Weird Scenes Inside The Hall of Superheroes or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Spring Break


Is everybody in? Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin

Grown men in tights.

That kind of thing would normally make me uncomfortable. Possibly squirm in my seat, even. I’m not much for the ballet and overzealous cod pieces. Remember that guy on Captain Kangaroo? The skin suit guy that showed his internal organs? He may have sang a song about the wonders of the colon or kidney health, I can’t remember. Anyways, the five-year old me was extremely nervous whenever he appeared. But when we’re talking about superheroes, well that’s different. Superheroes needed the least amount of restraint they could get. They were flying, running, jumping, kicking, punching, and battling to save people like you and me. To save mankind. Tights were a necessity. Tights were part of the uniform. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flash, and even the X-Men wore tights. And I was okay with that. So a couple weeks ago when my dad called me at work to ask me if I knew about the Hall of Superheroes I was intrigued. Apparently my parents were watching a show called ‘Toy Hunter’ where this guy goes around buying rare, vintage, and hard-to-find toys. Some for himself, and some for others I guess. Anyways this particular episode the toy hunting guy goes to the Hall of Superheroes in Elkhart, In. Elkhart. This once thriving industrialized town now just a gritty shell of a town that it once was that sat a mere hour north from my home. My dad said “I think Owen would really like it.”

My son Owen is a huge super hero fan. He loves comics, cartoons, DC, Marvel, movies…anything to do with  superheroes he’s aDSC04553 fan. It started out a couple years ago that he’d buy comics and it seemed to me he was just looking at the pictures, not actually reading the storylines. He filled in the blanks with the classics; the early 90s X-Men cartoons, Iron Man cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series, and the Spiderman and Hulk cartoons from the early 90s as well. I even got him into Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, featuring Iceman(one of my favorites as a kid) and the extremely curvy Firestar(hubba hubba.) But at some point -I’m not sure when- I realized my son wasn’t just looking at the pictures in those comics and graphic novels. He was reading the stories. He was bringing up characters I’d never heard of. He could tell me who everyone was in those books and cartoons. He’d ask me if he could get on the computer and watch videos on Youtube. I’d ask him what he was going to watch and he’d say super hero videos. Well what he was watching were these fan-made videos that were essentially pictures of superheroes with some nu metal band playing in the background. It was disturbing, yet he was just more interested in seeing the pics of folks from the DC/Marvel universes. It has gotten to the point to where I go to the 9 year old if I have any questions regarding superhero history.

So back to the phone call from my dad. This was good news for me, as Spring Break was only a couple weeks away and as usual nothing was planned other than staying up late and watching movies that would surely cause nightmares. This gave me something to take work off for and somewhere to take the kids. They couldn’t say we didn’t do anything on spring break, dammit. Lucky for me my daughters like the superhero stuff enough that they were looking forward to going as well. Win-win.

DSC04552Last Friday we left our house at 11am and began our trek north. Directions were put into the GPS and all seemed well. I knew the general area as I have family that live around Elkhart; plus I’ve been to Elkhart plenty of times in the past. The Hall of Superheroes was located on a county road, so it wasn’t quite “in” town. This is good, as there’s some shady spots in this once thriving town that had jobs a-plenty thanks to the RV-industry. Sadly, that industry crashed and burnt in 2008-2009. Nearly all the RV and trailer factories shut their doors, which led to Elkhart having the highest unemployment rate in the country. Not sure where they stand nowadays, but it’s still a pretty desolate town. The suburban location of our own local Hall of Justice was a welcomed surprise. After the GPS took us on a jaunt through Amish country we finally arrived at our destination. The Hall of Superheroes.

