Chuck Berry Gets a Loving Goodbye from the City He Always Called Home

Beautiful room / photo by Jaime Lees

Chuck Berry Gets a Loving Goodbye from the City He Always Called Home
By Jaime Lees
Mon, Apr 10, 2017

It is impossible to overstate the significance of Chuck Edward Anderson Berry. He’s been frequently credited with inventing the entire genre of rock & roll music, but his influence reached much further than the radio. His existence changed the world.

Berry was the ultimate cultural icon. No other figure in the history of modern music has had such a lasting, measurable impact. And as a native and proud St. Louisan, Berry has always held an extra-special place in the heart of locals. Chuck Berry, you see, belonged to us. He was the embodiment of all that is magical and special about St. Louis culture, and when he died last month, a huge part of our history died along with him.

It took a few weeks to put together, but Berry’s family planned a wonderful series of events to celebrate his life. Chuck loved an audience, and this entire past weekend was set up so that fans could participate in saying goodbye. There was a toast held outside on Delmar Boulevard on Saturday night, followed by a viewing of Berry’s body on Sunday morning at the Pageant that was open to the public.

The private service for the family was scheduled to commence immediately after the public viewing, and the Berry family gave out passes to the private service to three hundred members of the public who queued up excitedly in the hopes of witnessing this historic event. It was a generous offering to many of Chuck’s biggest longtime fans.

Some of those fans had been waiting outside the Pageant since 5 a.m., when the line for the viewing started. There was a steady stream of mourners all morning, but most just popped in for a minute or two, paid their respects and then left. There was never a long, intolerable line to get into the viewing. In fact, for most of the day visitors could pretty much just walk right in.

Many fans who expected the process to take longer spent the rest of their day hanging around outside the venue, enjoying the breezy weather while trading their favorite Berry stories. The majority of these fans had managed to see Berry play live, something that all agreed was a special event.

In a live music setting, Chuck Berry could not be beat. He played a monthly show at Blueberry Hill’s tiny basement venue, the Duck Room, well into his ’80s. Though those shows got progressively looser over the years, Berry made up for his slipping technical abilities by piling on the charisma. He stood there and smiled and the entire crowd smiled back, overjoyed just to be in the same room as him.

And though he was always untouchable on stage, Berry’s behavior off stage was more than troublesome. To put it simply: Chuck Berry was not always a hero. He had a long and documented history of assaulting women and this fact did not go unaddressed on the day of his service. A small group of protesters held up signs outside of the entrance to the Pageant to remind visitors of the darker side of his history.

But inside the venue, it was all love. Berry’s body was laid out tastefully and the room was beautifully decorated and lit. A parade of speakers took the stage to sing Berry’s praises. Many of them took the time to mention that Berry was a civil rights icon: What Berry did with music helped people to cross racial divides out in the streets. White audiences who might not have otherwise embraced a black musician were helpless to resist the power of Berry’s guitar.

Gene Simmons of KISS was a surprise speaker at the service. He was hiding out in the back and looked properly devastated before being asked to say a few words. His impromptu speech was one of the best of the entire event; he told the audience about his own past as a young immigrant to the United States and about how Berry and his music helped to bring people together.

“It’s a sad day, but I think it’s a happy time. Look at the legacy,” Simmons said. “He broke down the barriers and made all kinds of people’s hearts and minds open up to the idea that we all belong to the same people.”

Another crowd favorite was Marshall Chess, son of Leonard Chess of Chess Records. He’s an engaging, delightful storyteller and his charm was on full display. But the speech of the day, appropriately, came from Charles Berry Jr. He was funny, sincere and remarkably composed, given the circumstances. He explained that his father was his hero and that he felt honored to be able to learn from the master. He said that many people taught him how to be a musician, but that his father taught him how to be a man.

Charles Berry Jr. thanked his many friends and family members in attendance and then, in a remarkable display of midwestern hospitality, he took a moment to address the public, who had been seated in the balcony area. He looked up and said, “You’re my friends now, too, because you’re here with me.”

During this moment, and when Berry’s clearly heartbroken grandchildren performed (“We are doing this in remembrance of our grandfather, and for the joy of our grandmother”), the crowd always acted respectfully, seeming to realize that though it looked like a state funeral and the deceased was a world-renowned celebrity, this was absolutely a personal family event.

The entire service was overwhelmingly and impressively touching. There were musical performances from Marlissa Hudson, Dwayne Buggs, Johnny Rivers and Billy Peek. Outside after the service, the Funky Butt Brass Band played a devastating rendition of “St. Louis Blues” as the coffin was loaded into the hearse. (Little Richard had also been scheduled to attend and sing a gospel song, but he had fallen ill and couldn’t make it.) Near the end of the service, condolence letters from Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and St. Louis mayor Francis Slay were read to the crowd. Slay’s proclamation was read by new mayor-elect Lyda Krewson, and it praised Berry for always sticking close to home.

Legendary local bluesman Mat Wilson is a huge fan of Berry and attended every event this weekend that honored his hero, including the public toast and moment of silence held at Berry’s Walk of Fame star outside Blueberry Hill on Saturday night. A scholar of American music with a special interest in regional history, Wilson praises Berry easily and enthusiastically.

