Saturday, March 27, 2010

MB Presents: The Fred Phelps Award

The other day, about an hour or so before I got up onstage here in Carson City, I got on my computer to see what was new on my Facebook account. I was confronted by my good friend Jeremy Orris ranting and raving like a madman. Or to be more accurate, a mad man. Y'see, his band Idekay was among five bands set to open for 80's hair-metal masters WASP. There was a problem, however - his band, along with the other four, were forced to wait outside the New Oasis nightclub in Sparks for several hours as WASP soundchecked. For seven hours. The band's tour manager also wound up forcing three of the five bands off the bill for no reason whatsoever, prohibited them from selling their merchandise, forbade the remaining two bands from backlining their equipment (basically, setting up in advance in front of the headliners' gear), allowed the two bands twenty-minute sets, and most bizarrely, forbid any and all, including New Oasis staff and security, even the local promoter, from looking lead singer Steven "Blackie Lawless" Duren in the eye.

Normally, this would be an unfortunate but all too common occurence. It does happen a lot, bands on club tours being forced to dump local bands from opening slots due to various real or imagined circumstances. But what pissed everyone off what that the local bands had done a lot of the ticket-selling for this show. A lot of hard work was thrown away by a band with no respect for the people who actually got the butts in the seats for them. Jeremy's band chose to walk away with their dignity intact. My good friends Pain Clinic were tossed from the show quite literally as the result of a coin toss. Both of these bands had driven for more than an hour just to get to the show, arrived at the venue when they were told to be there for set-up, waited patiently for the headliners to soundcheck, then were treated with utter contempt. Jeremy had every reason in the world to be mad. He vented his anger on his Facebook account, and Pain Clinic did the same on their MySpace account. I checked in with Pain Clinic, and with their drummer James on his own MySpace account, and suggested to them that they should air their grievances with WASP on Blabbermouth, the hard-rock and heavy-metal news website owned by top independent metal label Roadrunner Records. And boy, did they.

Not only did Pain Clinic reveal their shoddy treatment at the hands of WASP, they posted eyewitness accounts of Duren (Lawless) lip-synching his vocals during the soundcheck and the show, as well as accounts of watching WASP's soundtech muting Duren's microphone during songs, and unmuting it between songs so Duren could talk to the audience. While pre-recorded background vocals are nothing new in popular music, going back as far as the Sixties, but this is pushing into Milli Vanilli territory. Professional musicians know when people fake it. I know when people fake it. Powerlight faked their vocals for years, with Jackie mumbling along to her own pre-recorded vocals. I watched the keyboard player for the Dutch symphonic-metal band Within Temptation fake his keyboard parts during a show in Reno two-and-a-half years ago. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pain Clinic, however young they are, they're professional enough to know when they see a man faking it. They've endured a few slings and arrows from the trolls that inhabit the message boards on Blabbermouth, but in my opinion are stronger and better people for it.

Now I'll bet you're wondering about the title of this post, and why I would have an award named for a vile and disgusting anti-gay preacher from Kansas. This is something I've decided to bring over from my blog on MySpace, an award given to exemplary displays of stupidity of mind-boggling proportions. So now I give you the latest winner of the Fred Phelps Award for being The Dumbest Humanoid On The Planet: Steven Edward Duren, a/k/a Blackie Lawless. In fact, let's take it further than that. This blog has the word 'boycott' in it, after all.

It's time to call a boycott against WASP, and against Duren personally, for their cruel mistreatment of hard-working local musicians, their idiocy and bizarre behavior, and the deception of their paying customers. While I cannot verify the accusations leveled against them by Pain Clinic because I wasn't there to see it for myself, I would be hard-pressed to doubt their claims. Here's a link to their posts on Blabbermouth:

It's our privilege to support local music, and it's our responsiblity to call out touring bands that disrespect local bands and musicians. Better yet, don't support bands that behave in such a foul way. Let them wither and die on the vine as punishment for their actions. It reminds me of an old saying that so many famous people seem to forget:

"Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you'll probably see them again on the way down."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

By The Way, Russ.....

I figured out why my new friend Russ Strathdee wasn't able to comment on my blog posts - I'd never actually set up my blog to accept posts correctly. I think I've fixed it. but I'll still be moderating the comments, so no trolling, aight?

The Learning Curve

This current run is winding down, and the Stonz and I have been taking the opportunity to add some new material to our shows. Actually, let me rephrase that - they already know the material, it's getting my pale fat ass to learn it that's the fun part. It's actually not that difficult, just time-consuming. They'd already been passing me material to work with from the moment I first played with them in Oroville at the Gold Country Casino last July, so whenever I get a CD handed to me, I know that there's some more material to learn. Last time through here I was passed a disc with a Temptations medley and a weird (to me) dance-mix version of the Ben E. King chestnut "Stand By Me". Back in Port Angeles, I rigged up my kit with my triggers and practiced quietly for about an hour or so a day, until I had things more-or-less down. Then they told me that I'd have to learn their harmonies. Normally, that's not a problem for me, so we just set up time during the day to work it all out.