The museum is located on a wooded lot in the back of a very nice brick house. An in-ground pool sits to the left of the museum,DSC04532 which looks like a pull-barn that was converted to look like the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the The Wonder Twins. You walk inside and the place is nice and cool(I’m sure it’s climate controlled due to all the collectibles, including comics.) There’s a teenage boy playing video games at the front desk and he takes our money. $20 for four of us($6 for adults and $4 for kids 10 and under), which I didn’t think was bad. It quickly occured to me what this place really was: it was a guy’s private collection that he turned into a museum in order to make money and add to that collection. The kid that took our money and that was playing video games was the son I imagine. Not a bad gig, really. So, onto the goods. The bottom level had the two most collectible items in the place: Adam West’s original Batman costume and The Greatest American Hero costume wore by William Katt on the tv show. There was a blonde afro wig on the mannequin which donned the suit that could’ve been William Katt’s actual scalp. I’m not sure. On one of the walls was a collection of first edition comics; another was Batman central with tons of memorabilia including a creepy bust of Adam West. Burt Ward’s codpiece may have been there, I’m not sure. There was a “batpole” that went upstairs. My son guffawed at everything, even pointing out that some of the art hanging in the bathroom looked like some art he has in his room. I think he would’ve moved into the place had he been able to. My daughters were mildly interested, but most of the excitement was coming from my 9 year old son.

We headed upstairs and saw right away there was an X-Men arcade game, still working and ready for our quarters. All three kids jumped on that and played together while I looked around. Just an overwhelming amount of comics and toys were everywhere in this room. I can’t imagine what this guy’s house was like before they built this “museum”. And I’m sure he’s been collecting this stuff since he was a kid. His room had to have been a disaster area. Though, as well set up as this place was I imagine he was pretty particular with his toys and comics. Anyways, it was overwhelming to imagine cataloging all the stuff in this building.

DSC04544Pretty soon my daugthers were doing the “Are we done yet?” thing, and I have to admit I was pretty much ready to hit the road. My son seemed to be lost in some Marvel trance, muttering things like “I wish I could buy it” and “Is this for sale?” I knew we needed to get him out, and quickly. We headed back downstairs and my son says “My head hurts”, so I say it’s time to go. We head out to the car and with all the sun the car had heated up rather nicely. Heat doesn’t do much for my son’s headaches. When he gets headaches they affect everything. I tell him I’ll find a Walmart and get some Ibuprofen for him. Well, I hit the main highway and we’re stuck in traffic. Roadwork ahead and no sign of cars moving. He’s quickly feeling worse. The windows were down to air the car out, but due to all the trucks and traffic you could hardly breathe so I had to roll the windows up and turn on the air. Meanwhile, the fumes, heat, and starts and stops have got my son feeling worse. I realized I won’t find a Walmart and see a Walgreens ahead.  I pull in and my son asks if he can go in, too. I say sure, so we all head in. I ask him if he’s okay and he says yes. We find the aisle with the pain relievers and Owen puts his head down and puts his hands on his knees. I ask him what’s wrong and he says his stomach doesn’t feel good. We quickly start looking for the bathroom. We make it to the restroom and just as he walks into the stall his stomach pushes forth a spray of vomit like no other. Had this been at home he would’ve thrown up all over the floor, his bed, the couch, or some other easily ruined piece of furniture. But this time he made it right into the toilet, and Praise Jebus for that. After 45 seconds of heaving he said he was done. His eyes bloodshot and watery, he washed his hands and we went out to find his sisters. Ibuprofen, water, and chips were purchased and we hit the road. By the time we were halfway home the headache subsided, his stomach was fine, and like Wolverine he’d self-healed himself.

The day didn’t end up quite like I’d hoped. I’d planned on a nice lunch, maybe peruse a record store, and then casually make our way home. Instead we threw up in a Walgreens and ate chips in my car from Elkhart back to our humble abode located in the woods. Despite the whole vomit thing, we had a good time at the Hall of Superheroes, laughed at funny action figures, and even saw super hero toilet paper. What more could you ask for?

Maybe a superhero barf bag.


The Vickers :: Ghosts

vickersLast year I became aware of this Italian psych-pop band called The Vickers. They had a Bandcamp page that sported two very excellent tunes. “She’s Lost” and “I Don’t Know What It Is” sounded like tracks pulled from a time capsule that had been buried under the fertile soils of Florence, Italy for the past 45 years. Filled with both psychedelic flourishes and pop hooks that planted themselves firmly in your brain and wouldn’t leave for days, these songs were teases of what would eventually be a full-length record. The tease is over, and The Vickers have arrived with the aforementioned full-length titled Ghosts. It’s a great debut that delivers on the promise of those first two tracks.