“My band, the Loot Rock Gang, got to open for Chuck, and I also had a chance to open for Chuck playing guitar for my wife, Little Rachel,” Wilson says. “It was quite the honor. Chuck is the grandfather of rock & roll and I think it was really special to have him here in our neighborhood. He’s the originator. It’s not to be taken lightly that the originator of rock & roll came from our own town.”

Echoing this sentiment, St. Louis native and real life guitar hero Richard Fortus (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Love Spit Love, Thin Lizzy, Pale Divine) also stopped into Berry’s viewing on Sunday afternoon to pay his respects.

Fortus said, “For me, this was a big part of my growing up, being from St. Louis. Not only his music, but his persona. The early videos for me were huge: seeing Chuck Berry on TV and what an enigmatic performer he was. I remember playing down on the Landing when I was a kid and him coming in and grabbing a guitar and yelling at people if they didn’t know his songs. It was awesome.

“It was special, growing up in St. Louis and knowing that he was part of the lineage,” he added. “He’s one of the biggest parts in the history of rock & roll.”

Joe Edwards addresses the Saturday night crowd while Johnny Rivers looks on / photo by Jaime Lees

 

The stage (that guitar-shaped floral arrangement on the left is from the Rolling Stones) / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Hail! Hail! / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Billy Peek and band / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Gotta have a Cadillac / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Charles Berry Jr. addresses the public in the balcony / photo by Jaime Lees

 

The line for the public to enter the private service / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Excellent shirt from Saturday night outside Blueberry Hill / photo by Jaime Lees

 

The family enters / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Delmar Blvd. was blocked east of Skinker for the limos / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Mat Wilson of Loot Rock Gang and his hat autographed by Berry / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Gene Simmons of KISS addresses the crowd / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Gene Simmons trying to hide out in the back / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Protesters outside the entrance / photo by Jaime Lees

 

The Funky Butt Brass band assebles by a fleet of Cadillac limousines / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Congressman Lacy Clay reads a letter from Bill Clinton / photo by Jaime Lees

 

The program handed out to visitors / photo by Jaime Lees

 

Richard Fortus stopped in to pay his respects / photo by Jaime Lees

 

photo of Berry with Gibson guitar, taken by a fan

The Funky Butt Brass Band plays Chuck out:

link: Riverfront Times

Negative Approach and Dinosaur Jr Members Played a Surprise St. Louis Show Last Night

J Mascis digs gear / photo by Jaime Lees

Negative Approach and Dinosaur Jr Members Played a Surprise St. Louis Show Last Night
By Jaime Lees
Wed, Mar 22, 2017

Negative Approach, Trauma Harness and members of Dinosaur Jr played a show at the Way Out Club last night. It wasn’t technically a “secret” show, but it was unadvertised and promoted primarily via word of mouth. Dinosaur Jr slayed at a sold out concert at Delmar Hall just a few days ago, so as a professional courtesy this performance at the comparatively tiny Way Out Club was to stay fairly underground.

This smaller show was organized by Jeremy Kannapell, who in addition to being a seemingly inexhaustible show booker/promoter, is also the program coordinator for New Music Circle and performs his own music under the name Ghost Ice. Kannapell started putting the word out over the weekend and by the time doors opened at the Way Out Club on Tuesday night, it was clear from the size of the excited crowd waiting outside that word had gotten around.

Dinosaur Jr bassist Lou Barlow opened the night with a quiet, sincere, beautifully delicate solo set — just him sitting on a stool with a tiny guitar. The vibe of the room changed quickly when Dinosaur Jr guitarist J Mascis took the stage with a band made up of Dinosaur Jr’s hugely talented tour crew, and they launched into a set of songs by the Stooges. (It ripped, yo.) This was followed by Negative Approach, who drenched the place with so much energy that it seemed like it might explode. The headliner for the night was local band Trauma Harness, and these future legends fit in seamlessly alongside the established greats. KDHX DJ Jeff Hess provided music between the sets.

Many attendees described this show as even better than they could’ve imagined — saying that they felt honored to witness these unique performances at such a small venue for a mere $10. It was a memorable, magical experience.

We captured this holy night for you in photographs and in video. Please enjoy below.

PHOTOS:

Dancers on stage during the Stooges set / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Lou Barlow from the side of the stage / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Local heroes Trauma Harness / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Where the magic happens / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

The Way Out Club, before the show / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr soundchecks / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

This crowd was rippling like a river / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

More Lou Barlow / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

The late crowd loved Trauma Harness / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

The impossible-to-photograph Negative Approach / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

The bar was busy / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

The crowd waiting outside, just after the doors opened / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

DJ Jeff Hess spins records between sets / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr with this excellent band / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr plays a solo set / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

Bob Putnam, owner of the Way Out Club / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

John Brannon of Negative Approach at soundcheck / Photo by Jaime Lees

 

J Mascis feelin ‘it / Photo by Jaime Lees

VIDEOS:

Lou Barlow solo

J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr’s tour crew cover the Stooges

Negative Approach

Trauma Harness

Bonus footage – John Brannon of Negative Approach sings the Stooges’ “TV Eye” with Dinosaur Jr at Delmar Hall on March 19, 2017

link: Riverfront Times

Alt-Rock Royalty Dinosaur Jr Refuses to Go Extinct

Dinosaur Jr will perform in St. Louis this Sunday, March 19 at Delmar Hall. – PHOTO BY LEVI WALTON

Alt-Rock Royalty Dinosaur Jr Refuses to Go Extinct
By Jaime Lees
Mon, Mar 13, 2017

Though Dinosaur Jr is hailed by fans as one of the all-time greatest acts tied to the “alternative rock” movement, it never achieved proper mainstream success. Founded in Amherst, Massachusetts, in decidedly pre-grunge 1984, Dinosaur Jr toiled for years on the edges of the local punk scene: too out there for most people to comprehend and too weird to really fit in anywhere else.

