bad if they didn't act so full of themselves. we would have cheered at least a little if they had just gone up there, been earnest, and played what they had without giving us an attitude. but, they didn't. a rock crowd knows phonies when we see them, and Every Avenue was a bunch of phonies.

2. don't spit water on people.

splashing fresh water on the crowd is okay. it gets hot in the mosh pit. water is refreshing and cool. fresh water is clean. Madina Lake knew this. a lot of the crowd got wet during their set, but this is because Nathan kept opening fresh bottles of water and then tossing them into the crowd. this was very nice of Nathan to do.

but, the key word is fresh. the fact that water is refreshing does not mean that you should take a big swig of water and then spit it out on the crowd. this sounds like a pretty obvious rule of etiquette, but somebody didn't quite get that. and by somebody, of course i mean the lead singer of Every Avenue.

several times during the show, he spit water out on the crowd. i was in the middle, a few rows back from the stage. this means that several times during the show, i had his nasty saliva-tainted water raining down on me. this did not make me happy. i was already frustrated enough at his band because their music was boring and their attitude was haughty. the fact that the lead singer was spitting on me did not endear me any more to them.

if these two rules of etiquette went a little long for you, i'll shorten it. Rocker Etiquette For Dummies? don't be this bagga doucha:

the fans at this show are not off the hook, either. a few bad apples in the crowd necessitate a third rule in this guide to rock and roll etiquette:

3. don't chuck ceiling tiles at people.

this one should be obvious. since i had the occasion to think of such an admonition, it was clearly not obvious to a few people at the Creepy last saturday night.

during Madina Lake's set, the crowd started bopping large balloons around. this is no problem at all. balloons are light, safe, and don't have sharp edges.

the problem is that the Creepy Crawl is a major dive, and the ceiling tiles aren't securely anchored to the ceiling. when the balloons hit the ceiling tiles, sometimes the ceiling tiles would dislodge and fall to the floor. i wasn't worried about this at first. i assumed the people would have the good sense to either keep the tiles on the floor or to whisk them away to the sides of the room as soon as posslble.

but, a few morons in the crowd did not have this good sense. instead, they decided that the proper thing to do would be to chuck the ceiling tiles at other people in the crowd, as hard as possible. of course, no one threw them like frisbees so they would even have a chance of flying out to the sides and staying there. no. they threw the tiles overhand, from overhead, the tiles perpendicular to the floor...so they had the best possible chance to hit people really, really hard.

this meant i got a faceful of ceiling tile.

i was looking in one direction, trying to keep my eye on multiple ceiling tiles. suddenly, from the other direction, a ceiling tile hit me in the face: its edge smacked right down the left side of my face. it hurt! a lot! and even worse, the entire underside and edges of the tile were covered in fibreglass insulation. thus, not only was i sore--i was picking prickly little pieces of fibreglass out of my face for twenty-four hours solid.

there are certain things that are known, anticipated hazards of going to rock shows. i was expecting my ears to be ringing for a day or two. i was expecting a few bruises from being down in the pit. i could have possibly even foreseen the nasty spit-laced water showers. but, a ceiling tile? a day of picking fibreglass out of my face? that came out of nowhere.

keep reading...


74 Minutes or Less #2: Wesley Willis

welcome to the second installment of 74 Minutes or Less.

74 Minutes or Less is the weekly supergig playlist. the concept is simple: i pick a theme, i choose at most 74 minutes of music that fits the theme, and i discuss it here. if you, or i, or anyone else thinks the playlist is so awesome that it deserves to be compiled and burned to CD for posterity, it won't be a problem--because it's no longer than 74 minutes.

this week's theme is Wesley Willis. i love Wesley Willis. a lot. he is one of my favourite musicians. his songs interest, intrigue, and amuse me. his music is bizarre: it basically consists of his incoherent, schizophrenic rantings over a keyboard. he is a true Chicago original; he was originally a street musician, until Dale Meiners discovered him and encouraged him to record and sell his songs.

almost all of his songs follow a very simple format...although not all of them do. most of them are done over a clunky Casio keyboard, although he did record a few albums with the Wesley Willis Fiasco--the Fiasco songs had full rock band instrumentation. the topics of his songs run the gamut. Wesley himself said it best when he stated, "I write songs about people getting killed. I write songs about people getting beaten up. I write songs about people getting taken to jail by the police. But, I also write songs about love and happiness."

my goal is to collect all of his music. he was prolific...he released at least fifty albums. i doubt there exists even a comprehensive list of all of the albums he released; i have been looking for years, and not yet found one. many of his albums were self-released, and he would sell them on the street in Chicago.

i don't have all of his albums yet. i have seventeen of them...a good start, although not exhaustive. so, this may not be the best 74 minutes or less of Wesley's music...but the following songs are best of what i've found in my first seven years of being a Wesley Willis fan. it was almost impossible to whittle my favourite Wesley tunes down to that length, but somehow i managed to do it.