The Vickers’ sound is firmly planted between the years 1965 to 1967. If there’s a blueprint to their brand of rock n’ roll it would be The Beatles’ Revolver. Lead singer and guitarist Andrea Mastropietro sounds very much like John Lennon, with hints of Kevin Parker thrown in for good measure. He’s not aping Lennon, he just naturally sounds like him. “Senseless Life” opens like an acoustic version of “A Day In The Life” before becoming something completely its own. The Vickers are a tight rock n’ roll band. They show that throughout Ghosts. Where most psych bands tend to go for that weathered, wavering tape wobble in the sonic department these Italian rockers tend to go for a very clean, classical approach to sound. Drums are crisp, clean, and almost jazzy in delivery. Vocals are clear but somewhere down in a reverb-drenched hole, while bass and guitars swirl in a technicolor kaleidoscope of sound. The Vickers take pride in how they present their songs and it comes through. “Hear Me Now” sounds like Cheap Trick-meets-Smithereens with a splash of Wilco in that great guitar tone(if you’re familiar with “Spiders(Kidsmoke)” you’ll recognize that effect instantly.) Spacey and trippy this track begs you to get lost for it’s four minutes. “Inside A Dream” starts out quiet and builds into a psychedelic froth, complete with a great drum freakout at the end. You never get the feeling of being put on by these guys. So many bands put the psych name tag on because they feel that’s going to get fans and sell records. The Vickers take elements of psych and pop and classic rock n’ roll, mix ‘em up in a tasty gelato with a flavor all their own. “Walking On A Rope” reminds you of some of those classic Townsend acoustic numbers that blow up into some great noise. And I think there’s harpsichord in there as well. Gotta love some harpsichord. The album closes with the title track that takes us out on a crisp, jazzy ride cymbal and Andrea’s melancholy vocals before they get swallowed by a massive wall of reverb.

The Vickers’ Ghosts is a great album to get lost in on a breezy afternoon or a starlit evening. Grab a copy at

7. 3 out of 10


Saturday Tunes

DSC04458 - EditedBeen busy doing some cleaning today. My parents are coming over later for homemade taco pizza, some beers, and some cards. Should be a good time. And no screaming goats are allowed.

What really made this day special was a couple packages that arrived from the USPS. The Night Terrors Spiral Vortex and The War On Drugs Lost In The Dream were waiting on the front stoop just as I was finishing up scrubbing the toilets(yeah, I do that around here.) So just as I finished cleaning the house and prepared to make some pizza dough for our taco pizzas tonight I put on Spiral Vortex. I had listened to the download of this record a couple times over the last week and I wasn’t as impressed with this one as I was with their first record Back To Zero. After listening to the beautifully colored vinyl my mind was changed. The record sounds amazing and it does wonders to the songs. I think it’s an amazing sci-fi epic. The War On Drugs Lost In The Dream is a masterpiece. I will talk more about it at another time. I’ll just say I’ll be hard pressed to find an album to beat this in 2014.

Okay, time to make some pizza.


Nothing :: Guilty Of Everything

nothingOne of the most arresting, pounding, and quite beautiful 40 minutes you could spend would be with Nothing’s Guilty Of Everything. Imagine this vast black space and you’re staring down into it. It’s scary as hell, and you see no discernible bottom in this cavernous hole. Yet there’s something quite beautiful emanating from it that draws you nearer. It’s the beautiful drone that envelopes you and beckons you closer and closer to the edge till you realize you’re in the darkness. It surrounds you, blankets you, and holds you within the black. And you don’t mind. That is the magic of Guilty Of Everything. Musically it pummels you and pushes you into the wall till your bruised and battered, yet lead Nothing Dominic Palermo sings in a pushed whisper. It’s as if the music forces the air out of his lungs, allowing him to reveal his deep, dark secrets. Those secrets? A rough start of things, violence, incarceration, and then eventually some serious soul searching which led to Palermo making music as Nothing. Guilty Of Everything is their debut full-length and shows a band in top form and with many more stories to tell.

