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Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm so glad I'm not . . .

If there's one phrase I cannot stand, it's "I'm so glad I'm not single anymore." I didn't like it for the many years I was single, and I still didn't like it when I was in a serious relationship.

There is no failure in being single -- remaining in a bad relationship is much worse. Alas, not being in a relationship is more transparent than being in any kind of relationship. It's sadder to go stag to a party than to show up with someone you fought with during the whole drive over, right?

Wrong.

I know plenty of people who are single and I know many people who are in great relationships. Those are the people I like to spend time with. I've known people in terrible relationships in the past and I've taken plenty of mental notes on what not to do.

Recently at a show, I ran into a friend of a friend I have not seen in a handful of years. He's a great guy and I enjoyed catching up with him. He showed up with his girlfriend, who had complained the entire time about the venue and wanted to go home as soon as possible. When they found out the band wasn't going on until 11:30, the girlfriend complained even more.

Since the band playing was a band he had never seen before (and the band rarely plays together), I offered a truce. The girlfriend could drive home now while I could drive my friend home, no matter how late in the night. And it didn't bother me that he lives a good 30 minutes away. I wanted this guy to see this band because he's a big fan. And I didn't want him to worry about a proverbial ball and chain. At least on this night.

I hope I never find myself in a relationship like my friend's. As in, one person can do anything while the other is restricted and pressured to abandon many joys. If the enjoyment of sex together supposedly balances all of that relationship's imbalance, then the relationship is doomed.

On the other side of things, I've recently spent some time hanging out with a newlywed couple in my hometown. I've known the wife since high school and she wanted me to meet her husband, thinking we'd hit things off. We did, and I truly enjoy spending time with them. They're great people who respect and love each other. A positive influence like that goes much farther than a negative one.

And I've never heard either one of them say, "I'm so glad I'm not single anymore."

I'm not against being in a relationship; I'm against being in a bad relationship. We all bring baggage to a relationship, but it's important to live with what you have now instead of what brought you here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Two hearts are better than one



I was asked the other night about the moment Bruce Springsteen's music was cemented into my psyche. As in, the kind of bond where I fell in love and never forgot. Well, I couldn't give a direct answer because my relationship with Bruce has been a series of moments, not one grand moment.

For starters, there was the arrival of Born in the U.S.A. in our house after my father bought the family a CD player and speakers. There was the Bloom County spoof of the Live '75-'85 cover. Then there was the dubbed tape from my uncle that featured Tunnel of Love on one side. Many moments have continued since then, and there's always room for discovery.

Even now. Especially now, actually.

Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year, I managed my way through Dave Marsh's Two Hearts, a compilation of two books he had written on Springsteen. As far as I know, this is currently the closest thing to a "definitive" biography. (Personally, I'd love to see a new book that doesn't feel like a partial biography interspersed with live show reviews and extensive liner notes.)

Yet Marsh's book(s) helped fill in a gap that has eluded me for years: why did so many rock critics fawn over Springsteen? Marsh explained this topic in clear English, steering clear of the kind of babble that made Frank Zappa say one of his most famous quotes. Now that I had this understanding and drive to hear more music, I went about filling in some of my library's holes in Springsteen's catalog.

In only the past few months, I've realized how incredible The River is, and how much of a proverbial middle finger Tunnel of Love is to Springsteen's first marriage. These are not new revelations because I had heard these praises for years. It's only now I have my own personal take, especially with where my life is these days. Themes and topics found on those albums might have not made much sense to me as a kid in elementary school, but they sure as hell make more since as someone who's about to turn 33.

There's something about meeting Springsteen lifers: there's no shortage of stories they like to share. Moreso than the average hardcore fan of say, Styx or Bread. I can remember seeing a Tunnel of Love poster in the back of Donna and Noel's house and getting the feeling this was an important and prized possession. There was a story behind the poster, and many life experiences seemed to come out in Noel's facial expressions and tone of voice.

In this ongoing series of moments, I don't sense these will end someday soon. I might get around to truly understanding why Bruce's records without the E Street Band pale in comparison, but I'm holding that off for another day. Instead, I'd prefer to listen to The River as much as I can as I scour used bookstores for a vinyl copy of Live '75-'85.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with Deleted Scenes, a Washington D.C. band who worked with J. Robbins on their second record. Funny stuff, especially when he talks about seeing Petra and U2.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dull Knives

A few months ago, while talking with a fellow music critic friend of mine, he bemoaned about how little of an impact we have on our readers. I didn't necessarily disagree with him, but I'd like to think what we write does matter to a certain extent. People do read our stuff, right? Those page view numbers aren't inflated, right?

