Though he’s never quite reached mainstream success, Alejandro Escovedo has long been underground famous — pleasing audiences across the planet with his unique sound. A shining soul with a punk rock past (via the Nuns), Escovedo now plays No Depression-approved, churning alt-country with a rock foundation and a chicano veneer. But it’s not just his ability to incorporate different genres that makes him so well-loved: Escovedo also has charisma and stage-presence to spare. He’s basically Bruce Springsteen, if the Boss was raised in Texas and had the advantage of some Southern charm. Escovedo is a tour-hound, seemingly addicted to the stage, and when he’s at the microphone the room belongs to him. Witness it.
— By Jaime Lees
link: Riverfront Times
8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12.
The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard.
$20 to $22.50.
Dr. Dog loves St. Louis and St. Louis loves Dr. Dog. Music fans here have long supported the hard working Pennsylvania act, embracing its harmony drenched, Beatles-come-jam band psych-rock and delicious live show. The band has been touring constantly for nearly a decade and it seems to always include an STL date on every tour. Dr. Dog has played at Mississippi Nights, the Creepy Crawl, the Red Sea, the Firebird (and the Bluebird), the Gargoyle, KDHX and LouFest. Its latest stop came last year as the opening act for the Lumineers at the Chaifetz Aren a, and all of this hard work has paid off with a headlining show at the Pageant.
Don’t Hate: Yeah, Dr. Dog toured with the Lumineers, but try not to hold that against ‘em. They’re just hustlin’.
link: Riverfront Times
Live Blog: 24 Consecutive Hours at Pop’s Nightclub
By Jaime Lees
Sat., Mar. 8 2014 at 12:00 PM
We’ve all done it. You’re at a bar and it’s closing time, but you’re not quite ready for the night to end. Maybe you want to grab just one more drink. Then someone in your crew suggests that you “go to the east side.”
Fifteen minutes later you’re in another state. You’ve crossed the Mississippi river into Sauget, Illinois and you find yourself in a massive gravel parking lot, stumbling into the after-hours beacon that is Pop’s Nightclub & Concert Venue.
Pop’s is a rare bar that is open (and serves booze) 24 hours a day, making it the go-to spot for late-night debauchery. But what happens there during the daylight hours?
I decided to spend one full day at Pop’s to see what it was like without beer goggles. Pop’s offers many amenities that make an adventure like this manageable: lockers to hold your stuff, comfortable couches for lounging, a variety of food and loads of entertainment. (Both accidental and on purpose.) It’s an easy place to have a good time.
So starting now, noon of Saturday, March 8, I’ll be live-blogging my experience at Pop’s here on RFT Music. Entries will include updates, photos, interviews and research on the history of the venue and its “24/7 Since 1981″ tagline.
I’m going east. Check back soon (and often) for live updates.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 11:20am
I packed my prep backpack. Red Bull, granola bars, sunglasses, my favorite pens and my super-hawt Taylor Swift notebook. Let’s do this. Also, now would probably be a good time to mention that there’s a man at my house and I’ve authorized him to use deadly force to protect my collection of heart-shaped sunglasses, so don’t go trying to bust into my crib while I’m away.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 11:45am
There are few stretches of road in St. Louis that I love to drive more that lovely section of highway 55 north from Loughborough to downtown. The beautiful architecture, the view of the river, they way traffic always slows down just south of the merging highways, allowing you a nice long view of our beautiful Arch. But this time, I peeked across the river with apprehension, knowing that soon I’d be in Sauget for, like, forever.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 12:01pm
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 12:02pm
The first song I heard as I walked in. A good sign, I think.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 01:05pm
The bartender here is very sweet. She was confused about why I was here at first, but she’s super nice and before I can even ask, she offers me the Pop’s wifi password. I’m the only non-employee here right now. It’s dark in here. I like it.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 1:28pm
The music has been switched off, the sound in here is now the audio for the basketball game that’s on the the TVs. One of these basketball players is named Dalton Pepper. Dalton Pepper! Say it aloud, if you don’t get me yet.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 2:26pm
I forgot hand sanitizer, but remembered to bring an extension cord. We’ll call it a draw. The Blues game is on the television now. GOshie! Also, I’m going to the show advertised in this photo next weekend. Two Saturdays in a row at Pop’s? My life is awesome/sad like that.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 1:50pm
I’m settling into a groove. I brought a lot of stuff to work on because I knew I’d be here for at least a while by myself. Do you know how many ways you can procrastinate at home? Instead of getting writing done, I’ll frequently decide that it’s a great time to clean the dust off of my ceiling fan or reorganize my shoes. Not here. I have nothing else to do right now but work or play a one-sided game of pool. It’s just you and me, Taylor Swift notebook.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 2:45pm
A few dudes just showed up and ordered drinks. Should I talk to him? I feel too shy to approach them, but I have the feeling that they’ll come and talk to me soon, anyway. They always do.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 3:06pm
These Blues announcers sound like they have a major crush on David Backes. But who doesn’t?