“Hymn To The Pillory” makes me think of gray clouds, drooping pines, and muddy landscapes with crumbling city streets in the far distance. The negative to a Pennsylvania snapshot. It could be the Pacific Northwest or southern Ohio for that matter but since Nothing hail from Philly then Pennsylvania fits just fine. This song encapsulates years of hopes and dreams dirtied and tattered. The music is heavy shoegaze. It’s like Whirr cranked to 11. Then “Dig” charges in sounding like Deafheaven fronted by Elliot Smith. It’s an absolutely stunning track. Guitars bounce off reverbed walls as Palermo sings, well, I’m not sure what he’s singing. But it’s not really what he’s saying more than how he’s saying it. And how he says it makes me think he really means it. “Endlessly” evokes a feeling vastness as  Palermo’s voice feels as if it surrounds you and engulfs you. That blackness; that void. It’s always there so you learn to live with it. Cope with it.

The album is mixed with moments of propulsion and slow burn. One minute you’re crawling on your hands and knees through broken glass and debris towards some mysterious light; the next minute you’re being pushed towards the light by some unknown force. You can’t help but think that songs like “Somersault”, “Get Well”, and “B&E” are direct connections to Palermo’s past. Aural snapshots of dark times he’s now trying to make sense of and heal from. Last track “Guilty Of Everything” seems to be an open letter to the universe written in blood-red ink. A plea for some kind of peace. Or to at least be able to get through another day.

Listening to Guilty Of Everything, despite the despair in so many of the songs you get the feeling that these are snapshots of a past life. Dominic Palermo seems to have made some kind of peace with his demons and is sharing his journey and what he’s learned through these intense, swirling kaleidoscopes of songs. Nothing’s Guilty Of Everything is intense, heavy, hazy, and filled with dark beauty.

8.6 out of 10


Sunday Random Nonsense

DSC04427Not much to report. Just wanted to share a couple things. One of the comics my son and I found was a Dr. Who comic from 1981. It’s Dr. Who Vol. 1 No. 58 February 1981 to be exact. I’s not worth anything, it’s just something we thought was pretty interesting. My oldest daughter is a big Dr. Who fan, in particular the 9th,10, and 11th Doctors. This comic concerns the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, battling against the Malevilus, “The Gods of the Roman Empire”. I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just say it’s a good little read if you’re into that sort of thing. Makes me want to go back and get acquainted with the older years of Dr. Who. I’ve enjoyed the newer seasons, starting with Christopher Eccleston, but I’ve not delved back into those classic years.

Also yesterday I received my Soft Moon 7″ for “Feel” with the b-side “Hunger”. Really enjoyed spinning that one. If you haven’t dug into The Soft Moon’s catalog you really should. Luis Vasquez, in my opinion, will end up being as important to electronic music as Trent Reznor has been. Truly inspiring music. If these new songs are any indication this new album is going to be incredible. You heard it here first, kids.

I’d like to thank Mr. 1537 for the inspiration for the comics. He does some amazing comics posts over at his home. Just look at this here.

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Mustangs & Fridays

DSC04414Another weekend is upon us, kids. I’m glad it’s here. I get to play with my new toy. Last Saturday I procured a Squier Modified Vintage Mustang from my good friends at Sweetwater Music in Fort Wayne, IN. I got to mess with it a little bit last weekend but not much. The birthday weekend tends to suck up whatever spare time I have, so I was able to play the guitar enough to know that I loved how it played and I loved the sound. I also knew it needed some tweaking. The strings were horrible and I kept getting some buzzing. All week I’ve been online looking for info about this guitar, good and bad. Well, folks were switching out the bridge and replacing the strings with a heavier gauge string. I was at least feeling like I could correct whatever I needed to correct for a pretty reasonable price. I ordered some .11 gauge strings yesterday and they arrived today. Slapped those babies on and I think that’s all this guitar needed. Tomorrow shall be a rocking day here.