  • "It's the End of the Western" (3:14)
    • this song makes no sense whatsoever. i have no idea why he wrote it, or what he's trying to get at. it's absurd, even for him. all the verses follow the same theme, the end of certain Old West stereotypes.
  • "King of Fire" (3:03)
    • this song makes even less sense than "It's The End of the Western." the first two verses kind of tell a story...albeit one of a dragon flying around and eventually getting mad at Wesley for no reason. that would almost make sense...as a dragon can be seen as a king of fire. the third verse, however, abandons the dragon story altogether and talks about a guy shooting at a target...or Wesley...or something. this is another song that is great specifically because it is absurd.
  • "The Termites Ate My House Up" (3:11)
    • this song proposes the most unorthodox pest extermination method ever: shooting up a house with a BB gun. not very effective, but you can have an A for effort and creativity.
  • "My Mother Smokes Crack Rocks" (2:28)
    • this song provides one of the most absurdly humourous mental images of any Wesley Willis song. he claims, "my mother smokes that crack like a cigar." even though that's not exactly what it says, the line gives me a mental image of a cigar full of crack. it's stupid and wonderful.
  • "Firewall the Throttle" (2:48)
    • this is another song i like just for the random observations he makes. driving at fifty-five miles an hour? being a safe driver? those things are not really what i think of when i think of firewalling the throttle, but at least he advocates doing it responsibly. i also like his naming of random vehicles like gasoline trucks. it's like a musical rendition of Wesley Willis' urban art.
  • "Rick Sims" (2:22)
    • Wesley Willis likes writing songs about singers and bands. usually he sings about a specific show, although sometimes he just raves in the abstract about how good a singer is. this one falls in the latter category. he passes some very weird compliments in this song. my favourite? "i love the way you cuss the crowd. this means you are telling them something. i love the way you tell those stupid sons of a bitches to fuck off. right on, brother!" in other words, he loves how insulting this singer is to his fans? brilliant!
  • "Medley" (2:48)
    • most of the songs about shows focus on one show for the entire song. this song, however, contains several mini-songs of that variety--each song covers one band's show. fittingly, he called the song "Medley." it's...self-aware Wesley.
  • "I'm the Daddy of Rock and Roll" (2:54)
    • Wesley Willis occasionally wrote songs about how awesome he was. this is the best of that subset of songs. the final verse, in which he tells the story of his rise to stardom, is quintessential Wesley Willis stream of consciousness: "this is my rock and roll music career God gave me. God gave me this rock music career to keep me busy. back in 1991, i used to hit old people with folding chairs. suddenly i moved to the north side of Chicago in the summer of 1992. it made the rock star out of me at last." it's true...Wesley Willis is the daddy of rock and roll.
  • "I'm Going on a World Tour" (2:52)
    • this is another song Wesley wrote about his music career. it captures the unabashed joy of travelling around, playing music, and making music fans happy. it's such a simple song...but Wesley's best example of really happy mood music.
  • "Suck A Caribou's Ass" (2:50)
    • another one of the Wesley Willis archetypes are what he called bestiality songs. these are his schizophrenic rantings at their most...schizophrenic. "suck a cheetah's dick" is the one most people know...but this one is better. the keyboard accompaniment is cheesily futuristic, and he mentions llamas.
  • "Suck a Polar Bear's Dick" (2:07)
    • another bestiality song, of course. it's not lyrically as amusing as "Caribou"...but he sings it through some kind of processor that makes his voice sound like a robot! that's enough to get it played over and over.
  • "Beat My Ass" (2:51)
    • this song sounds expansive and majestic. that's hard to do with a clunky old Casio keyboard, a song formula, and a request to be beaten up...but he does it.
  • "Birdman Kicked My Ass" (2:59)
    • Wesley Willis sings a lot of songs about getting into fights with superheroes. in most of them, he beats the stuffing out of the superheroes. he beat Batman, Superman, Spiderman...but was no match for Birdman. [really, the only way it would be funnier is if he had been vanquished by Aquaman.] this song has it all: second-tier superheroes, O.J. Simpson references, trespassing, pistol-whipping...all the best elements of a funny story.
  • "Kris Kringle Was a Car Thief" (3:24)
    • this is up with "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" by Bob Rivers as one of my favourite holiday tunes. [can you tell i hate the holidays?] this is a song about Santa Claus doing some unsavory things: stealing a car, cruising West Fullerton Avenue for hookers, and eventually getting caught by the cops. merry christmas!
  • "Cut the Mullet" (2:55)