Over time this independence has worked to the band’s favor. By not being pigeonholed into any specific scene or claimed by any one genre, it had the freedom to grow organically. Because Dinosaur Jr was the band for nobody in particular, it was eventually able to become the band for everybody. In 1990, the group went from releasing records on tastemaker labels such as SST to signing a deal with major label Sire Records. But despite minor achievements and enormous accolades, by the mid-1990s, the band had fallen apart and scattered. Singer and guitarist J Mascis continued with the band name for a couple of years, while bassist Lou Barlow went to steer Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion, and drummer Emmett Murphy (who goes by the singular “Murph” in all credits and press) started drumming in the Lemonheads.

A reunion was deemed unlikely — the members of Dinosaur Jr seemed to actively dislike each other and were notoriously unable to communicate about even basic things with any success. But Murph tells RFT that he still supported a reunion long before it actually happened — and he even had a certain notable drummer-turned-guitarist in his corner.

“I was doing the Lemonheads and I remember we played at a festival that the Foo Fighters were on,” Murph recalls. “We were hanging out with Dave Grohl and he came up to me, and he’s like, ‘Dude, you gotta get Dino back together! C’mon, dude, you gotta call those guys up!’ And I would just be like, ‘I don’t know, man, I just don’t think J is into it.’ And I would ask J every few years. I’d see him on the street and I’d be like, ‘C’mon, dude. Dino reunion.’ And he’d be kind of like Lurch from The Addams Family — he’d just kind of go, ‘Uhhh, I don’t think so.’”

By the time the original three finally reunited to tour on the reissues of their old albums in 2005, interest in the band was at an all-time high. Then the group released Beyond in 2007, its first album as a reformed unit, and the new music was brilliant. The stellar songs were classic Dinosaur Jr, in the best way — a relief to long-time fans who feared that the band might have lost its magic over the years or might screw up its legacy with attempts at a new sound.

Murph himself acknowledges the hit-or-miss aspect of reunited bands with new music. “Most bands I’ve seen get back together, they have some new direction and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, this is painful. This is bad. Like, what are you guys doing?’’ he says. “That happens all of the time.”

Many fans thought some of the Pixies reunion shows, in particular, felt like taking a knee to the family jewels. Murph is candid on the subject. “They might’ve had Kim Shattuck [of the Muffs] on bass, because I saw them a couple of times with her and it was horrible. It was so bad,” he says. “Then they got this LA woman [Paz Lenchantin] who’s this slick, like, gun-for-hire, and then it sounded so much better. I was living in LA like four summers ago, and so much music goes through there. I got to see the Breeders one weekend and Pixies the next. And the Breeders were just, head and shoulders, so much better than the Pixies. Like, I couldn’t believe how much better the Breeders were. It was such a good show. It was amazing.”

Murph likes to take in many different bands, and fans of all different types of music love his band, too: Dinosaur Jr’s brutally loud and heavy — yet frequently sweepingly melodic — music is beloved by fans of rock, psychedelic, alternative, punk, pop, prog, noise, classic rock and jam bands. But even though that’s been the case for 30 years, the band’s members are only just starting process the scope of their popularity. Murph says that he was delighted when he recently learned that Dinosaur Jr is frequently discussed online in chat rooms by fans of the band Phish.

“I was, like, totally blown away,” Murph says. “Really? We were mentioned in a Phish chat room? Because we’re kind of, like, from the punk, and that’s like the opposite. Most of the hippie jammy band kids just are not into noise or punk at all — they’re into bluegrass and folk and all that stuff. So I thought that was really funny.” Still, Murph concedes that the band has done some jam band “noodling.”

“I mean, I’m into that stuff, personally. I grew up listening to like Frank Zappa and Mahavishnu Orchestra, so I can relate,” he says. “But as a band we’ve always come from — and J and Lou are definitely from — like, thrash and oi! roots, so it always surprises me when we get crossover fans. I’m always kind of shocked.” Dinosaur Jr is currently on a tour of high-end mid-sized venues and will spend the summer playing at major festivals. Murph seems almost bashful about his group’s success, even though he remains hopeful about the future.

The band’s interpersonal relationships must be better, too. Murph explains that while touring life is often seen by outsiders as glamorous, it’s really just eight to ten people crammed onto one bus, day in and day out. In that way, he says, it’s similar to sailing, where everybody is stuck in one little area.

But what if they managed to get more buses? “If we were like Bon Jovi or something that would be great,” Murph says with a laugh. “I don’t think we’re at that level yet.”

Dinosaur Jr
8 p.m. Sunday, March 19. Delmar Hall, 6133 Delmar Boulevard. $25 to $28. 314-726-6161.

link: Riverfront Times

Britney Spears, Queen of Punk, Shaved Her Head 10 Years Ago Today

Here’s a Photoshopped image of Britney Spears fronting Minor Threat, courtesy of the World Wide Web


Britney Spears, Queen of Punk, Shaved Her Head 10 Years Ago Today

By Jaime Lees
Thu, Feb 16, 2017

Today marks ten years since Britney Spears shocked the world by shaving her own head. The reasons behind this bold event are still unclear, but one fact remains: On February 16, 2007, everything changed. Britney Spears became the ultimate punk.