I have a little history with the Fender Mustang. Back in 2007 I bought a 1977 Fender Mustang off of Ebay for $810. It was in great shape. There were a few scratches in the paint, but nothing terrible. Everything was original on it, and the chrome hardware was still nice and shiny. My reasoning for wanting a Mustang began because, well, quite frankly I couldn’t afford a vintage Jazzmaster. Yeah, I said it. Since the JM wasn’t an option I started looking at other Fender guitars. There was the Kurt Cobain connection with the Mustang, but that didn’t mean anything to me. The fact that Adrian Belew played a Mustang always kept that guitar in my mind, so I started looking for Mustangs in 2007. This led me to the 1977 model. It was black with white pickguard. I loved the guitar. I used it on quite a few recordings. Loved the jangle it had. I could get this weird cross section of Strat and Gibson with it when I tinkered enough. It was a versatile guitar. And the idea that it was this scrappy little cheap thing back in the day that ended up in pawn shops all across New York, which led to bands like Talking Heads, Television, and any other number of post-punk and new wave pioneers snagging these guitars up for next to nothing added just the right amount of history to this guitar that I knew I had to have one. From 2007 to 2011 I played that guitar a lot, rotating between that, a Fender American Telecaster I bought in 2000, and a 1997 Gibson Les Paul Studio I bought from my cousin in 2008. In 2011 the need for some cash arose and so I had to make the tough decision to get rid of a guitar. Sadly I decided on the only vintage guitar I owned. It went for far less than I’d hoped, but it paid the bills that needed to be paid. Goodbye, old friend. It’s been real.

Well, it’s now 2014 and the wife and I have got our financial shit together, so to speak. Last year I finally got that Jazzmaster I always wanted. The Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster was purchased by me. I love it. LOVE IT! Squier for years had this stigma associated with it. That stigma was “cheap”. Things have changed, folks. They’re making quality guitars at a fraction of the cost of Fender American guitars. Guys like me on a budget that don’t have $2000 to drop on a guitar can afford a new axe now. Like I said, there’s some things that need to be adjusted here and there, but for the most part you’re getting a great playing guitar for $300. Hell, my first electric guitar was a 1986 Squier Strat made in Japan. I still have that guitar as a matter of fact. It needs a new neck as the truss rod is….sorry. No shop talk. It’s Friday night.

Needless to say I’m excited. I’ve got a new guitar to play and explore. Besides that, I’ve got a Founders Red’s Rye IPA and a Dark Horse Brewery Too Cream Stout. I bought the Dark Horse because I’d read today that Dark Horse turned down Nickelback for an endorsement. From head brewer Aaron Morse,

It’s obvious that this would be a great opportunity for us and maybe get some mainstream youth into craft beer rather than the swill. However, none of us at the brewery really care for the band (or frat parties) so our knee jerk reaction is “no thanks”. But how cool would it be to  see our beer in a video? Aaron said, “Why cant it be some cool band like Slayer?” The guy that called said the lead singer is familiar with our brand. What does that mean? Does the lead singer of Nickleback drink craft beer?

That was reason enough for me to try it. And it’s a damn good stout. I will investigate further.

Okay, that’s all I got. Been playing Jakob Skott’s Amor Fati and Real Estate’s Atlas all week. Loving them. Okay, go grab a beer and I’ll see you later.


Vinyl is the Monday Cure

DSC04397Nothing quite like getting home and seeing not one, but two cardboard squares sitting on the front stoop. That’s how I call Monday a winner, folks. Sitting on the front step was a package from Denmark and Brooklyn, New York. El Paraiso dropped off the new Jakob Skott album Amor Fati and Domino Records left a present in the form of Real Estate’s new one, Atlas. I’ve been dreaming of that Real Estate ever since I heard “Crime” last week. So far I’ve listened to only Real Estate.