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 3:08pm
“And they got a pool table, too!”
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 3:27pm
This Blues game is thrilling, yo. And while we’re on the subject of local celebrities, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite Murphy Lee of the St. Lunatics to come hang out with me today/tonight/tomorrow. We’re in love, he just doesn’t know it yet.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 4:02pm
If I start losing my mind later, remind me that things could be worse. At least I’m not live-blogging Billy freaking Corgan playing a faux-intellectual 8-hour jam. The horror.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 4:57pm
It’s just me and one other guy here now. A pretty girl just came in and picked up a paper (job application? pay check?) but then she left. She had nice boots. If you ever need a place to host a party, try Pop’s on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll have the place to yourself with no rental fee!
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 5:55pm
I was just sitting here wondering if I’ve ever written about Pop’s before today. I don’t think I have, but I remembered talking about this place in an interview quite a few years back. I’ve interviewed Kelley Deal of the Breeders a few times, but on this occasion in 2008 the Breeders were due to play at Pop’s.
Me: So you’re gonna come here to St. Louis. Do you know about the place you’re playing? It’s kind of like that place you’d go to see a Journey cover band.
Kelley: Ha! The place that we’re playing there? Really? Oh God, I hate when you tell me shit like that, it’s so weird!
Me: No, it’s a fun place, but it’s in East St. Louis, and it’s sort of like, you have to stay on that street or you die.
Me: So don’t go roamin’ around there.
Kelley: OK. I mean, will people not come because of the location?
Me: No, you can totally go there, you just have to go straight there and then leave. Its like, in the middle of a couple of strip clubs.
Kelley: I can take my clothes off, that’s what you’re saying?
Me: Well, uh, next door at least. Or, uh, probably there, too. It’s your show.
Kelley: I’ll just take ‘em off there, too.
[I was at the show. She didn't take off her clothes. Tease.]
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 7:20pm
Took a nice little break for a bit. Talked with the awesome employees here and heard lots of great stories– like how Pop’s accidentally booked Nickelback back in 2000 on a metal show assuming they were a different metal band.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 8:08pm
Bartender Brian Werner tells me that he has a YouTube channel where he uploads clips from virtually every band that plays at Pop’s. This will be good for my research. Check it out here.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 9:25pm
Dinner time! I got hungry so I went next door to the Penthouse Club and picked up some steamed broccoli. Yes, I saw some breasts there. No, I don’t have pictures of that. I did see a dancer helping an old man use his iPhone, though.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 10:16pm
Sports sounds off, music on. The night at Pop’s has begun.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 10:31
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – 11:22
First friend visit! My friend Lindsay showed up! Here she is, doing her Samantha Ronson on stage.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 12:09am
I have solved the greatest mystery of Pop’s. If you’ve ever been here, you’ve probably seen these signs on the wall with seemingly random letters on them. The signs light up in parts, illuminating certain letters. Before tonight, I’d figured out that the sign is a security alert system. But with the help of my new Pop’s employee friends, tonight I learned that the letters correspond to different areas of the club and are lit up when an employee sees some kind of potential problem happening (a fight or something) to alert security and other workers.
Wanna learn how to decode the system? I have the key.
WSRRWBUB SB PB DJ L E M G N
WS – WEST STAGE
RR – REAR RESTROOM
WB – WEST BALCONY
UB – UPSTAIRS BAR
SB – SOUTH BAR
PB – PRODUCTION BOARD
DJ – DJ BOOTH
L – LOBBY
E – EXIT
M – MAIN BAR
G – GAME ROOM
N – NORTH DOOR (PATIO)
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 12:23am
I’VE BEEN HERE FOR TWELVE HOURS. The place is filling out. I am fueled on broccoli and ready ready ready.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 1:26am
I’m kinda big on life anniversaries, and it occurs to me that exactly one year ago today/tonight, I did the most monumentally stupid thing that I’ve ever done in my adult life. It involved an adventure to a different establishment not too far from here. I’m not giving up any details, you’ll have to wait for my memoirs.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 1:34am
IT’S ALL HAPPENING. A big change just happened here. DJ Big J just took over, cranked up the music and turned on the lasers. And 40 people walked through the door in the last few minutes. IT’S ON.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 3:05am
So, “spring forward” just happened and this place just got balls insane. People are coming through the door at the rate of about one a minute and the whole place just got instantly packed. Big J is killing with the hits and the dance floor is filling up. Here’s the view from the stage.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 3:53am
My friend Ryan doesn’t know how to do the “Cupid Shuffle” dance, but he’s trying. Dude, you need to spend some more time at Time Out on Gravois.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 4:21am
This crappy picture is a view from the balcony. It’s WAY more crowded than it appears in this photo. This place is packed. The DJ just played Pharrell William’s “Happy” followed by “Great Balls of Fire” then “Footloose” and “Jailhouse Rock.” It’s a party on the dance floor.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 5:32am
The Philly cheese steak shack outside in the parking lot is bumpin’.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 5:55am
The crowd has thinned just a bit, but the place still feels full. Some are leaving while others are just arriving. In the super-amazing film Tapeheads, they would call this photo “production value.”
