Road Trip

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This past July my family and I took a summer road trip to The Pacific Northwest. It was incredibly beautiful and my first time in that area of the country. I rented a Jetta and we put over 4000 miles on it. The car came with Sirius Radio. I had brought my own iPod Classic loaded with some great music but unfortunately Sirius prevailed on the trip. Rather than debating what I thought was good music on the trip, I let my family play whatever they liked and I drove happily down our nation’s lovely interstates and highways.
Much of the music we listened to was “popular” stuff from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, some 90’s, and current stuff. This is the deal, how many times can a human being hear the same song throughout his/her life before one goes insane? Think about this, how many times have you heard, Take It To The Limit or Bang The Drum All Day or how about Under Pressure? How many more times are you going to hear those three songs again? It’s crazy that with all the music that has existed in this world, there are maybe a couple of thousand songs we all hear over and over and over and fucking over again.
One of the Sirius stations was called, Road Trip. It could have been called the greatest crap hits of all time that you know by heart and won’t ever forget, even if you’re brain dead from choking on your own vomit from hearing the same shit so many times in one lifetime. I think about all the great undiscovered music that will never be heard because it has been left behind thanks to the fear of something new. Record labels have known for a long time that there is a formula that sells records. Deviate from that formula and there will be no future. So, in the long run we have been cheated out of so much more good music and it’s a shame.
Mile after mile we drove listening to Bob Seger, U2, Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd, GnR, and yes Todd Rundgren. We all had a blast singing in the car and I’d do the trip again in a second. But please, lets work on the soundtrack.

Next week I’ll be back with my normal reviews and asshole comments. Until then, thanks for not running us off the road…

Café Tacvba

Back in the early 90’s upon visiting my lovely family for Christmas in Mexico City (my mum lived in a haunted house at this time so how could I pass up Christmas en la casa de fantasmas?) I came accross this CD called Café Tacvba at my favorite Music/Bookstore, Libros Ghandi. It looked interesting and the band was named after a favorite cafe in downtown Mexico City. I brought it home and played it. At the time I was really into Rock/Flamenco, a kind of underground fusion between the two musical styles. Café Tacvba interested me a little but I wasn’t sold.
Years later I was going through my stack of plastic discs trying to find enough crap to take to the CD/Record Exchange on Clark Street in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I saw the CD and decided to play it one last time before I sent it on it’s way. WOW! What was I thinking back in ’92? What was wrong with me? This band was fucking great! Not just, “hmm that’s pretty good sounding shit,” but G R E A T!
Rubén Albarran is about 5 and half feet tall but what comes out of his mouth is humongous. His voice is like no other and under most circumstance would probably not fly here in the good ol’ US. But under the guise of Rock en Español, it is killer – I hate that title but we’ll run with it for now.* Café Tacvba has become one of my favorite bands from Mexico. In 2005 they released an MTV Unplugged CD. I’ve had a love/hate relation with those unplugged CD’s from the 90’s and 00’s, but I have to admit, this CD is fantastic. August loved listening to it when driving in his car seat.
For my Chicago friends who saw Café Tacvba Friday night, I hope y’all had fun at Addams Park. This is a killer band to see live, so if you ever get a chance (they’re in LA next weekend, Rene?) go see them, you won’t be pissed you did.

Now for a word about categories
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I’ve never liked the idea of categories but I understand we must have a way to decipher what is what in this world and thus we created categories. My problem is that we have created one category for styles of music that are not traditionally Mexican Rancheros and called it Rock en Español. There are newer titles I’ve noticed, Rock Urbano for example. My point is, music shouldn’t exist by categories but rather by music itself. When I’m asked what kind of music do I listen to, I have a hard time answering the question. I like almost every type of music as long as it’s good. Hell, I even like Chic! I’ve never thought about limiting my taste to one certain type of music, and never will. Even at 18 when I was banging my head to The Cramps, I still loved Miles Davis. Never be afraid to step outside and listen to what the neighbor’s are playing, you might just find yourself grooving to something new that you actually like!

The Rolling Stones Zip Code Tour

Last night I saw The Stones perform live at Arrowhead Stadium. Continually having to pick up my jaw off the floor I began to feel there must be something wrong with me. How does Jagger do it? He’s 72 years old and performs like he’s half his age. They were damn amazing (a word that is way over used today). Some people may see them as a band that has started to show their convalescing but hell no. They are still putting on a show that is worth the price of admission. It was a blast to look around and see folks well in their 60’s dressed conservativley, having fun – women throwing their hands up in the air, men pumping their fist and singing along with the band and even, holy shit, folks gyrating! The beer was flowing, weed was being smoked, grown men yelling at the top of their lungs and then there was me, feeling like I was seeing the holy grail of Rock and Roll, paralyzed with emotion thinking about the history behind these guys. The Stones are Rock & Roll and here they are, maybe performing their last tour before permanant retirement.
I have to admit that I was caught up in the moment and felt like I could now die a happy man…

Nahhhh, too much shit out there I still want to experience. But I will say this, that band was bad ass rockin’.