Actually, I’m on my third listen of Atlas and I can say very confidently that this will be one of my favorite records of the year. Top five, no doubt. I know, it’s only March. Well, sometimes you just know, man. Hell, I knew mbv was going to be one of my favorite records as soon as I listened to it in February of 2013. Same thing here. Atlas is melancholy, sublime, poignant, and just plain beautiful. I can’t go into song specifics as I haven’t sat with the album sleeve and listened, but every song is a mini-masterpiece. It’s that jangly longing in those clean Fenders, the tight rhythm section that keeps the songs rolling, and of course Martin Courtney’s wistful voice. And of course Alex Bleeker has a wonderful song as well. All in all, I’m completely in awe of these guys from the Garden state.

I probably won’t get to Jakob Skott tonight, but I will certainly be spinning it tomorrow. Skott is part of the El Paraiso collective, and the drummer for Causa Sui, El Paraiso’s flag ship band. His first solo album was this hazy, analog synth-drenched electronic album that I fell in love with as soon as I heard it. Very reminiscent of Boards of Canada, so it was going to be a favorite of mine. I will fill you all in as soon as I give it a listen.

Okay, back to the music.


Fathers & Sons

DSC04373Today is my son’s birthday. He’s the ripe old age of 9, and as the saying goes, it seems like only yesterday he came into this world in the middle of a snow-covered March night. He was a surprise baby, for sure. But to imagine our lives without him is to imagine a far less beautiful world. But before his birthday was on the horizon I was thinking about that father and son bond. Before I had a son I thought it was just some sort of myth. Surely it doesn’t matter the sex of your child. You’ll bond with them just as strongly no matter what. On some level I think that’s true, but until the time comes when a man becomes the father of a son you just can’t accurately comment on this.

DSC04376Before the boy came into my life, I was the proud papa of two beautiful and loving daughters. I had no problems bonding with them. In fact, I felt like there was no way I could bond with a boy any stronger than how I felt about my girls. By June of 2004 we were a tight-knit family of four. So much so that my wife even went away for the weekend to visit with a college friend in Ohio. It was just me and the girls. My oldest was 4 and my youngest was 1. We went sight-seeing in the village and checked out artisan stores and got ice cream. We watched videos and hung out. I was never one of those fathers that had to push off the hard stuff on mom. I just jumped in and did it. It felt as if it couldn’t get much better than it already was. Well, a month later we found out there was yet more joy on its way in the form of another baby. We were a little on the surprised side to say the least. Precautions were being taken, but maybe not as frequent as they should’ve been. Needless to say a home pregnancy kit and a visit to the OB confirmed the reason for my wife’s lateness. I panicked. Not because of the fact that we were going to have three kids necessarily. But because I felt we had the perfect family unit. I felt one more might alter that balance and cause a disturbance in the force. Well, that and my wife and I had gone through two miscarriages. Once, two years before our oldest was born; and then again between our daughters. To say they were difficult times is putting it lightly. Once you have a baby and then go through all that physical and emotional “fucking with”, if you will, it’s that much harder. You know what you’ve lost. Anyways, after our second daughter was born I felt we’d gotten through all that and we could begin to move on as a family of four. I guess I was wrong about that.

Once the initial shock had subsided and a healthy heartbeat was heard I could relax a little and come to terms with the idea that I was going to be the father of three. I never imagined that scenario in my life. It was a damn near revolutionary concept for my head to wrap around. And then when I found out I was going to be the father of a son, well consider my mind blown. On March 2nd, 2005 around 1am Owen Christopher came into our lives. He was healthy, happy, and a cute redhead, just like his oldest sister and mom. In all honesty, those first couple years weren’t much different than when the girls were little. It wasn’t till he was about 2 1/2 that those boy tendencies started to show. A love of dinosaurs, cars, and banging on the drums. He’d play well with his sisters(especially Audrey who was only two years older.) They were two peas in a pod(still are, really.) Thanks to a secondhand VHS copy of the 70s ‘Superfriends’ cartoons he found a love for superheroes. Spiderman, Batman, the Hulk; then moving on deeper into the X-Men and Avengers mythos. He’s now at a point where the Marvel/DC knowledge he possesses goes over my head. I learn from him. I nod and act like I know who he’s talking about, but really I’m just in awe.