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 6:00am
Six more hours. I amaze me, but I have friends here to keep me company. They’re eating cheese fries.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 6:30am
So, here’s the deal: I had planned on staying here from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, but since tonight marked the “spring forward” bit of daylight savings time, my plans got all weird. This means that if I stay until noon on Sunday, technically, I’ve only stayed for 23 hours instead of 24. That would ruin my bragging rights. So I think I’m going to try to stay until 1pm today.
Also, I haven’t mentioned this yet: I am at Pop’s and I’ve been way sober the entire time. I repeat: it is 6:30 in the morning and I’ve been at Pop’s for about 18 hours and “Rack City” is playing and I’m sober. Fact: I am more punk than you.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 6:42am
“Cupid Shuffle” is on again and friend Shaun is dancing the Curly Shuffle. #blessed
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 7:02am
People are waking up for church right about now, so let’s pretend to be civilized for a minute and drop some actual results of the research that I’ve been doing while I’m here.
There is a local urban legend that Pop’s has actually been open 24 hours a day since 1981. The first location of the club was just across the parking lot from here on the same plot of land that now holds the Sauget Diner, but it burned down as a result of an electrical fire in the 1990s. So, the story goes like this: when Pop’s #1 burned down the club still sold beer in the parking lot to maintain its 24/7 reputation. Management at Pop’s says that story isn’t true, but do offer that employees and patrons certainly did drink beer in the parking lot as they watched the building burn. Some brought flowers, too. Their grieving was short lived, however, when the current Pop’s location opened just a couple of days later.
For the record, Pop’s is closed exactly one day a year: on Christmas. They joke that they have a hard time on every December 25th with finding the keys to lock the front door since the front door is never locked otherwise. And because the place is so enthusiastic about its 24-hour-a-day reputation, we locals know that winter weather is actually really, really bad when Pop’s makes an announcement that it is closed because of ice or snow. Personally, I know that the few times that has happened that I have been terrified for my life. In my mind, if Pop’s is closed, that must mean that we’re all going to die.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 7:21am
Good morning from the Pop’s parking lot.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 7:45am
Much clown love in the powder room. Family!
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 8:06am
There are still a crapload of people here. I just caught myself rubbing my eyes like a sleepy toddler.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 8:51am
DJ Big J really is the best. He took a full break so he could karaoke Toto’s “Africa.”
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 9:15am
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 9:29am
Oh, you know, just at Pop’s at 9:30 in the morning talking about JFK assassination theories. The sun is shining bright outside and every time the door opens and I see a flash of it I cower and hiss like a Lost Boys vampire. There are still about 150 people here. They are entertaining me with their terrible fashion choices.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 9:40am
The bartender who was on shift when I arrived here yesterday is back for her shift today. The DJ is playing a mix that includes The Commodores’ “Easy.” There is hope. One day I will be home again.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 10:20am
Big J just finished DJing and we had a bro-down. He saw that I was drinking Red Bull and suggested that I try Monster Rehab, promising that it tasted like tea. We split a can and had a “mini-social” (others would call this a “cheers”) and hung out for a bit. I asked him about his energetic, enthusiastic DJ style and he said, “Well, the way I look at it, if I’m having fun then everybody else is having fun.” Truth.
When he was leaving, I thanked him for all of the excellent music and told him that he saved my life with his good tunes. He said, “There’s a song about that!”