    • this is one of Wesley's most popular songs for good reason. it's just Wesley Willis telling it like it is: mullets are awful, awful hairstyles, and no one has any business wearing a mullet. it's true..."nobody wants to look at you with that mullet on your head." call it fashion advice for all people.
  • "Wrigley Field" (2:48)
    • the first two verses of this song are overly optimistic--just like every Cubs fan i've ever met. they sing about how the Cubs are on their way to victory. but, unlike most Cubs fans who make these proclamations with a sense of entitlement, Wesley Willis delivers the lines with an almost childish naivete. however, where this song really shines is the last verse. he sings about a game against the Phillies, and ends it with a hearty "Holy Cow!", á la Harry Caray.
  • "Ricky Gott" (2:44)
    • one of Wesley Willis' basic song types is the criminal song: he sings about a person committing a crime and then getting convicted and sentenced for the crime. this criminal song is notable because of the crime he sings about: robbing a grain elevator of $13,000. what a strange place to sing about robbing!
  • "Russell Chintell" (2:23)
    • this is another criminal song notable for the crime that he chooses. this one is about a guy hijacking an airplane. he refers to the hijacker as "an airplane troublemaker." oh, Wesley...you do have a way with understatement.
  • "He's Doing Time in Jail" (3:33)
    • this is another criminal song. it's a song Wesley Willis did with the Fiasco. this song is the best of his several pieces about the time he was slashed with a box cutter after he got off the #4 Cottage Grove bus. not only does he go through the details of the incident in remarkable detail, but he sounds so satisfied at the end when he sings that the perpetrator is doing time in jail.
  • "Jadroplov" (2:51)
    • this is another criminal song. however, it is one of only two criminal songs of his that i know in which the accused is found not guilty. the alleged crime in this song is rather bizarre, as well: robbing a pulpit of $9,000. his descriptions of the angry preacher are priceless: at the end of the song, he states that "Reverend Henry E. Miller was mad as a mother fucker." the way he over-enunciates that phrase makes it perfect.
  • "Larry Nevers/Walter Budzyn" (2:42)
    • most of the criminal songs are fictional...or, at least, refer to crimes so ill-documented that the best google-fu will reveal no information about the underlying crime. occasionally, however, he sings about real, well-documented crimes. this song is apt, lucid social commentary: it discusses a real incident of police brutality, when Nevers and Budzyn fatally beat a suspect outside a crack house, and takes the cops to task.
  • "Richard Speck" (2:26)
    • this is another nonfictional criminal song. it covers an infamous Chicago crime: when Richard Speck broke into a house full of nurses and killed eight of them. it's amazing--Wesley Willis gets his facts straight on this one. Like "Nevers/Budzyn", he did his research, distilled the story down to its most salient points, and sang about it. call it...an absurd permutation of the folk song.
  • "I Broke Out Your Windshield" (2:33)
    • this is almost a criminal song...but a very strange variant. this is one in which Wesley claims to have committed the crime. [of course, it's fictional.] this one is about breaking into a car and eventually setting it on fire and killing someone. that's the fundamental absurdity of the song--it's about committing all sorts of heinous crimes with reckless abandon, and yet he continues to brag about the lightest offense in the litany: breaking out the windshield of the car.
  • "Fuck You" (1:54)
    • call it "Take This Job and Shove It" for the next generation. if you've ever been overworked, underpaid, and subjected to a jerk of a boss, this is the song for you. it's a straightforward, angry string of insults...and i dare anyone who wants to quit a job in a blaze of glory to play this song for their boss and then storm out of the office.
  • "Move Your Ass" (2:57)
    • call it "Hit The Road, Jack" meets "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover." it's a string of angrily delivered commands for someone obnoxious to just go away. i love when he screams, "hit the Dan Ryan Expressway, jerk!" usually when telling someone to hit the road, you don't tell them which road to hit.
  • "You Better Find My Pistol" (2:49)
    • this is probably his angriest song. sure, he has far more violent songs and far more vulgarly insulting songs, but never does he scream and growl as angrily as he does in this song. it's enough to make you jump up and start rifling through your closet and your dresser drawer for his Smith and Wesson, just so he stops yelling at you. i also appreciate all of the references to a "karate stick." it's an endearing misnomer...i'm assuming he's referring to a bō, like Donatello of the Ninja Turtles used, but using the right name would violate the entire aesthetic of the song...and of Wesley Willis' music in general.
total time: 73:26.

