Zen and the Art of Rocking

Not too long ago, I was driving back from Kentucky having just spent six days away from home. I had been in Kentucky watching my dad die, watching my family watch my dad die, and trying not to lose my proverbial shit. Diah’s death got me slightly more accustomed to public crying, but it’s still not on my list of things I’d write as a turn-on on match.com. Incidentally, I also wouldn’t list match.com as a turn-on. That profile was a mistake made in youth that will never be repeated. Where were we?

Ah, yes. In the car, driving back to Nashville. Drained, numbed, tired, and probably unable to breathe through one side of my nose (Kentucky = allergies), I hit Bluegrass Parkway and gave myself permission to loosen up the tight coils that had formed in my spine. As the opening drums of “I Don’t Care” hit me in the face, everything relaxed. I had permission to lose my shit in the privacy of my own car.

Last weekend, I found myself driving to Kentucky again. A panic attack came out of nowhere, seeping up my chest, speeding up my heart, and making my palms start to sweat. As it so often goes when I travel, I wanted to be home. Right then.

A girl doesn’t survive with panic on Paxil alone. I have grown, in part, smarter than my brain. I know its games, and I know how to stop them. Its name is Klaus. It is my iPod.

A PBS special called The Musical Mind helped explain it: when you listen to music that you enjoy, your brain impulses light up, turning your skull into Studio 54. Your brain says “yes” and, in so doing, forgets all about whatever nastiness it was conjuring. It’s like seeing a toddler walk toward an electrical socket and distracting said toddler with a toy. (Unless the toddler is screaming, in which case I suggest letting the kid fry.)

For what it’s worth, clicking the iPod to a song I really, really like helps talk me down from a panic attack. It might help you. May I suggest Fall Out Boy’s “I Don’t Care”?

Walking (in mud) In Memphis

Pete Wentz has been joking on Twitter that Fall Out Boy’s current tour is cursed. Sickness, people getting hurt, bad weather conditions, dead bodies falling from the rigging…you know the drill. OK, maybe I made up that thing about the dead bodies.

I bought my ticket to the Beale St Music Festival back in March, excited to finally see FOB play, willing to make the drive to Memphis, and secretly glad that the openers I would witness would be Three 6 Mafia and Snoop Dogg instead of All Time Low, Cobra Starship and Hey Monday. I was so busy thanking the concert gods that the show wasn’t in the “please kill me” heat of July that I didn’t realize that the concert was in the monsoon season of May. “So, I’ll get rained on. Big deal. I’ll just wear clothes that will dry quickly.”


FOB were set to play on Sunday. It had been raining for three days. Whatever notion of grass there had once been was gone, long gone, under the feet of thousands of people. What had been “wow, it’s kind of muddy” on Friday became “ankle deep, lose your shoes” by Sunday.

All of the port-a-potties that had been set up on the right side of the park had been long abandoned by anyone wearing shoes, so the lines at the port-a-potties on the left side were twice as long, turning the walkways into pedestrian parking lots. Ditto the food stands. A trip to buy a 5 dollar slice of pizza was more of a fool’s mission that required 20 minutes of negotiating through hordes of wet, poncho-clad seething humanity.

Never mind that the port-a-potties were alternating with said food stands. 20 feet of toilets, 20 feed of food, and so on. The olfactory result was a generalized potpourri of urine, fried pork products, and elephants (the mud). The port-a-potty company provided a small bay of port-a-sinks, but they were completely unused, save for the people using the sinks to WASH THEIR FEET.

Yes, some people had given up entirely on the whole “wearing shoes in public” thing. I don’t know whether to applaud their practicality or be horrified and their apparent lack of concern for glass, nails, and whatever bacteria were living in the mud. I don’t know about you, but if there’s a port-a-potty even visible, I feel like I need a hazmat suit made of Purell-lubricated condoms.