And then we sang the chorus to this:
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 10:34am
Taylor Swift’s “22″ is playing on the radio here! I feel like getting out my T-Swizz notebook and dancing around. Is that weird? I might be a little delirious. I’ve been awake for 26 hours now, forgive me.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 11:05am
A half an hour ago there were about 40 patrons here. Now there are ten. Though this place spent most of the night functioning as a mega dance club, it’s now back to the same (extra large) corner bar vibe that it had when I first arrived. The stumbling drunks have headed out and all of the people left are just sitting at the bar, shootin’ the shit.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 11:19am
I’m hearing the music here at low volume through over-worked ears, and if I didn’t know better I’d swear that on that Daft Punk / Pharrell song it sounds like he’s singing “You go suck a dick.”
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 12:17pm
Hanging with a dude called Stretch from PT’s Sports Cabaret. He has lots of good blonde jokes. For real, though. Countdown: 45 minutes.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 12:30pm
Random facts about my 24 hours at Pop’s:
I am losing my voice. The combination of exhaustion and yelling over music has done me in. Send tea.
Most heard songs:
- Icona Pop – “I Love It” – 7 times
- Lorde – “Royals” – 6 times
- M.I.A. – “Paper Planes” – 5 times
- Robin Thicke – “Blurred Lines” – 4 times
I think I powdered my nose six times while I was here.
By the time the sun came up my boots were sticking to the floor. Drunk people spill drinks. A lot.
At about 7:30 last night a 45-ish-year-old white man wearing a plastic horse mask over his face, a weird-ass outfit and full-size scuba flippers entered the bar. The place was practically empty and he asked (in a very high-pitched fake voice) to speak to “the reporter lady.” He was met with hard blinks and blank faces. The excellent staff told him that I wasn’t here and he asked to look around for me. He did one lap through the bar– clopping and flopping all the way in his scuba flippers– before placing a red apple on the bar (without explanation) and then leaving. What. In. The. Fuck. Dude, did you just want me to promote your band or something? You could’ve just showed up and hung out. Instead, you freaked us all out. So, congrats? In any case, I didn’t mention this dude earlier in this live-blog because I didn’t want him to come back. The staff here has been having fun watching the security footage of Mr. Horse Head. I’m going to request of copy of that surreal shit, m’self.
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 01:01pm
HEY, GUESS WHAT? I’m leaving Pop’s now!
I thought that once I spent 24 consecutive hours here that I’d never want to come here again, but the exact opposite is true. I love it here. All of the employees have been so nice and I’ve actually had a great time for at least 22 hours of my 24 hour adventure. Bartender Teresa greeted me and is now sending me off. Big thanks to my friends who came and hung out with me and much love to the staff at Pop’s for being so sweet and telling me countless (mostly unrepeatable) stories and gossip about superstars and touring bands.
So, does Pop’s really rock 24/7? Oh, yes. Indeed. Check out the Pop’s website, “like” the Facebook page or stop in to see for yourself.
Me? I’m headed west. Night night.
link: Riverfront Times
The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna Showing at Webster University
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Feb. 27 2014
Kathleen Hanna is best known as the singer for seminal punk band, Bikini Kill, but her cultural resume goes much deeper. She’s not only an artist, musician, ‘zine maker and feminist icon– Hanna is also considered the godmother of the Riot Grrrl movement. (More on that in our recent story here.)
Pop culture and alternative music fans will recognize Hanna from any number of projects and major media stories: Her current band is the Julie Ruin, but she also fronted Le Tigre. Hanna accidentally named that one Nirvana song and was famously punched by Courtney Love. She also married Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys and was seen dancing (obnoxiously) in Sonic Youth’s video for “Bull in the Heather.”
Aside from her art, Hanna’s health and health care decisions have recently made the news, as well. In the film she reveals that she has Lyme disease (Note: ’90s children, click that “Lyme disease” link) and the impact it has had on her life. And just last month she gave an honest, unapologetic interview where she spoke openly about her decision to have an abortion as a teenager.
The Punk Singer debuted last year at SXSW and has been making the rounds at independent theaters. It’s being shown tonight and this weekend at Winfred Moore Auditorium as part of the always excellent Webster University’s Film Series.
Watch the trailer for the film below and dig this delicious Roseanne clip where the characters learn about the Riot Grrrl movement.
Details on The Punk Singer via Webster University:
Thursday, February 27, Saturday & Sunday, March 1 & 2 at 7:30PM
THE PUNK SINGER: A film about Kathleen Hanna
(Sini Anderson, 2013, USA, 80 min.)
Where: Winfred Moore Auditorium, Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood, Webster
Groves, MO 63119.
