New Year’s Evolution

With each successive New Year’s Eve I feel as though I’m getting more and more boring. No crazy New Year’s Eve parties, no sloshing of drinks, no drunken toasts at midnight to ring in the new year. There wasn’t even a party favor or party hat to wear to make the evening more festive. I made myself a drink at 5:30pm(a rum and coke.) After drinking that I just felt tired and decided it wasn’t worth it. My wife took our 14-year old daughter to do some post-Christmas shopping at the mall in the early afternoon so the boy and I stayed home. We ended up cooking up some grub, watching the last episode of Gotham, then finishing up the ‘Crisis On Two Earths’ crossover special with The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends Of Tomorrow. By the time that was over it was nearly 9pm and I was already in my pajama pants and sprawled on the couch. The wife and I rang in the new year by finishing this season of Mr. Robot and popping some popcorn.

Happy New Year.

Don’t take any of that as complaining or disappointment. On the contrary, that’s pretty much how I prefer to celebrate New Year’s Eve anymore. I’m too old for hangovers and going to bed drunk. Those days have pretty much passed for me. They’re not fun for me, nor are they fun for anyone around me. There’s just a certain point in one’s life when you go, “Okay. Time to be an adult.” I do enjoy a tasty lager or mixed drink, don’t get me wrong. But I just don’t see the point in downing drink after drink until you reach some kind of personal desolation point.

So while some were toasting to the death of the old year and the pending birth of a new one dressed to the nines or in costumed regalia, I was perched comfortably at home in a Christmas fleece eating popcorn and peanut M&Ms entranced by costumed heroes and a depressed computer hacker named Elliot.

2017. Gotta say this hasn’t been a very good year, pretty much all around. We’re all still healthy, happy, and looking forward to promising days ahead here at the Hubner compound. We’ve all moved past the negatives of 2017 and are looking forward to a better 2018, but it wasn’t easy getting to this point. A summer infestation of bed bugs has left its scars, both physically and psychically. I lost one of my very good friends to suicide, which I’m still trying to cope with. But everyone within our four walls are doing well. I have to be thankful for that. The world at large is still a massive dumpster fire with cretins pissing on the flames everyday. I know there’s still people out there with common sense and big hearts trying to get things right, but the noisy bastards make it hard to concentrate on the good stuff.

I’m looking forward to 2018. No, I mean it. My oldest is graduating high school and will be heading off the college in the fall. My wife is heading into the new year with a job she really loves and we’re excited to see where she goes with it. My two youngest are doing well in school and are looking forward to where things will lead them. I’m excited to continue writing, listening to music, and sharpening my skills as a musician and songwriter. I’m ready to get back to some serious playing, guitar-wise. It’s recently been a great thing for me to head down into the studio, plug into the Marshall and play.

So here’s to 2018. More great records, more great comics, more great opportunities,…and did I say more great records?

 

 

 

 

Burnin’ Down The BBC : Led Zeppelin and the BBC Sessions

I think Led Zeppelin is in my DNA. They’re twisted and knotted up in those pesky hereditarial strands that make me me. Along with the Beatles and the The Doors, I do believe Led Zeppelin were pumped into my mom’s womb as I hung out, kicked occasionally, and bid my time till I could kick and scream for the whole world to hear and see. Some of my first memories are of the cover of Led Zeppelin III psychedelically floating in my face as the opening chords to “Black Dog” echoed in my ears. Why that song and that album cover come together in my early memories is beyond me, but that’s how I recall it. There used to be parties in my parents basement in my early years. It was a half basement with a washer and dryer, furnace, water softener, a pool table, and an old console stereo. At these gatherings Zeppelin’s first four records were played often. I do believe this is where the songs got stuck between my ears and stayed permanently. They were ingrained so much so that I recall getting yelled at by my kindergarten teacher because I was humming “Misty Mountain Hop” loud enough for her and the class to hear me. And once the turntable was retired and my parents stopped spinning those records, my older brother fell hard for LZ and the cycle began all over again. By the time I was learning to play guitar “Stairway To Heaven” and “Thank You” were two of the first songs I learned. Later on I can remember being mildly jealous of the fact that my cousin(who started lessons just a year or two after me) learned “Ten Years Gone” and could play it beautifully. I guess it was only right, as he was a Gibson guy and I was a Fender guy growing up(he’s now a Fender guy and I’m a…well, I’m still a Fender guy.)