The Carson Station has its own little green-room for the bands, with a storage area, a dressing room and a small bathroom. Mike and Arthur and I adjoin to the dressing room and go over the CD they gave me again and again, going through ten Temps songs in twelve minutes. It's difficult at first, but then I realized something that I'm not entirely sure that I'd ever done before in a band - actually learning a harmony, rather than merely listening to the other people sing and finding a hole in the chord structure in which to settle. In Powerlight, that's what I'd always done, even if turned out that the harmony I sang was some wild-ass extrapolation of the melodic line that nobody had ever heard of before, as if I'd just dropped in from another planet and decided to learn to sing rather than being taken to any particular leader. At first I struggled with what they wanted me to sing, and then commit that particular line to memory - I still really need to take a recorder of some kind to practice so later on, I can focus on what I did right. But Mike reassured me that I was actually picking up the parts with rather quickly, and that I shouldn't be so frustrated with my perceived inability to instantaneously absorb and process the information being given to me. The rehearsals rarely go longer than an hour, and I think I'm doing well, or maybe that's my more pessimistic side trying to be optimistic while wondering aloud if they really think that I suck at this.

I'm such a smartass.

Oh well, at least the material is being put to use and the crowds like what we play for them. And I appreciate that very much. And we'll return to Carson City in about six weeks, where I'm sure that I'll get another CD handed to me. I wonder what'll be on it? Probably something that was written and recorded before I was born. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mistaken Identity, or "Waitaminute, Isn't He Dead?"

I've recently had the opportunity to talk with a fellow music blogger about a certain friend of mine who's been in and out of my life for the last fifteen years or so.

Or so I thought. Well, it goes like this:

A few days ago, I was going through the email account tied to this blog and I received a message from a man who tried to post a comment to my blog, but was unsuccessful in doing so. It seemed that he knew my old friend Wes Chapman, a keyboardist and singer rebuilding his life after a long struggle with the bottle. So naturally, I responded gleefully and asked what kind of dirt he had on ol' Wes. It turns out that this fellow, a Canadian saxophonist named Russ Strathdee, was thinking of another Wes who'd passed on several years ago. My Wes is, of course, still breathing and playing the occasional piano-bar gig. We got over the "oops" pretty quickly and Russ even threw out the idea of jamming with my Wes if he ever came to Reno. Sounds like a fun idea if schedules work out right. I'll have to give Wes a jingle and see if he has any gigs coming up.

And in the spirit of cross-promotion, here are links for Russ' websites: (his blog) (his personal website)

Russ is a pretty well-rounded player, handling jazz, blues and early rock with equal aplomb. He's got a pretty good discography, going back forty years. And he seems like a nice guy, so give him a look and listen, willya?

Well, I have to go set up my gear now. My next run of shows at the Carson Station starts tomorrow, and I've got the Monster out, and all of it, since I have to take it back to Port Angeles with me for the blues band that wants to jam with me when I get back. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Well, in a few hours Joy and I will be heading back to Nevada for a few weeks of work. It'll quite possibly be her last trip that way for the next several months, as the weather will likely be too hot for her once the next scheduled run starts in mid-May, and the following scheduled run (all of August) will most certainly be too hot for her. So I guess I'd better get her there while she can enjoy it. It shouldn't be too much of a chore, with a leisurely drive to Bend tomorrow to her sister's place, followed by another leisurely drive to Sparks the next night. By 'leisurely' I mean eight hours a day, but if you've been a faithful reader you know what my travel habits, so eight hours would seem leisurely.

After this run of gigs I'll have a whole month to myself. I have a few leads, friends offering to scout around and find last-minute substitute gigs. A guitarist I used to work with flat-out offered me the drum chair in his blues band, claiming enough gigs to live off of, but while the offer has its merits, I just don't have enough information to even want to think about making a switch. And then there's the fact the guy offering me the gig is more a little flaky. I like the guy, but I know enough about him to not place implicit trust in him without explicit proof. But playing with a live band is always fun, and playing with a different band than the one that pays my bills is fun in a dirty sort of way, kind of like cheating on your spouse, just without the mess, the guilt, the unwanted pregnancies or the sexually-transmitted diseases. All the fun, none of the mess!

Why does it suddenly sound like an ad for diet soda?

Oh well. I hate diet soda. Talk to y'all later.

Oh by the way, hi Russ.