Admission: $6 for general and $5 for seniors (60+), students from other
schools and Webster alumni. Cash or check only.
link: Riverfront Times
That’s Enough Already, Dave Grohl
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Feb. 13 2014
Dave Grohl is one of my favorite dudes in the world but he needs to hop off my radar for a minute. I’m a mega Nirvana fan and I’ve always admired Dave for his talent and humor, but lately I can’t seem to get him out of my face. His mug is everywhere.
It all seemed to start almost a decade ago when Grohl became a talking head on VH1-type shows, providing expert commentary on some of his favorite bands. He was loose, informed, entertaining. Everybody loved him. Once his skills were exposed, he quickly became the go-to guy for a good sound bite as a talking head, a special guest or a drop-in drummer. He seems to be able to do everything (and do it well), so he’s useful in many situations. Producers have decided that he’s their No. 1 man — his presence is clearly seen as an improvement to any event. He slowly moved from his long-held role of rock & roll everyman into professional event attendee.
And now, oh now, the man is everywhere. I barely even watch television, and he still manages to make it on any screen near me with the frequency of the rising sun. Grohl is like a freakin’ jack-in-the-box — you know he’s going to pop up, you just don’t know when. One of my favorite games is to try to spot him during major televised events. I don’t know dick about football, so I spent the majority of the last Superbowl game scanning the crowd shots for his floppy hair — like a post-grunge version of Where’s Waldo. I didn’t see him during my Superbowl party, but I saw a photograph of him later after the game and felt validated. He was there. Of course he was there. I knew it.
Award show? Grohl is there. Major festival? Grohl is playing it. High-profile collaboration? Grohl designed it. Supergroup? Grohl is up in it. Featured drummer? Grohl can do that. Receiving honors? Grohl is good at it. Star-studded tributes? Grohl jumps in. Music documentary? Grohl makes them. Rock the vote? Grohl rocks it all night. Photobombs? Grohl kills. Film festival? Grohl can hang. One-off performances? Grohl makes it happen. Television cameo? Grohl picks the X-Files. Country music? Grohl loves it. Foo Fighters videos? Grohl does them perfectly. Charity events? Grohl participates. Led Zeppelin? Grohl digs ‘em. Internet memes? Grohl makes a fresh one. Protesting? Grohl does it in costume. iPhone party? Grohl wants in on that action. Lemmy time? Grohl steals the show. Punk legends? Grohl knows them. Video-game conventions? Grohl is the wizard. Late-night talk shows? Grohl does Letterman. Roling Stones concerts? Grohl makes them better. Producing sitcoms? Grohl thinks it’s easy. Birthday celebration? Grohl works those. Saturday Night Live? Grohl is the most frequent musical guest. Video guest star? Grohl wiggles on in. Surprise gigs? Grohl is all over it. South by Southwest? Grohl gives the keynote address.
Forget about Kurt Cobain: Grohl is clearly the voice of our generation — if only because he never lets anyone else speak.
There’s a reason that his number is always called: He’s smart, he’s funny, he speaks well, he’s good-looking and he always seems to be in on the joke. He’s an affable dude, and his laid-back nature and casual cursing makes him seem like cool big brother. Grohl is nearly universally loved. He just gets it. And he seems to genuinely enjoy making fun, collaborative things happen during otherwise boring events. There are very few people who most of us would like to kick it with, and Grohl just seems like the kind of guy who would never have to buy his own shot in any bar on the planet.
Last year, Grohl released his Sound City documentary. It’s pretty excellent, though it did sort of seem like 108 minutes of justifying Grohl’s eventual purchase of the Sound City Neve board. (Apparently the most holy console since the Megasound 8000 in Josie and the Pussycats.) This documentary served as his official entrance into the film world, so expect him to expand his appearance résumé to include events that aren’t musical at all. In this and other mediums, Grohl seems to be the opposite of everything that his generation is usually accused of (unambitious, lazy, directionless). Homeboy is going to get it all done, no matter what.
Lately, Grohl seems to be fixated on sucking at the teat of Paul McCartney. But if you’re going to cling like a baby rhesus monkey to somebody, it might as well be the only living Beatle. (Shut up; nobody counts Ringo.) Still, Grohl seems to have been a barnacle on Sir Paul’s nards ever since they got together to make a Sound City song. They’ve played together many times since then and just a few days ago, Grohl performed “Hey Bulldog” in that Grammys tribute to the Beatles. (Shit, Grohl could even pass for George Harrison at this point.)
Despite his many ass-kissing obligations, Grohl always seems to find a way to give back, too. His counterprotests of Westboro Baptist Church, participation in charity/awareness events and the small ways that he always seems to try to give back to fans do not go entirely unnoticed — but sometimes it’s hard to see these beautiful little gestures through the absolute blizzard of Grohl appearances.