Setlist
Start Me Up
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Tumbling Dice
Doom and Gloom
Beast of Burden
(with Ed Sheeran)
Kansas City
(Little Willie Littlefield cover) (first since the early 1960s)
Bitch
Wild Horses
Street Fighting Man
(by request)
Honky Tonk Women
(followed by band introductions)
Before They Make Me Run
(Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Happy
(Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Midnight Rambler
Miss You
Gimme Shelter
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Sympathy for the Devil
Brown Sugar
Encore:
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
(featuring the University of… more )
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Sound City

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I just finished watching Sound City for the second time. I first watched it in 2013 when it was released and thought the documentary was very poignant. If you haven’t seen Sound City, find it, sit down and watch it. Dave Grohl puts his finger straight into eye of what is wrong with today’s music. It fucking S U C K S!!! I used to think it was because I was much older, but now I can see clearly why music for the most part is shit. Now, before you go putting firecrackers up my ass and tell me, “but Roberto there are a lot of underground bands that are great.” Fuck you! I know there are a lot of bands out there that are cool and great and fantastic and all that. This is not what I’m talking about. 

Sound City was a no holds barred recording studio that launched just about everyone’s career during the 70’s. Fleetwood Mac, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Cheap Trick, Santana, War,  Tom Petty & the Heart Breakers, REO Speedwagon, Neil Young, and so on. Then there was the Chile Peppers, Slipknot, Nirvana, Weezer, and fucking Johnny Cash! The list goes on. What Sound City was and never will be again, was creativity that took work to make. Today, anyone and their granny can make music using some sort of digital device and some cheap or even free app. You don’t even need to know how to fucking sing, just auto tune the whole thing. 

It used to be we’d buy a record, go home, put the record on our turntable and listen to every song on it, not just one or two and then expecting the rest to be shit. Now we download our music from any plethora of music sites and can listen to “our” music anywhere we are. But my question remains, is this music any good?

There is a line in the movie from Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine, and I’m paraphrasing, that went something like this;

Listen to the music that influenced the bands that you loved. Then listen to the music that influenced those bands. The further back you go the less technology there was and consequently the better records there were. 

These words hold a lot of truth in them. There’s no getting away from things like Pro Tools, but there’s a lot to be said for innovation when you’re working with completely analog technology. By the way, the post I made earlier about CD’s vs record albums in no way relates to creativity in a digital vs analog world. Music is music no matter how good or bad it is. I just feel that making things easier is not always the best way to make good art of any kind. 

Record Collections

I HATE record collections? Hate them like no other. Records have plagued me all of my life. When CDs started to enter our lives, I was very happy. They were small, compact and sounded great. I never was one to debate the “warm” sound of “vinyl” compared to CDs. I could give a rat’s ass. I remember one of the first CDs I bought was Ray Charles. One night I had my headphones on and was listening to Ray and marveling at the clarity of the sound. Mr. Charles was singing Old Man River and I could hear a woman whispering the words of the song in Ray’s ears! How’s that for fucking clarity?!
I’m not hear to judge you if you like CD’s or love record albums, or call records vinyl, or drink Starbucks coffee. No, I’m hear to fucking complain about all the fucking records I still own and haunt me every day of my life. There was a time when I owned over 2000 records. Thank god I moved from Mexico to the US and in doing so was forced to consolidate the monster on my back. But, I still have some of the records that I’ve had when I was 15. They are taking up too much room in our small house, yet I can’t throw them out – they hold all those goddamn memories that I also can’t throw out. There’s nothing like putting on Kraftwerk…
this album right here

 

 

…and going back over thirty years to a different time and place. Oh cry me a big fucking river! Who cares? No one does but the person listening. And that’s my point. This is one of the reasons why music is so damn cool. It creates little worlds inside our little brains so that we can go visit anytime through the magic of music. I find this so damn interesting that I am trying to write a little story about it. Maybe one day I’ll actually finish it. If I don’t that’s OK too, just as long as I can listen to my original Kraftwerk and remember that day when I was with my best friend and that girl and we were, blah blah blah…

ATTENTION:
Before you go smoke another bowl and go down memory lane, do me a favor and send me some pictures of y’alls record collections and I’ll post them under my new page entitled Record Collections. Wow that’s original!

Are We Not Men?

My brother and I watched a lot of the early, Not Ready For Primetime Players, Saturday Night Live, and I remember discovering a lot of new bands by watching SNL. Sometime in 1978 he and I were watching SNL not together but at the same time (he was NYC and I was in Mexico City) when our first encounter with five guys in yellow jump suits appeared on our TV’s. Devo was performing, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction! Holy shit batman! What the fuck was that? I couldn’t believe my ears. They took the Rolling Stones anthem and sped it up into something entirely different. Even at 15 I knew this band kicked holy ass. 

Sunday morning my brother called and asked if I had seen Devo the night before. We talked about how fucking great they were for 30 minutes when my mother came into the kitchen and said I had to get off the phone because our bill was going to be crazy expensive. 