that was 74 Minutes or Less #2: Wesley Willis. if you've got a thematic idea for a future playlist, comment or email me at superherogirl@gmail.com.

keep reading...


74 Minutes or Less #1: Guitar Heroes

welcome to the first installment of 74 Minutes or Less.

74 Minutes or Less is the weekly supergig playlist. the concept is simple: i pick a theme, i choose at most 74 minutes of music that fits the theme, and i discuss it here. if you, or i, or anyone else thinks the playlist is so awesome that it deserves to be compiled and burned to CD for posterity, it won't be a problem--because it's no longer than 74 minutes.

this week's theme is Guitar Heroes: music from the Guitar Hero video games. i love playing Guitar Hero. a lot. i'm not particularly good at it...i'm a solid Medium player, but my fingers still can't handle Hard very well. the premise [for anyone who has spent the last two years living under a rock] is fantastic: pretend to be a guitarist, follow the dots on the screen, push the right buttons on a guitar-shaped controller, and rock out to your favourite songs despite your lack of guitar-playing skills. instead of living vicariously through my favourite rock stars, i can suspend disbelief and pretend that my rendition of that intricate guitar solo is awesome enough to make the crowd roar. it's genius.

there are a lot of good songs on the Guitar Hero games, but here are the best of the best.

  • "Arterial Black" by Drist (3:15)
    • some of the unlockable tracks from unknown artists are amazing. i can thank Guitar Hero for exposing me to several great yet underrated bands, including Drist. this wasn't the first Drist song on a Guitar Hero game; "Decontrol" could be unlocked on Guitar Hero 1. it rocked pretty hard, but "Arterial Black" was the song that put Drist on my musical map for good. "Decontrol" had loud guitars going for it...but "Arterial Black" had the memorable melody and vocal lines to back up all that shredding.
  • "Avalancha" by Héroes del Silencio (3:59)
    • somehow i missed this song when it first came out back in 1996. i owe it to Guitar Hero 3, and to my friend Phil's insistence on playing this song a lot, that i finally discovered it eleven years later. i vaguely remember the existence of the mid-to-late 1990s "rock en español" scene; maybe i would have paid more attention to it if the snippets from it that i heard were as good as "Avalancha." i love Enrique Bunbury's voice...it has almost the same plaintively pleading tone as Cool for August's Gordon Vaughn. Gordon Vaughn has one of the best rock voices i've ever heard...so that's an amazing compliment.
  • "Beast and the Harlot" by Avenged Sevenfold (5:41)
    • unlike most Guitar Hero players i know, i had heard this song before i ever started playing Guitar Hero 2...the song was a morning mainstay of mine back in the fall of 2005. i didn't have a radio, so sometimes i'd turn on MTV2 and this song would be on. i got to the point of turning on MTV2 in the mornings specifically to hear this song while getting ready for school; rarely was i disappointed. the chorus is catchy, and the key change at the end of the song is perfect--every time i listen to the song, i spend the entire second half of the song in giddy anticipation.
  • "Godzilla" by Blue Öyster Cult (3:40)
    • imagine Webster's Dictionary had an audio version. you pick up this dictionary and look up the word "groove." the dictionary would play the main riff from this song. go ahead, give it a listen. not only does it anchor the song perfectly, but you also feel ten times cooler than you felt before you started listening to the song.
  • "Hangar 18" by Megadeth (5:12)
    • it's a song about aliens. the guitar part sounds like machine guns. in other words, this song makes testosterone supplements obsolete. it's even more macho than a song about drinking beer and scratching your balls--it doesn't need to stoop to such obvious depths. it's comfortable in its manliness, and exudes it with pride.
  • "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones (2:30)
    • this song is pure, distilled fun. even though the lyrics are a sarcastic indictment of apathy in modern society, the song still makes the sillier side of me want to forget about everything that matters, jump around, and act like a frivolous goofball. plus, whenever i hear it, i remember when my littlest brother was eight or ten years old, running around the house singing the "bam bam bam-bam" part. that was just funny.
  • "Minus Celsius" by Backyard Babies (3:35)
    • i was over the moon when i found out they were putting this song on Guitar Hero 3. i first heard this song back in 2004 on radio.wazee, the internet radio station that kept me sane through my mind-numbingly boring job barcoding books in a law library. the lyrics are trite, but the music makes up for it. it's the kind of rock that begs you to scream along while you are flying down the highway at eighty miles an hour. i should know...my friend Megan and i have done exactly that many times. the song [and, really, anything on their album Tinnitus] is enough to convince me that grunge isn't dead...it just moved to Sweden, crawled under the bleachers with arena rock, and had a sleazy bastard son.