So is Dave Grohl good? Yeah, he’s fucking great. And if he is our new cultural king, then we should welcome him — we could do much worse. But right now he’s like the ex that won’t stop texting you. You feel smothered. You wanna be like, “Dude, if you would just get up out of my business, like, ever, I would like you so much more.” So go away, Dave Grohl. But don’t stay gone forever, just enough to make us miss you. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and we’ll be ready to love you again later, but for right now you just need to get up out of my face for a while, OK?
On Pop Music and Violence Against Women
By Jaime Lees
Wed., Feb. 5 2014
***ABUSE / RAPE TRIGGER WARNING***
I can’t stop thinking about Rihanna. Her single, “Stay,” came out a year ago this month and it’s still omnipresent. I’ll hear it on the radio, in the grocery store and played on the jukebox at a bar by some sad bastard with no concept of appropriate public drinking tunes. The song won’t go away, and neither will my conflicted feelings about Rihanna, her life and her music. Just like many others, the thing I most associate with Rihanna is the horrible act of documented domestic abuse she endured at the hands of her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, in 2009.
Whenever I hear “Stay,” I get all twisted up inside. That’s kind of the point of depressing songs, anyway, but there’s an extra layer of icky-feeling that builds up inside of me. I love the song and think it’s pretty amazing, actually, but it also kind-of makes me feel nauseated. I think it’s because of those pictures. Whenever I think about her, I can’t help but think about violence against women and some of my friends who have survived it.
Should I let the personal lives of pop stars influence how I feel about their music? No, that’s silly. They’re just pop stars. Who gives a dick about their personal lives, anyway, right? Well, sometimes I do. I wish I didn’t, but I do.
I’m one of the few women I know who has never been seriously assaulted. I’ve never been raped, I’ve never been a victim of violent crime and a man has never to raised a fist to me in anger. While some might say that’s because I’m aware of my surroundings or I’m tough or I’m too smart to get trapped in a bad situation: They are wrong. I am just lucky. That is it.
I have, for sure, faced sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances. This happens at least twice a month and it’s usually in public places and is perpetrated by strangers. Inappropriate words spoken to me are usually countered with harsher words from me. And any fools who have dared to touch, grab or pinch my body parts without permission have experienced the swift smack of my hand to their face. Maybe that’s not wise, but it’s my automatic reaction.
And as a younger female music fan, I had plenty of women to look up to– my generation was particularly lucky to have Riot Grrrls as our honorary big sisters. The Riot Grrrl movement was a new wave of feminism that encouraged women to be smart, strong and safe. Their “take-no-shit” message was spread through various formats: art, ‘zines and, especially, music. “Riot Grrrl” eventually became a dated tag applied to any young woman out to express her opinion, especially if she was at all angry or “nervy,” but the scene stands as a small, yet powerful cultural revolution.
I don’t mean to be all “get off my lawn,” but I don’t see anything like this in modern music. Sure, there are strong women, but they aren’t organized together and don’t seem to support each other in the same way. It seems as though most of the current big-name women entertainers are pop stars, not rockers. But sometimes rockers pay attention to pop music, too.
Just last week a I watched a video of Patti Smith covering Rihanna’s “Stay” at Smith’s 67th birthday show. From the stage, Smith described the song as “the 2013 song of the year.” Smith is a hero of mine, and this made my weird obsession with that song feel justified.
After watching Smith sing her heartbreaking live version, I looked up Rihanna’s official video for the song. Despite hearing bits of it approximately 100 times, I’d never seen the video. (I’m a music person, not a TV person.) And guess what? The video made me feel even worse about the whole goddamn thing. It’s Rihanna, vulnerable and naked in a bath tub, and there are lots of close clips of her face as she’s singing. In these tight shots, what I assume to be a scar from the Chris Brown attack shows on her top lip. (It’s in the same place where her lip was broken in the police photographs.) Her pretty face, all scarred up, as she’s singing, “I want you to stayyyyy…”
While we adults might have the ability to separate the artist from the what we perceive as the message (or realize that a song might not be autobiographical — Rihanna didn’t even write “Stay”), younger fans can’t be expected to analyze in the same way. This song, and her defensiveness of Brown in the months following the attack, might best serve as insight into the psychology of an abused woman and the systematic and powerful methods of abusers.
Many people (mostly parents of little girls) were pissed that Rihanna seemed to make excuses for Brown in interviews following the incident. They argued that when you’re an entertainer, you forfeit the right to deal with this kind of public situation in a private manner — you may not defend or in any way stand by your abusive boyfriend. Parents argued that Rihanna was a role model and that sometimes entertainers actually do have a small responsibility to set an example for their younger fans.