dsc05129It seemed to me after high school my relationship with Led Zeppelin went through a few stages. I kind of lost interest for a bit, leaving the albums to sit and collect dust. There was mild contempt for them at one point, with me thinking they were just another gluttonous heavy rock band that fell for the typical booze and drugs stereotype. There was a mild resurgence after STP covered “Dancing Days”, then interest drifted again. But then, in 1997 the BBC Sessions were released and my whole idea about who Led Zeppelin were changed. What I thought at one point was this kind of bloated and excessive rock band was at the beginning a powerhouse quartet that left ashes in their wake. BBC Sessions showed me a band in their prime willing to light the fuse and wait for the explosion. This album reinvigorated me and gave me a whole new admiration for the band I loved as a teen and lost interest in when I thought I’d matured as an adult. This live collection set in stone their reputation as one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever hit a stage.

dsc05131A mistake I remember making as a teen was going to the mall and I’d always hit the bookstore to look for the Rolling Stone album guide. Whenever I’d get into a band I’d always look up reviews of their albums. Of course, this was a horrible mistake as most of these reviewers had their heads up their asses. Imagine the disappointment during my Van Halen and Rush phases. Those reviews were awful. But the most surprising to me were the Led Zeppelin reviews. According to reviewer John Mendelsohn from 1969 in regards to Led Zeppelin’s debut he writes

“Jimmy Page, around whom the Zeppelin revolves, is, admittedly, an extraordinarily proficient blues guitarist and explorer of his instrument’s electronic capabilities. Unfortunately, he is also a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs, and the Zeppelin album suffers from his having both produced it and written most of it (alone or in combination with his accomplices in the group).”

Famed music journalist Lester Bangs didn’t have much nicer things to say about Led Zeppelin III, though he at least seems like he wanted to like it,

“Much of the rest, after a couple of listenings to distinguish between songs, is not bad at all, because the disc Zeppelin are at least creative enough to apply an occasional pleasing fillip to their uninspiring material, and professional enough to keep all their recorded work relatively clean and clear — you can hear all the parts, which is more than you can say for many of their peers.”

Gordon Fletcher’s Houses of the Holy review really takes the cake,

“The truly original songs on Houses of the Holy again underscore Led Zeppelin’s songwriting deficiences. Their earliest successes came when they literally stole blues licks note for note, so I guess it should have been expected that there was something drastically wrong with their own material. So it is that “Dancing Days,” “The Rain Song” and “No Quarter” fall flat on their respective faces — the first is filler while the latter two are nothing more than drawn-out vehicles for the further display of Jones’ unknowledgeable use of mellotron and synthesizer.”

I mean, Jesus. What’s a kid supposed to think when he’s reading these literary eviscerations of albums that have pretty much blown his mind? I’m sorry, but I still think to this day that Houses of the Holy is one of the greatest rock and roll achievements…ever. “The Rain Song”, “Over The Hills And Far Away”, “The Ocean”, “The Song Remains The Same”, and “No Quarter”? Fucking “No Quarter”, man. That’s like prog territory. I still get goosebumps listening to it. Elitist music journalist snobs, man. I’ll give Lester Bangs credit. I think he at least tried to open up to them.

But hey, I’m getting off point.

dsc05134BBC Sessions to me gave a shining, steely middle finger to the naysayers that felt the urge to shit all over what Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham were doing. There was no pretension on those recordings. It was heavy blues and a hefty dose of black magic thrown together to create something new and vital. In 1997 I’d become a reborn Zeppelin fan. I shared my newfound fandom with everyone that would listen. I gave a copy to my parents and a copy to my brother. My cousin who’d learned their songs far better than I ever did couldn’t believe how great the album was. It was, to me, one of the few live albums worth owning. I was never a live album fan, really. Most live records to my ears felt very one dimensional and plotted. The live urgency that you feel when experiencing a band live in front of you was just sucked out of the experience when put to tape and you were left with what felt like a cheap money grab. Now before you puff your chest out at me and say “Hey pal, (insert band name here) (insert live album name here) was a great live record!” Yes, I know there are some exceptions, but as a general jhubner73 rule most live albums underwhelm. Led Zeppelin’s BBC Sessions is one of those exceptions.

Imagine my surprise and general glee when earlier in the year it was announced that BBC Sessions was being released as a 5LP box set, with expanded tracks, added goodies, and a total remaster by Jimmy Page himself? Well, if you can’t imagine it I’ll tell you I was sweating and panting mess. I told my wife that if she wanted to know what to get this guy for his 43rd birthday it was that box set. Since she usually buys me underwear if not given some sort of direction, she happily snagged it for me.

If you haven’t heard this set and you’re a fan then you must hear it. The 1997 CD set was great, but this new set hums. You feel like you’re on the soundstage with the band. It’s raw, visceral, and very much in your face.