  • "Monkey Wrench" by Foo Fighters (3:54)
    • this is my favourite Foo Fighters song, and has been since high school. it's a quintessentially 1990s masterpiece of angst. it makes me want to push people and throw things...in fact, i'm pretty sure it's the song that made me start referring to particularly aggressive songs as "push people and throw things music." also, anyone who can scream their way through that bridge section without taking a breath must have the most miraculous lung capacity.
  • "One" by Metallica (7:40)
    • i didn't appreciate Metallica very much until i was older: maybe age 20 or 21. still, even when i was a teenager, i knew this song was something special. it's still my favourite song of theirs. it impeccably captures the anger and futility of being alive but not actually being able to live...listening to the song, you feel trapped in the impenetrable fabric of the steadily pounding guitars. it's not guitar virtuosity for its own sake: it's guitar virtuosity that sets a difficult, powerful, and captivating mood.
  • "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones (3:45)
    • i've loved this song since i was in kindergarten, when i listened to nothing but the Oldies station. if it came on during the day, it was fine. i could appreciate it for the great song i knew even then that it was. but, at night, the song was a different animal. i'd keep the Oldies station on all night, and sometimes it would come on in the wee hours. the song scared me. i would look at the clock radio, so old that the digits were flipping cards and not digital lights. it would read three, four, five in the morning. i would hide under the covers, shaking in fear and covering my ears until the song was over. only then could i catch my breath, listen to the next song on the radio, and fall back asleep.
  • "Story of My Life" by Social Distortion (4:44)
    • i can never decide which Social D song is my favourite: this one or "Ball and Chain." i waver back and forth. both of them are brilliant showcases of Mike Ness's voice, which finds a happy medium between gravelly and melodic. his is one of the few voices i know that manages to be both without sacrificing either quality. both songs also lyrically strike a chord with me as i grow older and realise that my youth is less what is happening to me than it is years upon which i'm left to reminisce. "Ball and Chain" isn't on any of the Guitar Hero games, so i wasn't forced to make a decision about which song i like better.
  • "The Way It Ends" by Prototype (5:22)
    • most songs that impress me for their beauty impress me because of the vocal lines. this is unsurprising--i'm not a guitarist. i'm a singer. however, this one has a gorgeous guitar part. the singing isn't terrible...i could take it or leave it. the guitar , however, is brilliant. it is fast and heavy without losing its continuously ebbing and flowing melodic line. this is what melodic heavy metal guitar should aspire to. the music is just as suited for a daydream as it is for a mosh pit.
  • "Through The Fire and Flames" by DragonForce (7:21)
    • the merest thought of this song is enough to give me post-traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome--i have only ever attempted the song on Medium, and at that level it's still a virtually insurmountable screenful of dots. this unfortunate effect aside, it's a fantastic song. it sounds like really good 1980s speed metal--except that it's not from the eighties. the band has only existed since 1999, and this song came out in 2006. again dusting off that audio version of Webster's Dictionary, this song would play if you looked up the word "victory." if i ever win some kind of award and have to stand on a podium to accept it, this is the song i want playing.
  • "Thunderhorse" by Dethklok (2:32)
    • Metalocalypse is an amusing show. it's a hilarious take on heavy metal stereotypes. but, the people who make it clearly kid because they love; why else would the original music for the show be so good? this song is the aural equivalent of Nathan Explosion with a Viking helmet and a battle axe...and therefore perfectly suited to the section of the cartoon that it originally accompained.
  • "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath (7:55)
    • no song on any of the incarnations of Guitar Hero is more fun to play than this one. the outro riff [from 6:34 through the end] is probably my favourite guitar part ever. the song is timeless...it's hard to believe that it's almost forty years old. the music is strong and heavy even by today's standards, and the lyrics are [sadly] as topical as ever.
total time: 71:05.