I’m at that point now where I realized just how independent he is of me. He no longer needs me to fill him in on stuff. He findsDSC04374 things to love on his own. Not that I’m completely out of the picture when it comes to influencing him, or sharing things with him that will peak his interest. Last weekend we all went shopping as a family. While at Half Price Books him and I are looking around and he looks at me and says “I really like Dr. Dog. I love their song ‘My Old Ways’.” I said “Yeah, that’s a great song. Really good album.” Then he says “I also like Spoon’s ‘Metal School’.” To say I was a proud papa is putting it mildly. I can remember being his age and listening to Van Halen on my little GE boom box in my bedroom creating these elaborate battles between Star Wars action figures and GI Joe action figures, all the while Diver Down soundtracked the whole scene. I imagine Owen doing the same thing in his room now. I couldn’t be prouder. Seeing him lying on the couch with my green Panasonic headphones on his head as Dr. Dog comes pouring in from his little MP3 player makes my heart well up, or do whatever happy hearts do.

I wonder if my dad ever had that moment with me? I wonder if there was ever that point in his life where he looked at me and thought, “Wow. That’s me. That’s my influence on my son.” I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter. I’ve had that moment with my son. I’ve seen my influence and love for him come back at me. That’s all I could ask for, really. Last night I took Owen to the comic book store as part of his birthday present. He picked out 20 .50 comics. The other thing he asked for? Plastic sleeves to store them in, to keep them in good shape. Just like the sleeves I keep my vinyl in.

Just like his old man. Happy Birthday, Owen.


“I’m the Egg Man.”

DSC04344I am not an expert when it comes to the Beastie Boys. In fact, besides “Fight For Your Right(To Party)” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” I couldn’t stand the Beasties in 1986. I was a metal kid in the 7th grade that saw the Beastie Boys as a way for the jocks to feel better about getting girls drunk and taking advantage of them, picking on the geeks and nerds, and cruising in their newly bought Camaros. I think if you were to ask the late Adam Yauch he might agree with all of those assumptions, though I don’t think Yauch, Mike D, and Ad Rock’s intentions were to have the jock assholes co-opt the Beasties music. Still, I stayed away until in 1989 when I saw the video for “Hey Ladies” off of Paul’s Boutique. I don’t know if it was the heavily sampled music, the stoned flow of these Brooklyn-to-LA transplants, or if it was the extremely humorous video, but my attitude changed dramatically towards the Beastie Boys.

Fast forward to this afternoon and my recent purchase of the 20th anniversary vinyl edition of the now landmark Paul’s Boutique. In the 25 years since I first heard “Hey Ladies” on my uncle’s tv one strange weekend I have grown to absolutely love the Beasties. Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty,…all are classics. Even To the Five Boroughs and Hot Sauce Committee Part II are great examples of aging gracefully in a music world that makes it increasingly hard to do. But for my money, Paul’s Boutique is their all out masterpiece. Part cut and paste experiment, part acid kool-aid test, and a total one-of-a-kind hip hop experience. I’m not much of a hip hop fan, but I can totally get into the Beastie Boys. I think that’s their gift, really. They can cross party lines and hang with the hip hop fans, the rock, metal, and punk fans. They can hang with the gutter punks and trust fund babies. They relate to the class clown and the loner artists. I feel Paul’s Boutique stands out as this single piece of art. Stoned, trippin’, drunk ass art. The Dust Brothers really helped them achieve that filthy canvas vision they had in their heads. I won’t try and get into history and theories and passionate stances on styles and whatever. All I know is that this album makes me extremely happy. It’s a meal for the ears. A big, greasy, funky, dirty, bong water-drenched meal.