Spears had been in the public eye for eight years at that point and had already experienced a number of transformations. She came on the scene in pigtails and a Catholic schoolgirl skirt, cooing “… Baby One More Time” and captured the attention of both the teen crowd and legions of Lolita-chasers. Her breakthrough album sold an insane amount, spawned numerous singles and featured Spears posing on the cover in an upskirt photo that was just inches away from being all kinds of illegal. Genius.

She worked that virginal but innocently sexy thing until it got played out and then began her first transformation. She offered the idea that she was not a girl, not yet a woman. This version of Spears was sexually curious and working for ownership of her body and her autonomy. This again put a tent in the pants of her creepier followers, but many of her loyal fans were at that same stage in their lives. Unlike her fans, though, she was actually banging Justin Timberlake, who was then a boy-bander with ramen noodle hair and who was nowhere near to bringing sexy back.

A grown woman version of Spears came next and so did her fans. (Rimshot!) She kissed Madonna on television and released an album of emotional ballads and next level club tunes including the brilliant “Toxic.” This version of Spears was fully developed and man, she was horny for you, sir. By this time she reigned as the modern queen of pop and was an unmissable, incalculable superstar.

Spears had long been portrayed as some kind of feminine ideal. Blonde hair, tan, tight body, flat abs, sweet disposition, slight lisp, excellent at playing dumb — she was the perfect little MTV package. She played a coy nymphet all the way to the bank and became the sex symbol of her generation.

She was also under inconceivable amounts of pressure to maintain this status, her body, her power and keep bringing in all that money. Her image started to crack. It showed, but things were still under control. She married Kevin Federline and birthed a couple of his puppies. She also left her house while looking a hot mess and did other things that a superstar just wasn’t supposed to do. (Or wasn’t supposed to be seen doing, at least.)

She spent the end of 2006 clubbing with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, offering up all kinds of gold for the paparazzi. (Not gonna link it but you know what happened every time she exited a car.) The impression she gave was that she was a bit out of control, but in a “party girl” kind of way. This seemed to just be a phase that lots of LA-based stars go through before they settle down and find yoga. This time in her life was fully documented and she seemed to be acting erratic at best. She was slipping right in front of our eyes and there was literally nowhere to go but down. And most interestingly: she did not seem to give one fuck.

When most people think of punk, they think of sneering 1970s icons like Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. Or they think of bored black-clad delinquents like the Ramones. Or they think of the undiluted Midwest psychosis of Iggy and the Stooges. Most people do not think of teen pop idols like Britney Spears.

But those exalted punk heroes had nothing to lose. They could go out and blow snot and talk shit and complain about society and capitalism and everything else and it was expected that they would behave like that. That was their job. The “classic” punks never had any measurable success to begin with, so it didn’t really matter if they threw it all away. Johnny Rotten was born poor and ugly, but Britney Spears was born to be a pretty pop princess.

Spears had much, much farther to fall. And fall she did. Why? Nobody really knows for sure. But the shaving of her head was a watershed, no-turning-back kind of event. It could’ve been the result of a postpartum issue. She’d had two babies in one year and her youngest was only about five months old at the time. Many speculate that she was concerned that she’d lose custody of her children because of her rumored drug use, so she shaved her head in a misguided attempt to thwart any tests that could’ve been done on her hair. Other insiders suggested that she’d received a devastating medical diagnosis and was acting out. Maybe her hair extensions were just pulling painfully at her scalp? Or maybe she’d just had enough of it all.

No matter the reason, the result was still the same. The most omnipresent superstar of her generation very publicly attacked herself. For a female pop star, literally the most confrontational thing she could do was to attack her beauty. It was the ultimate anti-establishment move.

And it’s not like she went to some chi-chi Beverly Hills salon to get a well-designed close crop. She wasn’t Sinead O’Connor and being bald was absolutely not part of her known look. She basically buzzed her melon with dog clippers in full view of the cameras while smiling manically. This is the pop culture equivalent of when those monks protest by sitting in the middle of a street and lighting themselves on fire.

The general reaction at that point wasn’t “check out this crazy bitch.” It was “Why won’t anyone help this poor girl?” The head shaving was followed by an attack on a car with an umbrella where Spears appeared to be wild-eyed and totally out of her mind. (Much later, in a blog post on her website, Spears apologized for the umbrella incident and said that it was a result of going overboard in preparation for a role that she did not get. Hmm.) She also spent months wearing wigs and sobbing in the streets and driving from gas station to gas station on the hunt not just for the perfect bag of Cheetos, but something else unknowable. She was eventually pulled out of her own home and strapped to a gurney and taken into the hospital against her will. All of this, absolutely all of it, was photographed and documented ad nauseum.

britneyspearsapology
The apology issued on Spears’ website

Michael Jackson aside, no one in recent pop culture history has had a more public downfall. Spears was put under a conservatorship that is seemingly never-ending, and celebrity gossip blogs opine that she’s under close surveillance and is possibly medicated against her will. (Suck it, Sid Vicious! You wish, Courtney Love!)