[if any of you who happen to read this are Guitar Hero completists, i know--there's nothing on this list from Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s. there's a reason for that: the game sucks. i'm not a fan of most eighties music anyway, and it's like they didn't even try to find the good stuff for that game. they neither went for the fun, popular party songs...nor any underappreciated diamonds in the rough. it was thrown together, and it was terrible.]

that was 74 Minutes or Less #1: Guitar Heroes. if you've got a thematic idea for a future playlist, comment or email me at superherogirl@gmail.com.

keep reading...


the sinners that surround you

my usual idea of a night out to take in some music involves a cramped bar, or maybe a small theatre if the band can actually draw eight hundred or a thousand people to the performance. the concert attire ranges from ripped jeans and ratty t-shirts at the most casual to motorcycle boots, studded gauntlets, and heavy black makeup at the most formal. the music invariably features guitars, drums, and lyrics about the most disappointing moments life has to offer. the dancing includes little other than headbanging, moshing, and jumping around.

in other words, i don't club.

sure, i have been to clubs a few times. i went out clubbing most weekends during the ill-fated summer of 2002 when i lived in DC. however, i didn't go because the club was where i really wanted to be. i went because i didn't want to be in my room with my obnoxious seventeen-year-old roommate and her squeaking seventeen-year-old friends. i wanted to get out of the building, and this club was one of the few places with late-night entertainment for people under twenty-one. the music was terrible. the people stayed in their little cliques. every week was the same: i went, paid the cover charge, tried to dance, tried to meet people, failed, felt dejected, and caught the last train back to tenleytown.

if i had been older, the entire city would have been my oyster, and i could have gone anywhere i wanted. at age nineteen, i had an unsavory buffet of post-9pm entertainment choices: the 18+ club, an even worse 18+ club, or a late-night run to the 7-11. usually the 18+ club won out...although once i did opt for a cool, refreshing slurpee.

since that summer, i can count on one hand the number of times i have been to a club. the few times i have been, i have felt out of place. i'm not crazy about dance music. i'm a terrible dancer. i look terrible in shiny club clothes, and i have far too much self-respect to pretend otherwise. add to that the obnoxious crowds that clubs often draw, the exorbitant cover charges and drink prices, and the wider range of late-night entertainment options available to me at the age of twenty-five...i lack any real reason to go clubbing.

setting the stage

last sunday, i had reason to enter a club again. they had just built a new addition to the Ameristar Casino out in St. Charles: Home Nightclub. the club was having a five night grand opening extravaganza. four of the five nights involved slates of DJs who may have been well-known in club circles, but i had never heard of them. each of those four nights also featured a celebrity host. that's a phenomenon that i find to be completely absurd: i would be less likely to want to go to a club if the best thing they could offer me was the chance to party in the same room as Fez from That Seventies Show. then again, as became painfully clear the longer i was in that club, my brain does not work the same way as that of your average clubgoer.

the other of those five nights of grand openings involved a DJ whose music i had heard: Tiësto. he is most familiar, at least in circles i hang around, for doing one of the remixes of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, although he also played the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens. he is widely regarded as one of the best trance DJs in the world--a claim i am well-prepared to agree with, since people who do not normally listen to dance music (myself, my friend Megan who told me about him, Megan's mother, Megan's aunt...) all enjoy listening to his music. Tiësto's album Elements of Life has been a regular soundtrack to mine and Megan's myriad car rides over the last few months. his song "In the Dark" has rivalled "Calling You" by Blue October as my Quintessential Sappy Song of the Semester.

as neither Megan nor i are regular clubgoers, getting ready for this performance involved jumping through a lot more hoops than i normally bother with. we went out shopping the Friday before the show to get new shirts and to get makeup, and met an hour before we left to finish getting ready and make sure that our outfits worked. our outfits may have been a lot more goth-like than club-like...but getting ready for the show was a lot of fun.