It’s over-dramatic to compare this to some kind of Mad Maxian apocalypse, but stay with me. As the day wore on, these seething, stinking, portly, dripping, leg-of-something-eating masses of 311, Hinder, and Snoop Dogg fans…GOT DRUNK.

I don’t know how many Hinder fans you know, I don’t know WHO is still listening to 311 (people with time machines who have come from 1997?), but I know this: these are not people you want to have invading your personal space. Emo kids, I can handle. We’re musical cousins, I can beat the crap out of them, and they’re just so damned pitiful when they’re sopping wet. Not Hinder fans. I can’t fathom that life choice. On the “Amy is bewildered by this behavior” scale, they fall between people who are homophobic and people who think the Holocaust didn’t happen. (Note: there’s probably a lot of overlap between the three groups.)

After leaving the relative safety of the baby-boomer-filled Blues Tent, I ventured down the long, muddy path, determined to suck it up and get something to drink and use the bathroom. Yes, I would pay 4 dollars for a 12-ounce lemonade. I would drink it and try not to think about how it was prepared next to a port-a-potty. Maybe I’d get crazy and EAT something too. Yes, I would stand in a line in the middle of a crowded walkway with the hope of eventually getting to urinate into an over-sized Rubbermaid container. Because these things, they tell me, are how it goes when you want to rock.

Somewhere in the middle of the 30-minute trek to cover 100 feet, I began to ask myself “what would have to happen when FOB take the stage 3 hours from now to make this whole thing worth it? What would make this fun?” My answer:

“Prince would show up, give me a post-show bubble bath, and promise me that I’d never have to do this again.”

This seemed a little unlikely.

When I finally peed and got a drink, I did so at a gas station outside of Memphis. By the time FOB were done with their set, I was almost home. The 3-hour drive took 4.5 hours because of heavy rain and standing water, so I ended up being very glad I wasn’t making said drive three hours later. Was this a lot of time and money for nothing? On the surface, yes, but I think a valuable lesson was learned. Actually more than one:

1. Festival shows result in the mingling of social groups that were never meant to mingle (i.e. me and anyone who enjoys “Lips of an Angel”)

2. No more outdoor shows, unless said show involves Prince.

3. Wet naps and Purell are as important as sunblock. Well, almost.

4. Sturgis boots ARE waterproof to the ankle and worth every penny.

5. In certain circumstances, I am capable of murder. (Note: I’m pretty sure the judge would let me off on the “311 defense.”)

No Rant for You (Today)

The best laid plans.

I was a good panda last night, writing today’s blog the night before so as to not have it accidentally cut into my work day. To confess, I write possible blog topics in my day planner so I can reliably have something to say every day at 9:00. Trying to maintain an aura of discipline and professionalism, you know. It’s the first step in writing my future bestseller, “I’m Only Writing This Book to Get Free Betsey Johnson Merch.”

Anyway, you’ll have to wait on my rant on the difficulties of returning a phone call from my doctor. Now that I think about part of it, it may be better in video form anyway. Why are you having to wait? Cause I have some props to return and thanks to give.

The good folks of The Moustachette have said that they like my design work and mentioned yours truly in a blog. Also, I saw something about The Moustachette being submitted to the Nashville Film Festival. As this movie involves music people satirizing young artists, I’m guessing this thing is a shoo in for the festival opener. The slot where NaFF always likes to put “a movie made by Johnny Cash’s brother in-law’s gardener or something,” according to one film-making friend. Besides, it looks funny so far, and God knows I love when people make fun of art kids. We’re ridiculous and we know it.

If nothing else, you should take a peek at the whimsical as fuck moustachette.com, particularly the fake cast bios. Have I badgered you enough? I believe so.

Open Letter to Carmike, Patrick Stump, and youTube

Readers, it’s confession time.