Her current show in Las Vegas is rumored to present a zombie version of her former glory, with Spears performing tight, robotic movements without emotion, like the animatronic puppet band at a Chuck-E-Cheese crossed with a tired stripper who can barely contain her contempt for her audience. The majority of the show is known to be lip synched, too. Still, thousands of people go to see it and hand over tons of money for the privilege. Suckers. It’s the Great Pop Swindle. Ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated? Get that dollar, girl.

And Britney’s no victim. The gossip blogs have it wrong.

Props to those who live and work outside the system, but a smart punk messes things up from the inside. A successful punk finds a way to bend the world to their will. Britney Spears played you. She presented a mirage and you fell for it. Then you gave her your money and she took that money and possibly spent it on drugs. That’s punk as fuck.

And even though you should know better by now, you’ve accepted this mirage for a second time. She sprays on her tan and glues in her hair extensions and you swallow the whole thing all over again. You ignore that 5150 that you see in her eyes so that you can continue your own fantasies. She spends her nights taking all of your money in Vegas and she spends her days painting and relaxing and hosting the most lovable celebrity social media account this side of Chrissy Teigen. You follow that account. And you love it. A movie about her life premieres this weekend on Lifetime. You’ll watch it and you’ll love that, too.

Basically, she flipped the entire structure of pop stardom and got away with it. You work for Britney Spears now, bitch. Up the punx. God save the Queen.
britneyspearswinklink: Riverfront Times

You Don’t Actually Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Still from the very mature "Give It Away" video
Still from the very mature “Give It Away” video

You Don’t Actually Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers
By Jaime Lees
Wed, Jan 18, 2017

Friends, you are being fooled by your own brains. You don’t actually like the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You think you do, because you know the songs. Your mind has tricked you into thinking that you like these terrible songs because they were around during a formative time in your life. But just because something is familiar doesn’t make it good.

This is the result of a psychological phenomenon called the “mere exposure effect.” It proposes that when you are familiar with something, you will receive it more favorably. It’s a loophole in your cognitive process that is exploited hundreds of times per day. (It’s a huge factor in how you view your connections on social media and it’s also at least part of how a television personality recently won a presidential election.) This is entry-level thought tinkering and it’s used by every advertiser that you’ve ever come in contact with and, yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Peppers have an advantage here because they likely got into your head during your years as a budding music fan (your early-to-mid teens) and they’ve just lived in there like a nasty-ass tapeworm ever since. Their inescapable ’90s trilogy of caca (Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik; One Hot Minute; Californication) weaseled its way into your consciousness when you were still young and vulnerable. As an adolescent, you were impressed by the band’s hedonist bro-funk — imagining that one day you, too, could score an ultra-romantic drug problem or grab your painted taint in the desert. You weren’t even turned off by album covers that looked like shit tribal tattoos or a band logo that gives some the urge to call for medical help. You looked to Dave Navarro and saw a compact hero, not just a preening, gothic prawn. You laid eyes on Chad Smith and didn’t even think about Will Ferrell. Yes, those were the days.

But there is no way that you (mid-to-late 30s Midwestern dude, am I right?) should still like this crap music. But maybe it reminds you of a time when your shorts were cargo and your obligations were nonexistent. Maybe you were listening to “Under the Bridge” the first time you fingerbanged a comely young lass. Whatever, that’s cool. You were a kid. But if you have to book a babysitter to go to the RHCP show, you should be too grown for cocks in socks. If you gotta ask off work for the next day because you’re going to have a hangover after three $14 beers, you’re too old for words like “scar tissue that I wish you saw.” If you have a 401k and you’re still down to sing along to “Lick my knob, I gotta put it in your grand-ma” (or whatever the hell those lyrics are) then you are living a sham version of adulthood.

If, as an adult, you heard this music for the first time, you’d be like “Get outta here with this obnoxious kiddie bullshit.” You, as a grown person, would be irritated immediately and you would think it was a shame that uber-talented Flea is stuck in this gig and forced to act like a cartoonish performing circus ape. With the advantage of some years, you would listen to the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time and think that it was made exclusively for pot smokers with Adderall prescriptions. Which, to be fair, might explain the band’s enduring popularity — it’s an accurate description of your entire confused generation.

Plenty of music that you listened to as a kid still holds up, but not the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You’re not from California. You’re not wild. You’re not energetic to the point of pogoing. You’re not even a young, aspiring douche anymore. You’re a grown human and you should know better.

So if you’re going to the Chili Peppers’ show tonight, think of your shame during this moment, when every chump in the place does a subconscious body dip. And then hurry home and transfer double the money that you spent on the concert tickets into your kid’s college fund. You owe them that much at least, you foolishly nostalgic baby-man.

link: Detroit Metro Times
link: Riverfront Times

President Obama’s Greatest Musical Moments

obamadiscoball
A still from a joke video that was used on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, one of the first places that the President danced for a national audience.

President Obama’s Greatest Musical Moments
By Jaime Lees
Tue, Jan 10, 2017

When Barack Hussein Obama was elected President of the United States, it seemed like anything was possible. The fabled American Dream was alive and thriving. We voted for hope and change and we got them both balanced on the shoulders of a man who seemed capable of expertly executing the job.

Now, with only days left on the clock until our country comes under the power of a known psychopath, we mourn what we’re losing and look to the future with appropriate horror. It seems entirely possible that President Obama might go down in history as not just the first African-American president but also the last great American president. Ever. He wasn’t perfect, of course. Like all politicians, he could be hugely disappointing and his public silence and inaction on some matters felt brutal. But it seems safe to say that very (very) soon we will look back on President Obama’s time in office as a golden era.