my concert attire:

Megan's concert attire:

getting in

the wait to get into the show began to remind me all over again of the absurdity of the clubgoing experience. large signs were posted outside the entry area: DRESS CODE ENFORCED. these seemed particularly absurd given that the nightclub was in a casino, and the entryway was mere feet from all those shabbily-dressed suburbanites thronging to spend the evening with their favourite one-armed bandits. it also became obvious that the accepted dress was completely different for men than it was for girls. i didn't see anyone denied admission for what they wore, but whereas skimpy dresses, clingy tops, and stiletto heels were de rigeur for the girls...the boys around them all showed up in wrinkled button-down shirts and jeans.

the club staff was a confusing institution. the manager must have been under the impression that the more hoops people had to jump through to enter the club, the more prestigious it felt to be there. there were two club staff in black suits at the entry, checking tickets, ID cards, and dress. fifteen minutes later, three more club staffers [two more men in black suits and a woman in a gaudy gold dress and stilettos] checked everyone in line. they checked IDs again, scanned the tickets, and stamped everyone's hands. when they finally opened the club, ten to fifteen minutes after the advertised 9pm door time, two more besuited men were checking hand stamps. around the corner and ten feet down, yet another club staffer in a suit was checking hand stamps again. around another corner, there were more staffers standing guard at the entry of the anteroom...but, strangely enough, not checking any more entry credentials. we were finally in.

that entry procedure didn't make me feel prestigious. i just felt like they were jerking me around.

the opening act

Tiësto didn't take the stage until sometime after 11pm. there was a DJ, Michael Fuller, who spun before him:

he wasn't bad. he had some fun songs in his mix...it was music i would have been perfectly happy to listen to at a dance party, at the rare times that i feel like going to a dance party. to be fair, i really don't know what is supposed to be the difference between "good," "bad," and "middling" dance music. either it makes me dance, or it doesn't. either i'm interested enough in it to care about listening to it outside of a dance bar or a house party, or i'm not that interested in it. Michael Fuller's music was definitely danceable, but nothing that i'm dying to buy or even download.


the fun part of his set was looking around at what everyone was wearing. the club wasn't very full until 10:30 or so, and the dance floor was so empty until then that people could walk across it easily, without fighting through the crowds. megan and i were on the dance floor the whole time, up near the DJ booth. we wanted to be up front for Tiësto, and we didn't actually have a place we could sit down and drink. some of the tables were cordoned off with velvet ropes, and all of them were guarded fiercely by club staff. every so often a group would swagger into the club like they owned the place and say a few words to whoever was guarding a table. the rope would magically open, and women in tiny skirts would start bringing sickeningly overpriced bottles of alcohol to the table. the people at the tables almost never deigned to look at the peanut gallery strewn across the floor, those poor souls who had to belly up to the bar to get drinks, those poor souls who didn't have pompous club staff to provide every little thing they whined for.

but Megan and i in the peanut gallery? we were looking at them. i'm still not sure what was worse: the attitudes of the people with table reservations and bottle service or some of the outfits the women were wearing. the stiletto heels that almost every woman there was wearing were bad enough: they were impractical for walking, and downright dangerous once Tiësto took the booth--and these women in stilettos deigned to get on the floor, push through the crowd, jump to the music, and land mercilessly upon the toes of anyone near them. but, the outfits? they left me scratching my head. many of the people there had garden-variety Bad Clubwear: too-tight dresses, too-shiny tops, and the like. a few, however, were so bad that they deserved dishonourable mention.

there was a woman wearing a short purple dress made out of shiny spandex--the kind used in biker. there were two women wearing the exact same baggy baby-doll dress. despite the fact that both of these women were very skinny, they both had breasts--so, of course, the baby-doll dress made them look fifty pounds heavier than they actually were. there was another girl who looked like Snow White Gone Wrong. her white blouse and Snow White Blue skirt hung on her frame like pillowcases; apparently no one had told her that tent-like clothing does not make a big girl look better. another girl wore a fedora, a pinstriped shirt, and pinstriped pants--which wouldn't have been so heinous if it weren't so obvious that she was trying to ape a late-model Britney Spears.