Later that summer my brother came to visit Mexico City and brought me a copy of, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. He also wore a yellow jumpsuit and we entertained ourselves imitating Devo for an entire Saturday while trying to blow out my cheap-ass stereo speakers. 

I REALLY like this album. Uncontrollable Urge, Joko Homo, Space Junk and Satisfaction are my top picks. Devo’s second album, Freedom of Choice was a bigger success due to it being more poppy, but I like Are We Not Men much better because it’s so much more original with its lyrics and pulsating electric energy ridden, repetitive rhythm, blown up in your devolution mind, sound. I’m sure my nostalgia shrouds my criticism with rose colored Wayfarers, but who the fuck cares?

By the fucking way, my copy is pressed in purple marble as a special edition from Germany and according to Discogs, is worth 3.4 million dollars! 

The Rainmakers Live at Knuckleheads

Back in the 80’s my taste in music was the louder the better and if it included lyrics like “fuck you, I’m cool” or “I am an anarchist, Don’t know what I want…” even better. Yes, I was a damn punk with multicolored hair playing in a band called the Taxis. So I missed out on a lot of popular and not so popular music that other people were listening to. One such alternative pop band that I had never heard of until this past year was The Rainmakers. My wife has fallen in love with these guys and with lyrics that similarly express angst like the ones I appreciated 30 years ago, I can see why. This past weekend we went to see them at Knuckleheads (a Kansas City indoor/outdoor venue) for their annual show. My first impression when we walked into the packed bar was, I’m the youngest guy here – usually it’s the other way around. As soon as the band walked on stage, the crowd went wild, so much so that I had to grab my wife’s hand and head towards the stage to kill off a few more of the hairs in my cochlea.
Even though these guys have obviously sung the same songs a thousand times over the past thirty years, they kicked ass delivering a performance worthy of men half their age. I was impressed with their witty lyrics such as Drinkin’ on the Job
The farmer he got plowed
The bricklayer got plastered
The mechanic he got tanked
The construction worker got blasted
And Daddy beat up Mommy and broke her collarbone for good luck
Everybody’s drunk
Everybody’s wasted
Everybody’s drinkin’ on the job
I enjoyed myself saturday night and wish the Rainmakers success on the european tour which is sold out in Norway! Though The Rainmakers is not a band I’d follow, I must admit it was cool to see how devoted their fans were to their hometown pride. And who knows, if I’d come accross this band back in my punk days, maybe I’d been one of those guys at Knucklehaeds wearing a hawiaiian shirt waiving my fist in the air,.. not!

Homer’s Music – Omaha

A few weeks ago, August and I went to Omaha, Nebraska because neither of us had ever been there. It was a blast! After having a delicious “Omaha” steak dinner Saturday night in the Old Market district we walked IMG_0039around and came across Homer’s Music. August has grown up around my record collection but he’s never seen an actual record store. There are things from my past that are disappearing (think Blockbuster) quickly and record stores like Peaches, Sound Warehouse, Tower Records and then all the local shops, are no longer a part of our city landscape. In my youth every Saturday was spent mulling over hundreds of albums trying to zero in on the one album I’d spend my $7 on. It was with great pleasure I saw my son attempting to do the thing that came so naturally to me when we stepped inside IMG_0138
Homer’s. I came across one of my all time favorite albums that my sister originally bought back when it was originally released in ’73, Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP). The record looked like it had never been played and the cover was in great condition. The artwork is an HR Giger die cut and still holds up to my “cool” factor 40 years later. I will be reviewing this record later, but for now here’s a little taste of ELP

This is America, God Damn it!

A friend of mine is moving to California this week. He asked me for suggestions of places to see on his road trip. I told him to make sure he pulls over to see Cadilac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas. This morning he texted me a picture of said place. I was laughing when I saw it and proud that he had taken one of my suggestions. Have a good trip Mike.

I love this country and I love all the shit it stands for – most of it anyway. Where else in this world can you drive down a highway and see this?

It’s hard to buy American but it’s damn easy to experience it. Music is a great example of this. There’s no denying the fact that we have the best fuckin’ music anywhere in the world, bar none. In 1985 I lived in Paris, France. One day on my way back home I was walking down the winding streets of my neighborhood. I walked past an open window blaring Steely Dan. My god that made me home-sick. The fact that Hey Nineteen, she dont remember the queen of soul can elicit the same feelings with some french fuck as it does with me is, well magical. Salude mon ami.

Music has so much power behind it. It brings us together and it can tear us apart (no pun intended). We Americans love our arena rock where we can find a brotherhood of rockers with our index and pinky fingers standing tall at attention and shaking in the air as we bond together with AC/DC ringing in our ears. It’s a moment of rock bliss and that’s why we’re willing to throw down $125 for shitty seats on the third balcony. I mean, what the fuck?

American rock and American culture go hand in hand. It amazes me how much we take things for granted in this life we live, but we never take our music for granted. Next time you hear Back in Black throw your fist in the air and shake your head like there’s no tomorrow because the way things are going, tomorrow may never come.