Not only was he an accomplished, charismatic and dignified leader, he was personable in a style that we’ve never before experienced. And one of the most effective and consistent ways that he connected with the American people was through music.

President Obama used music to showcase his personality and his compassion. He was never shy about expressing how deeply a song or a musician moved him. We knew his opinions on popular artists and it made him more relatable. We also knew that our president sometimes felt compelled to sing or to do a little shimmy. We even knew what he listened to on Spotify. And we loved it all.

Below is a collection of President Obama’s greatest musical moments. Thanks for the great work and the excellent music, Mr. President. We’d love another spin.

……..

This should’ve been our first indication that President Obama was going to be bumping. Here he is as a candidate, dancing his way onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as is the tradition:

Here’s Chi-town’s own Barry O joining Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy and BB King at the White House for a few lines of “Sweet Home Chicago”:

Check out President Panty Dropper singing Al Green. That little bite of the lip! He really puts the “O” in Oval Office. It was kind of nice to have a President that was attractive and virile. (There’s no chance of that with the next guy.):

The White House hosted a tribute to Ray Charles, giving our main man another opportunity to showcase his pipes:

Many were charmed when Obama spontaneously sang “Purple Rain” to a kid dressed as Prince last Halloween:

He and Michelle also did an endearing little dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”:

President Obama invited Kendrick Lamar to perform at the White House on the 4th of July. Yeah, let that one sink in for a minute:

He awarded Bruce Springsteen the Presidential Medal of Freedom saying, in part, “I am the President; he is the Boss”:

He also awarded Bob Dylan the Presidential Medal of Freedom and then later gave us a peek into how the whole experience went down with Mr. Freewheelin’:

Let’s take a minute to appreciate that we had a black President who frequently celebrated music made by black artists while he was living in the Whitest of Houses. About damn time, right? Over the years President Obama has served as host for a wide range of African-American artists including Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Common, Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z, Jill Scott, John Legend, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Usher and the Roots. Here’s Obama singing “Jingle Bells” with Chance the Rapper at the most recent Christmas tree lighting ceremony. (Chance’s dad was Obama’s state director back in his Illinois days.):

In this clip the Obamas dance as a pre-Lemonade Beyonce sings the timeless 1941 classic “At Last,” made famous by Etta James in 1960:

Barack and Michelle danced a lot, actually. Dancing is where their passions meet, as it combines Barack’s passion for music with Michelle’s passion for getting active. In this video they’re trying the tango, but President Obama was known for dancing all across the world, from Alaska to Kenya:

And here they are having an impromptu boogie to “Uptown Funk” with R2D2 and a stormtrooper. They always seemed to have fun:

President Obama somehow even managed to make Jimmy Fallon’s moronic show tolerable for a few short minutes when he showed up to slow-jam the news:

Here’s a recent video from Usher of the President dancing to “Hotline Bling.” #Lit:

The President was also down with the kids, happily hosting his own festival called South By South Lawn on the grounds of the White House:

And here’s our boyfriend trying not to sing along with Aretha Franklin during Carole King’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. Was that a tear? And yes, even the President must stand when Aretha takes off her fur:

We saved the best for last. In this video, President Obama paused to sing “Amazing Grace” while presenting the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney after Pinckney and his fellow church members were executed in a racially motivated mass shooting in North Carolina. The universally moving song was adopted by southern gospel culture decades ago and it was the perfect expression of President Obama’s humanity and a grieving nation:

Until next time, Obama.

link: Riverfront Times

How Halloween Costumes Reflect Music Culture History

"Punk" halloween costume for sale by wondercostumes.com
“Punk” halloween costume for sale by wondercostumes.com

How Halloween Costumes Reflect Music Culture History
By Jaime Lees
Mon, Oct 31, 2016

History is interesting, but how history is recorded and decided on is mind-blowing. And the history of fashion is particularly intriguing because the clothes that we choose, personally, often say more about our time and place in the world than they do about us individually.

The fashion in each decade eventually becomes distilled down into one singular style that the entire decade is remembered by — this is how we know how to “dress like” a decade when we’re attending a themed party.

Halloween costumes present the easiest way to see this reduction. Visit any Halloween store and you’ll find costumes that represent each modern decade starting (generally) with the 1950s when television began to freely enter our lives and started to influence the goals and attitudes of Americans en masse.

With television we were all suddenly plugged into the same feed, and it was a visual feed, at that. And the introduction of television combined with a booming economy created the rise of mass consumer culture. In an instant, Americans became aware of the basic standards for how they should dress and, more importantly, what was in style.

A 1950s costume is the first decade-representing costume to show up in most Halloween selections. Traditionally, the 1950s costume is a bobby-soxer or a rock and roll-loving greaser. A 1960s costume is some kind of hippie Woodstock ensemble with tie-dye garments and long flowing hair. A 1970s costume is generally a disco dancer with flared pants and platform shoes. An 1980s costume is a new waver or some neon-sprinkled version of Cyndi Lauper or Madonna. And the most recent addition, the 1990s costume, is a grunge kid with dirty hair and a flannel shirt.

But what do all of these styles have in common? They’re all interpretations of what was seen as the popular youth music movement of the time. (And, more specifically, the popular white youth music movement of the time.)