Everyone is on point here. Bonham sounds like what I’d imagine Ben Grimm in The Thing mode would sound like on a set of drums. He was never a nuanced, Tony Williams-type of drummer. He was more of a bull in a china shop kind of drummer and that’s what they needed. He could groove when needed, like on “The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair”. It’s three minutes show Bonham’s love for the the Bernard Purdie funk groove. His restraint and jazzy ride cymbal groove on “What Is And What Should Never Be” is also a a welcome refrain from his thunderous hits. “Communication Breakdown” is full force rock and roll, with an almost proto-punk feel. It appears four times throughout the set.

Robert Plant is in full banshee mode here. His turn in “How Many More Times” almost sounds like an out-of-body experience. His vocal turns on “You Shook Me”, “Traveling Riverside Blues”, “Thank You”, “What Is And What Should Never Be”, and “How Many More Times” are monumental. His range in these early days was unprecedented to my ears, and to pull this off live is stunning.

Jimmy Page, of course, is the mastermind here. His love of Tolkien, delta blues, and the occult come together here beautifully. He built the perfect machine to create his mystical music. Side F’s 18+ minute “Dazed and Confused” feels like some spaced-out exploration into the subconscious. This jumps the tracks into avante garde art rock, really. I can’t imagine the faces of those folks in the crowd watching this happen before them. Page conducts this musical cacophony like a wizard, his wand a Gibson Les Paul. He’s also quite exceptional on “Black Dog”, “Immigrant Song”, and the beautiful “Going To California” and “That’s The Way”.

But the real MVP here is John Paul Jones. And really, he was the MVP the entire run of Led Zeppelin. He added tasty groove to tracks that could’ve ended up being stiff and mechanical. Just check out “The Lemon Song” for proof of his bass expertise. Or “What Is And What Should Never Be”. Or the thunderous “How Many More Times”. Not seen on this set, but Jones really pushed Zeppelin into new territory with his keys and synth textures, as well as orchestrations on Physical Graffiti and In Through The Out Door.

dsc05133Not sure I can say much more here. If you’re a fan(mild passerby-like fans need not stop) of Zeppelin and an even bigger fan of raw, visceral live album experiences I can’t recommend this box set enough. Don’t want to spend the cash? There’s a 3CD set available for quite a bit less cash. This one is well worth your time.

This one will get the blood a-pumpin’ and the booty shakin’. New Year’s Eve jams? Zeppelin has you covered.

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve

newyearsevil_newsite-horror-calendar-holiday-inspired-horror-moviesI can’t remember the last New Year’s Eve that I had to get up and go to work. It’s been years. And yet, here I am. I’m at work, wondering why in the hell I’m here. It’s not that I don’t understand that folks work on New Year’s Eve. I know they do. I know there’s people that don’t have the luxury of having this day off to hang out with their families and get the celebrating going early. But you see, I’ve never been one of those people. I work in an industry that while the rest of the year is pretty busy and constant in work flow and deadline making, during the holidays we’ve always had them off. There have been holidays in the past where we were off for the entire run between Christmas and New Years. Last year was one of those years for me. I loved it. I loved being home with the kids watching whatever DVDs they got for Christmas, or doing some marathon show watching on Netflix. And sleeping in. Yes. I loved being able to sleep in,especially when we’d stay up till midnight watching movies….

But this year I only have New Year’s Day off. It just throws everything off, really. This was the first year that my wife had two whole weeks off during the holidays. With her new job the plant shuts down, so she gets to stay home and not do anything work-related till January 5th. All the years previous she was working 2-7pm. It worked out well in that I could be home with the kids while she was working, but this year it would’ve been great. Nope. This year the company I work for decided against giving everyone time off.

So I’m here, yawning and grumpy, wishing I was home in my warm bed as the beer cools in my frigid garage for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebration at our home. There’s chuck roast cooking in the crock pot for shredded beef sandwiches, and my mom is bringing crab meat salad to go with the sandwiches. We’ll eat, place some cards, listen to some music, and I’ll drink Old Style till I’m ready to go to bed at 10pm. I’ll try to make it to midnight, but I’m not making any damn promises.

So my hat’s off to all the folks that didn’t have a choice in the matter in regards to having to work today. You know who those folks are. The service industry folks. So when you go to Walmart or the grocery store to grab that bag of chips you forgot to buy, try to be decent to the guy or gal checking you out at the register. Or that dude that sells you that 12-pk of micro-brewed delight, tell him thanks. And especially the gal that delivers your pizza right to your front door, give them a nice tip and tell them Happy New Year.

Happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve At The Village Vanguard

DSC04240Well we’ve made it. 2013 is nearly over and we’re staring 2014 right in the eyes and saying “Bring it on.” I’m looking back on 2013 not with any regrets or how I would’ve done things differently. I’m looking back and wondering where in the hell did it go? It’s as if someone cranked the treadmill speed up to to “breakneck” in January and next thing I knew it was Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving was nearly a month ago bubs, and baby New Year nearly needs its Huggies changed. Our feet are firmly planted on New Year’s Eve’s front lawn and in a few hours we’ll be inside sipping cocktails, eating snack foods and various dips, and playing cards. A celebration for a year’s worth of foibles and accomplishments, near misses and right place and right times, better luck next times and right on the nose bullseyes. This is a wake for 2013 and a baby shower for 2014.

So can you look back on 2013 with little to no regrets? How did it go for you? For me, 2013 was the first year in two years I didn’t have to go to a funeral, which is always something to be thankful for. My 9 to 5 job was a little sketchy this year, but I’m still employed. I’m still putting a roof over our head, food in the pantry, books and toys in the hands of those that matter, and of course records on my platter to spin. We took a couple nice vacations this year. Nothing extravagant to say the least, but time well spent with my family. New furniture for our living room, new furniture for the kids(and new bedrooms), and two record cabinets built(a third is imminent.) I’ve tried ample craft beers this year. Some fantastic(Founders Brewery and their Breakfast Stout is amazing), some not so much(North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout made me feel dirty), but all were good in some way or another. My wife and the rest of her PTO crew at our kids’ elementary school went above and beyond this past October and had one of the best school fundraiser yet, bringing in over $20,000. And all the kids had to do? Walk for an hour during school hours. Yeah, no door-to-door nonsense anymore. Great job, ladies! My kids have had a great 2013, school-wise, friend-wise, and just being great people-wise. I couldn’t ask for better children. Our budgeting really kicked in this year. We haven’t used a credit card since 2012. We’re saving money, we’re becoming more and more financially free of institutions, corporations, and CEO dividends. Feels good to be free.

Me? Well this has been quite an artistically diverse and creative year for me. Probably the most creative and diverse year ever for me. I’ve put out an album under my own name, plus a single, and in November I released the debut album by Cambodia Highball called Odd Geometry with my good friend Shane Darin Page. Probably the most intricate, yet simply created music I’ve ever had the honor to be a part of. We spent the better part of the summer in-between vacation, freelance work, and time to just chill crafting these afternoon improvisations into a musical journey. I’m extremely proud to put my name on this record.

Another amazing thing happened this year. I made a ton of new friends in the blogging world. You all know who you are. You’re all pretty incredible. Thanks for introducing yourselves and sticking around. I look forward to writing with you all in 2014.

We didn’t really go to many concerts this year, the wife and I. In fact, we only went to one. But hell, when your one concert is My Bloody Valentine you really can’t complain too much. It was a hell of a show.

It was quite a year for vinyl. I posted about the amazing records that invaded my brain this year, but there was plenty more I didn’t talk about because they weren’t actually released this year. The Boards of Canada reissues rotate between the three albums throughout the week. Many jazz records were added to my collection, including several Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk records. Death Waltz Recording Company provided me with ample classic synth-driven classic horror film soundtracks to reminisce over and my kids to laugh at. Secretly Canadian, Fat Possum, Matador, and Southern Lord have provided ample tunes to spin as well. And this straight-as-an-arrow fellow has found the beauty and joy in that music they call stoner metal. I look forward to what 2014 brings.

So 2014, I think I’m ready for you. There’s new artistic endeavors on the horizon. More Cambodia Highball, more Sunnydaymassacre, and even a new lo-fi guitar and loop-based project called dreamdistrict that I think might be pretty amazing(look for something more on this in the next day or two.) Until then, the Old Style is cooling in the garage for tonight’s festivities(tacos, kids friends over, my parents coming over for some brew, grub, and cards), and I’m sure some music. Everyone have a safe and Happy New Year.

I’ll leave you with some pics of our Christmas break trip to Fort Wayne yesterday.

DSC04210
Candy store in the mall
Hands in the candy jar.
Hands in the candy jar.
Papa bear and baby bear.
Papa bear and baby bear.
Mama and the teen.
Mama and the teen.
Books...and half price they say.
Books…and half price they say.
Vinyls 'n such.
Vinyls ‘n such.
Whaaaa???
Whaaaa???