one woman who kept passing back and forth was wearing the biggest fashion mistake of the night: a gold lamé giraffe-print dress that was so short and tight that whenever she took a step, she was showing off her girlie bits. that was more of her than anyone there wanted to see, except for possibly whichever snotty boy at her table she may have happened to be sleeping with. yuck.

unsportsmanlike conduct

Tiësto finally took the stage close to 11:30. by then, the dance floor had gotten extremely crowded: it was no longer possible to cross it, and people were trying to push their way as far forward as they possibly could. i'm used to this pushing around and jockeying for position from all the rock shows i go to...although, usually, it has started by the time the opener is on stage.

another difference between the rock crowd and the club crowd is that the rock crowd is far nicer about getting as close to the front as possible. most rock fans will push people forward to get close, but they will not shove their way in front of others in order to get closer. the people at rock shows get packed more and more tightly as the show goes on. however, if you start in the second row, you're in the second row for the rest of the show.

clubgoers are different. specifically, many of them are douchebags with no respect for the hours that people on the floor had spent waiting so they could be near the booth when Tiësto began to spin. they sauntered up from their little tables after he took the stage and started shoving their way through the crowd. they shoved people left, they shoved people right, they didn't care who was standing where--as long as they could force their way as far forward as they could.

Megan and i dealt with this two completely different ways. i'm afraid to cause any sort of physical altercation--i was repeatedly beaten up as a kid, and never acquired fighting skills. i was afraid that if i elbowed the wrong person, they'd try socking me in the face, and i'd be hopeless in defending myself. therefore, i lost a lot of ground. Megan, on the other hand...she was perfectly content with her "don't mess with me" attitude. if one of those disrespectful crowd members tried to elbow her, she'd elbow them right back until they realised that they were not getting through the crowd, at least not there. it didn't matter who was trying to mess with her...be it the schmoozer who claimed he was in with every musician from Tiësto to Marilyn Manson, the photographer who thought that his big shiny camera and his business card were reason enough to be entitled to a good spot, or the random little drunk guy who acted as if he was going to beat Megan up. she wasn't moving. she wasn't ceding her position. i wish i had the moxie to have stood my ground like that...but i was just so bamboozled by the discourteous clubgoers, and so conscious of my inability to fight if it did actually come to that.

the music

those people's disrespect for all of us who were on the floor first...for all of us who were treating this as a live music event as opposed to an excuse for posturing and acting better that everyone else detracted significantly from my ability to enjoy the show. i was spending a lot more time worrying about getting shoved, elbowed, jumped on, and tugged at than i was actually dancing to and appreciating the music. Tiësto plays trance, and that's a good description of what i wanted to do during his set. i wanted to listen to the music, dance to it, and just let my mind wander wherever the music guided it.

Tiësto was definitely doing his part to make the show a lot of fun.

although he didn't do "In The Dark" [his set focused a lot more on the music on his latest album, In Search of Sunrise 6], the music never once faltered in the three hours he was up there. it was always fun, danceable, interesting, and seamless. the tempi changed, the volume changed...but it's got to be part of the skill of a master DJ, being adept enough at changing the music that you're never quite sure if it's a song change or a layering of beats within one piece until it has completely run its course. it felt less like a set of songs as it did one three-hour soundscape that was really good for dancing and daydreaming.

the end

after Tiësto finished spinning, they let Michael Fuller on for another song or two. it was very weird...Megan and i hung around to see if there was going to be another few sets; we hoped against hope that Fuller would spin for a while, and then Tiësto would return. that hope was dashed after just a couple songs, when they started dismantling the equipment in the DJ booth and playing absolutely awful music over the speakers. i didn't recognize what it was, but i think it was from the eighties. it wasn't good dance music, it wasn't good background music...it was someone's cruel, unpolished idea of "everyone get out of the club, now!" music. that surprised me...after all of Home Nightclub's attempts to seem so polished and cooler-than-thou, this just shattered the image they were trying to create. no amount of bouncers in suits could lead me to ignore such cheesy exit music.

so, in short...getting ready for the concert was a blast. Tiësto's music was superb. Michael Fuller wasn't bad. but, the venue was a farce, and the crowd was obnoxious. there's a reason i stick to rock shows and not clubs to provide me with my musical entertainment, and this show did nothing to make me any more of a clubber than i was before coming in. give me my smoky little bars and my black-clad headbangers any day.

keep reading...