Obviously, music influences fashion in every decade (and vice-versa), but it’s the fashion that’s most closely associated with music culture that ends up sticking around for years to come. This means that music fashion ends up representing entire decades of complicated American culture to future generations.

These broad interpretations of popular music cultures (rocker, hippie, disco, new-wave, grunge) don’t represent all that was happening in each decade, of course. For example, many people dressed like The Replacements in the ‘80s, with worn-in jeans and thrift store plaid shirts. But you’d never wear that laid-back ensemble to an ‘80s party, you’d wear mesh and technicolor hair spray and cheap rubber bracelets.

And there were proper punk fashions in the 1970s, but in a Halloween store a punk costume would be labeled as “punk” not “’70s.” Tartan trousers, spiked hair and dog collar necklaces would never be marketed as a “‘70s” costume, because our idea of what a 1970s costume is has already been decided. (And — it’s worth noting — a ’70s costume is specifically Studio 54, not Soul Train. Just like a ‘90s costume is Nirvana, not Boyz II Men.)

So how will the next decade in line be represented in Halloween costumes? The span of time from January 2000 to December 2009 doesn’t even have a proper agreed-upon name, much less an obviously cohesive fashion distinction. The first decade of the 2000s (let’s just call them the aughties) is too close in our rear-view mirror to gain any real perspective on how the fashion will eventually be perceived. Styles seemed hideous and all over the place (think: Juicy Couture track suits, thong panties on display, low-rise everything, embellished anything) but what will surely go down in history as the most important marker for that decade, culturally, was the rise of the modern internet. In the span of those ten years, the average American went from hardly checking their email to putting their entire lives online and easily connecting with a global community.

Taking this idea of Internet Omnipresence and combining it with our formula for what types of fashion will eventually stick (the fashion most associated with the popular youth music culture at the time), the only reasonable projection for what an aughties Halloween costume will be this: the “scene kid.” You know, a proto-emo youth. One of those MySpace-using androgynous creatures with tight pants, a white belt, raccoon eyeliner and flat-ironed hair.

It’s highly likely that fifty years from now an aughties Halloween costume will look just like Pete Wentz. Our great-grandchildren will think that for an entire decade we were all taking tragic bathroom mirror selfies with our bangs in our eyes while we listened to My Chemical Romance or ultra crappy electroclash concoctions.

link: Riverfront Times

The St. Louis Library Is the Bomb (and I Just Wish I’d Realized It Sooner)

This is what happens when you let a music writer loose in the St. Louis Public Library. / photo by Jaime Lees
This is what happens when you let a music writer loose in the St. Louis Public Library. / photo by Jaime Lees

The St. Louis Library Is the Bomb (and I Just Wish I’d Realized It Sooner)
By Jaime Lees
Tue, Sep 13, 2016

I’ve just recently realized that the St. Louis Public Library is the bomb. This is lucky for me because I’ve also recently realized that I have an issue with getting rid of old books. Most books that I let through the front door tend to stay in my house for life.

I wanted to figure out a way to stop giving books a forever home. I’ve always had minimalist tendencies, but started going deep into a decluttering adventure a few months ago. I’m always constantly cleaning out closets, trashing entire drawers, donating old clothes and, lately, digitizing my audio files, photos and important papers. But the books. The books don’t want to leave.

So what are you supposed to do when you read a lot of books but you want to stop buying them? The only answer is to swap or borrow them. I had to learn to foster instead of adopting. And that’s where the library came in.

I loved libraries when I was a kid, but I also had issues with libraries. I hated the school library when I was an elementary student. I read far above my grade level but the librarians there wouldn’t let students borrow from the sixth grade shelves when they were only in the second grade. The books I had access to there were dull and very, very short.

Annoyed with the quality of the “baby books” offered at school, I constantly begged my mother to take me to the public library, but I’m not sure that she’s ever read a book in her life, so my visits there were less than infrequent. I’d go once and get books and then sometimes she wouldn’t take me back to return them for an entire year. When I’d return and try to get new books, I’d always have a massive fine on my late books and I’d feel red-faced and ashamed when the librarians scolded me for it. Eventually I just stopped asking to go entirely. It was too much for an introverted kid to handle.

I started liking the school library again when I was in high school because I’d skip class and go there and read full text articles on their database. I should’ve been in French class, but I’d be hiding out at the computer terminals and reading obscure old magazine articles about Kim Gordon or Echo & the Bunnymen or whatever. I eventually got busted for being in the library so much and I got detention. (Pro tip for the kids: Did you know that if you skip detention that they give you in-school suspension? And then if you skip that they give you out-of-school suspension A.K.A. vacation? Once I figured out that my punishment for skipping school eventually turned into permission to skip school, they stopped giving me detention and I got to hang out in the library all the time.)

In the years since, whenever I wanted to read a book I just bought it. Trips to Borders eventually became trips to Amazon.com, and I’d just buy them all. I’d raid the books section at thrift stores and go to Left Bank Books and hunt through the insane collection in their basement. Still, there were always lots of books that I’d always wanted to read but couldn’t find. So I just kept ordering them all of the time like a damn chump.

Though I’ve donated more books than most people will ever read in their lifetimes, there are still a stupid amount of them in my house. Eventually, I was like, “This is dumb. I need to just go to the damn library.” If I was going to keep wanting new books, this would be at least one sure-fire way to stop keeping them — they weren’t mine.