Even at this point, I'm not really aware of how many people read my work. And I really don't know what kind of impact it makes on people. Since I always write alone in a room, usually with my dog sleeping nearby, it's impossible to gauge any sort of immediate reaction. I know I'm not talking to a wall when I publish something on the Internet, but it's normal to wonder if anything I write has any impact on people.

I know writers who are convinced their work either lives or dies by how many page views they get, how many comments they get, and what the commenters say. I don't think that way, but I don't think it's a far-fetched way of thinking. If a writer is trashed in the comments section for his or her review, usually that writer carries around that baggage for a long time. I won't lie, I do that as well. Yet at the end of the day, I express my feelings and stand by them, even if no one else agrees.

Truth to be told, critics are their own demographic. Depending on what they specialize in, they listen to way more music, read more books, or see more movies in one year than the average person does in three years. Of course critics have an informed opinion, but the clock is always ticking with a deadline to state something with authority. Add in the constant fear of being the last to cover something, which is a sin. So if you ever wonder how or why hype (or anti-hype) builds quickly around something, that's a major reason why.

Often I wonder if articles and reviews are written merely to impress other critics and the pickiest readers. Sure, there is a healthy drive to add something to the table that has yet to be said. Alas, when commenting on comments based on initial comments, most people get tired of hearing about something, be it a band, album, book, or movie.

What I enjoy about covering shows is how not everyone is trying to write the same story. I rarely see fellow critics at shows, other than the ones at large venues. I try to convey what the show was like from the band's performance, the vibe in the room, and the general feeling of the evening. Plus, I'm encouraged to take pictures of the band, something I've done off and on for many years. I try to give a you-are-there perspective sort of feeling, especially like the show I saw last Thursday.

Alas, at the core, critics acknowledge the existence of something. Is this something going to live or die by what critics say? Not necessarily because this something exists. You remember the show, record, book, or movie more than what the critics thought. But I think there is value in discussing, discovering, and sharing. That's why I stick with it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Say Uncle

Five years ago today, my sister and brother-in-law became parents for the first time, my parents became grandparents for the first time, and I became an uncle for the first time to fraternal twins.

And it wasn't until this year that I signed my name as "Uncle Eric" on respective birthday cards. I'm still getting used to writing "Uncle" in cursive, but I have plenty of opportunities down the road do that again.

But for certain people I know who don't have kids, they see kids as cute little angels until the crying starts. At that point, these people label the kids as "shits" as Mom and Dad (or a grandparent) take over. Seems unfair to reduce a growing child into sheer annoyance. Alas, that's coming from people who haven't seen the whole perspective of parenting.

To the childless, hearing about a temper tantrum at the grocery store or a birthday party is enough evidence to never procreate. I disagree because as annoying and frustrating as it might be to be around an unruly child, people tend to overlook the good qualities a child can bring out of an adult. I'm not talking about how some parents change their communication skills into treating everyone like a child. I'm talking about seeing growth in a child, step by step, and appreciating that progression from an adult perspective.

For example, while spending time with my family at Thanksgiving, I wanted to take an afternoon nap on the couch. My nieces were playing and drawing near me as I started to lay down. I merely stated how I was taking a nap and one of my nieces said she and her sister would be quiet and draw. How awesome was that? Plenty. I have one of their drawings up on my refrigerator, serving as a reminder of many things -- and not just a talented budding artist.

When you recognize the person you were as a child in your own child, a lot of things make more sense in adulthood. You understand why you were the way you were -- and you can understand how or why your parents responded. Like when I see my nieces act shy around people, I remember what it was like to be incredibly shy at their age. Instead of forcing them to come out of a shell, I try to make them laugh with impressions. Whether it's Elmo or drama queens I know, my nieces pick up on the silliness. I'll do anything to get a laugh, especially for them.

In only five years, I've seen plenty of progress with these two little girls. I'm thankful I've been to every birthday party and have been with them on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas because you don't get to reschedule those sorts of events. They'll be asking for the car keys sooner rather than later.