Sunday night, before arriving at goth night, I went to Franklin. To a movie theater. To watch a taped performance of a Fall Out Boy show. I know, I know, but I figured that having a camera’s view of the show would free me up to hide in the back and dance my ass off when they come to Memphis. (See what I did there? Also confessed to plans of driving to Memphis to see them. Will I stop at nothing?) There were only 20 or so people in the theater, which kind of makes me feel like FOB have gone full-circle. As in “it’s so completely uncool to like them that admitting to liking them is kind of punk rock.” You’re not buying that rationale, are you? Fine.

The theater, for reasons unknown to me, showed a rock concert by only using the two speakers up front by the screen. Rock concert. Quiet sound. You can do the math. The speakers running up the sides of the theater didn’t do anything until after the credits rolled and the “hey, go buy the new album” trailer came on. Also, there were several points during the show when the video wasn’t synced correctly with the audio. Either that, or FOB’s fans are without the ability to mouth the words at the right time, and guitar solos can appear to be getting played by no one. Nitpicky enough for you? There were also little title cards that would precede bits of interview footage. When writing words across a screen that’s 30 feet by 70 feet, kern your type. Every time a title card came up, I could hear Wendy in my head singing “kern yo’ type, bitch!”

I was willing to forget all this and figure that the whole experience was still worth 10 bucks and 90 minutes. Willing to go without publicly admitting going to this. But something’s stuck in my craw. Something’s BEEN stuck in my craw through all of the interviews that I’ve accidentally seen/read. Shall we?

Patrick, I love you, but your filter needs a little work. Before you talk on camera, think “what’s this going to sound like to someone who doesn’t know me?” Step outside of yourself and imagine yourself as the listener. I’m doing it right now. Were you?

For those of you who weren’t there, Patrick said some things about how everyone is so busy promoting themselves and filming with camera phones that they forget to actually experience life. He also said something about how YouTube is really just MEtube, and how we’re all really, really self-involved. I’m not saying every word everyone says should be run past a PR person. That would be gross and insincere. I’m just saying that he might want to dial the superior attitude down to a comfortable 7.

On the “everybody has a camera phone” topic, I can understand how someone who spends his time looking down into an orchestra pit filled with tiny glowing LCD screens would think that filming is all people do. You’re like “hello? I’m sweating my balls off up here!” and they’re looking at their phones. Just accept that those people have chosen not to rock out with reckless abandon. Those people chose to look through a tiny screen. Not the path I choose at shows I care about, but hey. What those people do is their business, unless they’re doing it in my personal space. If they choose to spend money on a ticket and then stare at their phones, they have the right to do that, even if it’s kind of stupid.

On the you/me Tube subject, youTube isn’t only about girls with no talent trying to get famous for doing something stupid. Yes, there are plenty of those (I venture to say you’ve run into a third of them, all wanting record deals), but there are just as many people doing something worthwhile. For example, there’s a girl in England who openly and honestly posts vlogs about cutting herself. It’s melodramatic and masochistic, but it’s also ballsy as hell. The point is that I said to myself, “damn…if she can do THAT, I can certainly use this to record possible stand-up comedy bits…to hell with what people think.” If we let it be, youTube can be the ultimate reality tv, the ultimate high school reunion, the ultimate open mic night, and the ultimate experimental theater. Besides, people put old Journey videos on there, and those things are hilarious.

I also find it a little troubling for you to be sitting around telling us how self-centered “people” are. I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re a singer/guitarist. History indicates that one singer/guitarist can out-ego all the rest of the world combined. I don’t know you, but you don’t know me either, and your wholesale indictment of all people using new media implied that we are all Tila Tequila. One who openly admits to not being very into the internet ought not to make broad judgments about what goes on here. I’m here more than you are, and I like these people. Not all of them, but enough of them to make the trip worthwhile.

I say this in love: superiority is not a good look. Don’t make media black and white. We exist in shades of gray. We never outlive our words, so we should make sure we’re comfortable with what we leave behind. Imagine yourself as the listener and think before you speak.