I don’t mean to blame the victim, but I, too, was disappointed with how that all played out. But I don’t necessarily think that it’s Rihanna’s job to provide guidance to to young people and I wouldn’t rely on any pop star to relay that message properly, either. So when this particular abuse story became public, I felt the need to talk to my pre-teen little sisters and make sure that they understood the situation. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t think this was acceptable. I tried to explain to them the complicated and convoluted thought process that is common in victims of abuse. And I wanted to make sure they knew that Chris Brown is an asshole.
I can be reactionary, and if I had been a fan of Chris Brown I probably would’ve gotten rid of all of his music upon seeing those horrifying photos. I’d like to think that I couldn’t be a fan of a man who would do that kind of thing to a woman — but it’s simply not true. Many, and I mean many, of my favorite artists are unsavory characters at best. Most of them probably have morals that aren’t in agreement with mine. And if I think about it hard enough, some of them are known woman abusers.
My music collection contains absolute shitloads of jerks, creeps and murderers. In my personal life I have a zero-tolerance policy for men who hurt women, children or animals. I don’t believe in rehabilitation for crimes against these groups, either. I’m of the opinion that men who cross these boundaries once will cross them again. But apparently this hard-line stance doesn’t apply to my musical tastes. And if you think that every musical artist you love shares your same values, however serious or trivial they may be, think again.
I’m from St. Louis, which is probably considered a land of misogynists and apologists to outsiders because of the adoration we openly give to our hometown musicians like Chuck Berry and Ike Turner — both known enemies of women. But still, I have tons of tunes by Berry and tracks from both Ike and Tina, separately and combined. (Tina Turner, another badass woman who was famously a victim of abuse.) Michael Jackson is in there, too. He was accused multiple times of inappropriate relationships with children, but that didn’t stop him from being the biggest pop star in the world and having the majority of humans continue to hold him like the river Jordan. And though some referred to it as a “rape anthem,” I’ve been known to shake it to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Shit, even Charles Manson made some good tunes.
Phil Spector had a big long history of terrorizing women, until one day he finally went to prison for killing one. But that doesn’t stop me from cranking the dial up to maximum volume any time I hear “Be My Baby.” I think “Be My Baby” is the best song ever written and whatever Phil Spector did or didn’t do in his life seems like it will never dampen my love for that song.
R. Kelly is accused of preying on underage females, which is particularly disgusting. (The Village Voice recently ran an excellent interview with respected music critic Jim DeRogatis on the subject.) But when I hear R. Kelly I don’t usually think about his scandals. In fact, I’ve worn a necklace repping R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” nearly every day since I got it last year. I love that necklace. And I love that stupid song.
So what the hell is wrong with me? Do I willfully overlook an artist’s abusive past if I like to “bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce” to their song? Does a necklace really matter? Why do some artists trigger a reaction in me while others seem to get a pass? What gives here? Should I be thinking harder about all of this? Should I be thinking less about all of this?
There’s a common criticism of feminists that we’re too serious or can’t take a joke or that every “little thing” doesn’t have to be a fight, but I think some things are worth fighting for and that it’s always appropriate to have a discussion about the safety of women.
Logically, I don’t think that a pop star’s personal life should influence how I feel about their music, but clearly, it’s still an issue in my life. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but there’s something that’s uncomfortable for me here. And when I’m uncomfortable I speak out. Or scream. Many thanks to the Riot Grrrls for teaching me about the power of the female voice — I intend to keep using it.
Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago talks about touring and life after Kim Deal
By Jaime Lees
Thursday, Feb 6 2014
“Other than Kim not being around anymore, for me personally, really nothing has changed,” Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago explains from a hotel room somewhere in the northeastern United States. “I still appreciate it. I’m still enjoying it. I look forward to the first day of the tour, as always. I still count down. Like, ‘How many more days until I get back on the road?’”
Santiago is on tour now, on an off day between shows in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. A couple of minutes into our interview, he mentions that he’s going through a divorce. He is referring to his personal life, but his band has recently gone through a divorce, too. Fan favorite Kim Deal, Pixies bass player and vocalist, left the group last year, leaving fans and critics to wonder what would become of the seminal act. Will they be declared dead? Will there be some kind of Van Halen-like Pixies version 2.0? Will the Pixies ever knock it off with the drama?