After meaning to go do it for months and months, I finally took myself to get a St. Louis Public Library card just five or six weeks ago. And holy crap, it changed my life.

Nobody ever explained to me how awesome the library could be, so I’m here to tell you just in case you were also missing this piece of critical information.

First of all, it took about three minutes to get a library card. You show them your ID and they just print you up one right there at the main library counter. I signed up with the St. Louis County Library system, but you can access books at the city libraries, too, via an interlibrary loan program. Right after they handed me the card — instantly — I could’ve checked out up to 100 books. Whoa.

And as it turns out, the library has almost everything you could want. Really. The other day I transferred my Amazon books wish list list into a library books wish list. Of the 44 books that I had on my Amazon list, 37 of them were available through the library. (And the ones that weren’t available through the library were all rare or out-of-print titles.) Figuring an average of $15 that I would’ve paid for each of those 37 books, having a library card has already saved me $555.

I’m also done with buying DVDs. I usually watched them once and then they sat in a closet forever, so I checked the catalog for a DVD that I’d recently added to my Amazon list, too. Chuck Berry’s Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll DVD goes for no less than $39.99 online and I’d almost bought it a million times because I’ve been thinking about Chuck Berry a lot lately and I haven’t watched it in at least fifteen years. But guess what? The library had it, so I got to watch it for free. ($555.00 + $39.99 = $594.99 saved.)

And that’s not all. On my first exploratory trip to my main branch, I asked the librarian on duty if they had a specific book on minimalism that I’d been wanting to read for a long time but refused to buy because that seemed entirely counterproductive. She said yes, but that they didn’t have a copy at that branch, and then she asked me if I’d like her to order it for me. For free. I was like, “Uh, yes please.” It was there the next day — even faster than Amazon. O.M.G.

These librarians just do stuff for you and you don’t even have to pay them! She knew that it was my first day there and she told me that in the future I could also just easily search and request my own books on the app. What.

And, yes, there is an app. You can look up what you want and find out where it’s available or when it’s due back. You can also search on the app and download digital media. Now whenever I think of a book that I want to read, I just go to the app and search it to see if it’s in the system. If it is, I look at which branch has a copy. If it’s not a branch that I frequent, I’ll request the book right there on my phone. Then they email you a couple of days later when the book is there and ready for pick-up. The whole process couldn’t be easier.

They also even offer a free Netflix-like streaming service called Hoopla. Hoopla offers movies, music, television shows and audiobooks for instant streaming. It’s like having a Netflix account for free through the library. No joke.

And here’s something else I learned: In addition to being able to borrow from any branch, you can also return to any branch. Say I finish one of the many Oliver Sacks books that I borrowed from Branch A. Despite the fact that I borrowed it from Branch A, I can return it to Branch B. It’s also worth it to take a peek a their events calendars, as different branches offer different meetings, lectures and classes. (Colson Whitehead? He’s coming to the county headquarters this Wednesday.)

So, yeah. I’m head over heels. And even if you’re constitutionally unlikely to join me in fan-girling out over an institution like a library, you can’t argue with its merits. In fact, I guarantee, after your first library visit, you’ll walk out feeling like you robbed the place. It’s really almost too good to be true.

Wait, did someone say there are late fees? Nothing in life is perfect. But the St. Louis library system comes pretty damn close.

The Natural Bridge branch of the St. Louis County library re-opens this week, following a massive upgrade via the Your Library Renewed program.

– link: Riverfront Times

What the World Needs Now Are Beyonce Bitmojis

beymoji01

What the World Needs Now Are Beyonce Bitmojis
By Jaime Lees
Fri, Sep 9, 2016

Not quite two weeks ago, Beyoncé performed a seventeen-minute medley of the content in her truly epic visual album, Lemonade, on the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. And damn. Just damn. Without giving too much away: that part near the beginning where the backup dancers drop under the red lights? Powerful stuff.

Full videos of this iconic performance seem to have vanished from streaming services sometime within the past 24 hours, but we’re told that there are ways around this. (And lots of clips to peep.) It was an astonishing, legendary production. On stage that night Beyoncé delivered what is surely the most monumental awards show performance by an African-American female since Whitney Houston massacred the Billboard awards in 1993.

If you haven’t yet experienced the full Lemonade album, you’re missing out on one of the greatest pop culture moments in recent history. This is not some vapid pop release. Lemonade finds Beyoncé taking on subjects like gender discrimination, racial biases, self discovery, revenge, ambition, forgiveness, money, power, love and a whole hell of a lot of man problems.

Yeah, “Say My Name” was cool. And “Single Ladies” was fun. But this version of Beyoncé is an artist. She slides easily between all of these complicated interwoven topics and presents the whole thing as a cinematic extended music video, complete with stunningly beautiful scenes, explosive accusations and reflective monologues.

In honor of the album and Beyoncé’s performance tomorrow in St. Louis at The Dome at America’s Center (701 Convention Plaza Street, St. Louis; 314-342-5201), we took some of the more memorable lines from Lemonade and made a collection of Beyoncé Bitmojis. (Beymojis, if you will.)

We apologize in advance for not being able to find a suitable representation for the “Hot sauce in my bag / Swag” line, but please enjoy the rest of these Beymojis and then go out and slay today.
beymoji30

– link: Riverfront Times