I’m not sure when this album will leave the turntable, but I can say it’ll be spinning the rest of the week. As far as the 180 gram, remastered version of the album, I’ll just say Paul’s Boutique has never sounded better. The CD version I bought back in 2003 still sounded a bit muffled and quiet(thanks third generation mastering.) But this anniversary copy sound absolutely unreal. Sounds like some classic 70s funk record pulled up from the basement and spun for the first time in 40 years. It has an amazing analog punch, and through my all analog Onkyo receiver it just sound so freakin’ good.

All right, time to flip the record.


An Elaborate Game of Make Believe

DSC04318School was cancelled again today and they’ve already called it for tomorrow. It’s supposed to get down to -15 degrees tonight, and that’s not even with the wind chill factor. I stayed home as well. I probably could’ve made it into work, but what was the point? No trucks were running today so we didn’t get any deliveries. I would’ve been sitting at my desk trolling the internet for albums I shouldn’t buy and guitars I can’t afford. Such is the life of the music obsessive. So on this day off I head downstairs and begin transferring songs from my 4-track cassette recorder to my digital mixer so I can master these songs and ready them for a 4-song e.p. under the sunnydaymassacre moniker. This is the part I love about the music process. The mixing, tweaking, panning, mastering, sequencing…all the little things that add up to one big thing. After spending an hour or so downstairs I came up to find my daughter applying make-up to my son’s face. Not pretty make-up, but dead, zombie make-up. He looked like a ghoulish mess; dark rings under his eyes, Geisha-white face cream, and gory, gory blood splatter. I’m a huge fan of horror and gore, and those kids made their dad proud.

So, I started thinking about make believe and role playing and all the jazz. What I was doing down in my basement studio really isn’t much different that what my kids were doing in my dining room, applying gore and pancaking make-up on my son’s face. I certainly identify myself as a musician and songwriter, but really when I go down there and mix and master, make funny faces when I’m playing my guitar or beating the drums it’s just an adult version of make believe. I do that in my spare time. When real life allows, and fortunately real life can afford me a few hours out of the week to play “music guy”. A good friend of mine and excellent songwriter himself has told me on more than one occasion that being a musician while also having a full-time job, family, mortgage, and bills is like pretend for adults. For a little bit of time you can hang up the work coat and put on your beat-up old zip up sweater and take the trolley to the land of make believe. You can lose yourself for a bit in the role-playing game called rock ‘n roll.

That may sound kind of weird, and honestly it’s weird typing it. But if I’m being completely honest with myself then that’s exactly what all of this is. Here’s the thing, it’s okay to play these games as adults. Hell, I think it’s damn healthy. I think when you lose the ability to make believe you lose the ability to truly love life. You have to have some sort of outlet. A blow hole to let off some of that steam life tends to build up in you. You find something to pour your creative side into and make something, or make something up. It can be anything, and you don’t have to be good at it. I tend to think I know a thing or two about writing songs and playing instruments, so my make believe actually results in art. But if you dig video games, comics, paint-by-numbers, gardening, topiary, crocheting, or stamp collecting then you love make believe. You love role-playing(and that doesn’t always involve the bedroom, a nurse outfit, and a policeman handcuffs you perv!). It’s finding that link back to childhood when make believe and role playing were an integral part of molding ones personality and imagination. I can remember some of the best times I had as a kid were playing on and under the basement stairs with my Star Wars action figures, or building a road out of Golden Books from my bedroom to the living room so my Hot Wheels had something to ride on. They were activities that I didn’t need the input of anyone but myself, and I was only as limited as my mind would keep me. Writing songs and creating melodies, to me it’s no different that setting up battle scenes with action figures and roadways for Hot Wheels. I suppose if someday I could make a living out of writing songs it would turn into something different. Something more serious. But in a weird way I hope that never happens. I’ve never made a living out of something I love, so I can’t say for sure, but I’d imagine a bit of the magic and love would dissolve a bit into the ether. I think I’d give it a shot though if someone were to offer me a job. Just sayin’.

Until then, I’ll continue my elaborate games of make believe in the basement. I’ll also marvel at the joy and thrill my kids get out of theirs; every gory, bloody minute of it.