So even if there's an occasional post-lunch meltdown now and constant door-slamming in the future teenage years, there will be plenty of other things to be proud of. That's worth seeing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with Tim Locke from Calhoun, a pretty fantastic Fort Worth band. Interesting sidenote: most of his fellow members are people I knew when I was playing in the Fort Worth area. Glad they're still doing their thing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Won't you be my neighbor?

Required viewing in my childhood was Mr. Rogers. The guy was as friendly as a trained dog and it's hard for a kid to say no to his demeanor. But I always wondered why Fred Rogers changed into a different sweater when he walked into his "home" (aka, the set doubling as his home). Seemed like he always changed out of one light sweater into another light sweater and put house slippers on. Why didn't he keep the sweater he had on?

I understand this a whole lot more these days. As much as I enjoy the house I live in, it gets pretty drafty. The heater works fine, but there are times when it feels like it hasn't run for hours. Hence the desire to wear longsleeves and socks all the time.

No matter what, I don't enjoy feeling cold. I'm supposed to enjoy the warmth of being indoors, right? But I don't have to wear a heavy coat indoors. Then I'd be burning up.

I don't have light sweaters like the ones Fred had. And I have no desire to wear a tie in my house. Instead, I have a handful of longsleeve shirts I could wear under a T-shirt, but I tend to go more for my black $16 hoodie from Burlington Coat Factory. Add in my slippers (dubbed "Grandpa Grubbs slippers" by friends of mine) and the transformation is complete.

Being at home so much, I look like I'm about to go work out at any time. I could do that, but I prefer to have balance. And if looking like an indie rock version of Fred Rogers is part of that, then so be it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And, we're back

CPU is back in my house, and nothing was seriously damaged. Blogging will resume tomorrow, but for now, enjoy my feature on the Black Dotz. (Note: the guitarist's last name is actually Prickett and the band was called The Falkon, not The Falcon Project.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with locals Darstar. Lots of talk about seeing the Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters. And one of their members' first show was one of the many times I saw MxPx in college. Small world.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Productivity

Normally I don't take this long between blog posts, but since my computer caught a virus last week, I've been doing bare bones work using Matt's laptop. As I await word from the PC tech when I can pick my (hopefully virus-free) computer, my work for DC9 has continued.

I was happy to include The Vatican Press in last week's edition of My First Show. I've known Eddie for a long time and he was a very helpful person in a critical aspect of POST. I was happy to return the favor and I look forward to what his band has brewing this year.

Later in the week, I covered a couple of acoustic sets by two Dallas-area legends, Terry Glaze and Patrick "Taz" Bentley. Glaze sang for a little band called Pantera back when they were a party metal band and Bentley has drummed for a number of bands, including Rev. Horton Heat.

And if that wasn't enough I covered their full rock set on Saturday night. Also on the bill were No Rest for the Wicked (which featured the second runner-up from American Idol's first season) and Here Holy Spain.

I won't lie: having my computer in the shop and fighting off allergies is not my idea of fun, especially since I'm still looking for a full-time job. I hoped to be starting another round of things last week, but other matters prevented such. I don't feel good when I'm not being productive -- it makes me want to be even more productive when things get back in order.

Alas, things are on the horizon. Some definite, some vague, but all things to look forward to. 2012 will be a better year.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A Modern Way of Letting Go

I'd like to start 2012 with something more than a resolution. I want to keep this great piece of wisdom with me, found on this excellent list of 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself:
Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

I wish I understood this concept earlier in life, but that's the way things go. Who knows, maybe I was told this, but didn't understand back then. After matters of life happening in 2011, mixed with a lot of other things from the past five years, this is something I'd like to stick with in 2012.

In the past, there were people that I tried to engage with beyond a friendly greeting. Be it a neighbor or a co-worker, these people were in various aspects of my life. More often than not, these folks acted like they had better things to do than talk to me for more than a minute. Knowing what I know now, those people are, essentially, doing you a favor. They're saying with their body language and responses, "Don't get to know me too well because there's not much that I'm willing to show you."

Yet when it comes to people who were very important in my life at some point, letting go of them can be difficult. The amount of good memories I have usually trumps the amount of bad memories -- and I wondered why these people wanted a full, indefinite break from my life. Letting go of them is tough when thinking this way.

I'm not one to relish losing people close to me, but life takes them in different directions where it should be best they make a clean break. I shouldn't force myself into someone's life that isn't trying to force him or her's into mine.