The group initially imploded in 1993, just as the alternative-rock movement gained international momentum. It was no secret that its members struggled with constant friction, ego problems and personality differences. Santiago says he and the rest of the group are “very passive-aggressive” — an understatement, considering the band originally broke up via fax. But their popularity seemed to skyrocket shortly after that, leading most to conclude that the angsty crew peaked just a little too soon.
The members of the Pixies are seen as the godfathers (and godmother) of modern indie rock. Started in 1986 by Santiago and vocalist/guitarist Charles Thompson (a.k.a. Black Francis) as a college band, the foursome that soon included Deal and drummer David Lovering accidentally sparked a movement that would become the early ’90s alternative-music revolution. The band’s trademark “loud/quiet/loud” song structure was aped throughout the indie uprising, most notably — and blatantly — on Nirvana’s megahit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” At the head was Santiago, the shy, quietly talented figure who still holds the key to that Pixies sound in his fingertips. If Charles Thompson and Kim Deal were the Lennon and McCartney of the group, Santiago was proudly the George Harrison.
He tells RFT Music that his contributions are usually the last piece of the puzzle: Thompson writes the song and lyrics, and it’s Santiago’s job to add the finishing touches and not “barf all over it,” as he eloquently explains. “Let’s keep the story line,” he says. “Blend in when you have to, in a good sonic way that doesn’t get in the way. And when it’s time to divert; [the guitar] needs to start rubbing against the music. That way it kind of lives in its own world.”
After the breakup, each member spoke of unresolved issues and seemed to have little contact with one other as they moved on to other pursuits. Santiago found work as a Jonny Greenwood-type, scoring films and television shows. Lovering tried his hand at being a magician. Thompson plugged away at a notable solo career and formed a new band called Frank Black and the Catholics. And Deal took her talents elsewhere, starting up the Breeders — a band that became, arguably, more successful than the Pixies. So it came as a surprise when the Pixies announced a reunion tour more than ten years after its disbandment.
The very idea that a band who seemed to kind of hate each other would get back together was slammed by critics as a moneymaking maneuver, but most Pixies-starved fans didn’t seem to care. To the great joy of the many younger fans who missed the alternative heyday, the group reformed in 2004 and played worldwide to sold-out crowds. It was all of the original members playing their now-classic songs, making the tour feel less like a cash grab and more like a victory lap. Each show was celebratory, a deserving band finally getting its due.
But a decade has passed since that initial comeback, and there have been some major changes to the lineup. Since Deal left last year, her bassist/female singer slot has been replaced twice — first by Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, and now by Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle and Zwan. Santiago sings Lenchantin’s praises, saying, “With Paz it’s a no-brainer for me. I just love it. She’s got a great reputation. We’re lucky to have her.”
This shuffling of the standard lineup brought the same old issues with fans and critics, making it even harder for naysayers to give the benefit of the doubt. Deal was an integral part of the Pixies sound, especially live. Fans wondered how they could go on without her — they also wondered if this was finally solid proof that the band members were just in it for the money.
“Yeah, you know, of course that’s part of the reason. But that’s not all of the reason. If that was the only reason, we wouldn’t be doing this at all,” Santiago bristles. “As long as people still wanna see it, that’s reason number one. And a close second? Yeah, it’s for the money, you know?”
“What do they want us to do?” he continues with a laugh. “What if I started digging a ditch? Would they be like, ‘You’re just doing that for the money!’ Fuck it, this is the only thing we know how to do. We enjoy it. We’re really good at this. Does it make money? Of course it does! Why? Because we’re good at it!”
Despite having to adjust to a new member, Santiago says, most of the songwriting process remains the same. “We’re one of those bands that, when we get together in the studio, it’s like we have this magic that just happens,” he explains. “We have a certain sound, you know? It’s because we have good quality control. Charles probably writes subconsciously to impress us. When he writes for the Pixies, he’s writing for me, for David, for Kim — but she’s gone now. But he’s writing for us. We’re very stylistic. We’re individuals.”
He’s right — those individual styles, when combined, still make magic. The Pixies recently released some singles and a pair of EPs that are almost too good to be true. The efforts don’t sound like a group of past-their-prime musicians trying to recapture a long-lost spark; the music is solid and, well, just sounds like the Pixies. So, what’s really changed for Santiago in the last decade? Not much, he says — his eagerness to explore new musical territory while still proving himself onstage as a Pixie remains strong.
“I’m a Renaissance man! This is what we do!” he says, laughing. “It’s just a matter of me keeping busy. It keeps me off the streets. And, you know, I like to flex my brain muscles. I like to challenge myself.”
8 p.m. Thursday, February 6.
Peabody Opera House, 1400 Market Street.
$39.50 to $59.50. 314-241-1888.
link: Riverfront Times