Musings and Eats with Mikey

Song #1
January 11, 2012, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Music

I recorded a song:

All I Have To Say (demo)


What if every song I sung, used someone else’s words
Would you still love me then, or would you think me just a fool?
So honest and so true, is how I feel about you
but every time I write, I get stuck on the first line
Would you help me find my way back home?
Would you help me find a voice of my own?
A place where my thoughts can roam
And if all the greatest songs, have already been sung
Would you still pick up that pen?  Would you still strum along?
And if every great word, has already been spoke
Would you still fall to your knees? Or would you think this all a joke?
Would you help me find my way back home?
Would you help me find a voice of my own?
A place where my thoughts can roam
What if every line sounded the same, and this is all I had to say?
Would you still love me, or would you walk away?
Would you help me find a place?
Would you help me write this song?  Would you still sing along?
Would you help me find a way back home?

Musing #80
August 7, 2011, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Music, Musing | Tags: , ,

Farewell, Old Friends

A few months back, Rx Bandits announced after 15 or so years, they would be embarking this summer on their farewell tour.  Whether or not this would be the end of the band, was not entirely clear, but surely the band was going to enter into the “hiatus” status (which is often code for, we are breaking up but we want to leave it open ended enough in case we want to get back together at some point) and would not be playing for the foreseeable future.  Though this was sad news, as the world would be losing one of the best live bands playing music today, it did not surprise me, as year after year of relentless touring takes a toll on a band.  Nonetheless, Rx Bandits are one of the few bands that have had a major impact on my life and they will be missed.

My story with Rx Bandits (or “RxB”) starts sometime in 1996 or 1997, and a compilation called “Hey Brother, Can You Spare Me Some Ska” (or at least I think that is what it was called), put out by the now defunct Vegas Records (big ups to Jon).  On that record was a song by a band called the Pharmaceutical Bandits called “Teenage Idol”.  It was the typical ska-punk song of the times, as ska and ska-punk music was the music of the moment in the mid-90’s, and especially in Orange County, CA.  The song was catchy and I took note.  This song would again end up on numerous compilations (the main venue for finding new bands back in those days) and quickly became ingrained in my head, and the head of many others.  Then, I believe in 1998, I caught a glimpse of Pharmaceutical Bandits live at the Ska Against Racism show at Oak Canyon Ranch, but to be honest, I don’t remember much about seeing them at this show.  The first real show of theirs I went was a free show they had at what was then Blockbuster Music in the Irvine Spectrum.  Their first record “Those Damn Bandits” had just been released and they were shooting a music video for “Teen Idol” (a music video that to my knowledge never saw the light of day).  There are two things I remember about this show.  The first was that this was the first time I was ever floated at a show (I think I was probably 12 or 13 years old).  The second was that their performance caused such a ruckus that it ended with people throwing cds off the shelves and stomping all over them and then the store’s manager freaking out, yelling at people, and breaking a plastic cd tower over his knee.  Needless to say, this was the last free show that the Blockbuster Music ever put on (but to be fair, they went out of business pretty shortly after).  I’m going to be honest, the first few times I saw Pharmaceutical Bandits, I wasn’t that impressed.  Their songs were good, but their live show was sloppy.  After this show, I had little intention of buying their record or going to see them anymore.

Back in the mid to late 90’s, in Orange County, there was actually a strong music scene.  Because of this strong music scene, I came across Pharmaceutical Bandits whether I liked it or not, as all the local bands would play all the same shows together.  Luckily for me, this changed my opinion of the band.  As I saw them more, the better and better I saw them become live.  After awhile I was really starting to dig them.  Lucky for me, my friend Dane was the cousin of the sax player, so I was able to get hooked up with a free copy of their first record.  When I finally listened to the first album, I thought it was great and wish I had been on board earlier.  Nonetheless, I was on board now and I continued to see a lot of the band at the local shows.  Eventually, they put out a second record, “Halfway Between Here and There”.  I remember going to the cd release show and the band announcing that Chain Reaction had actually filled the venue beyond capacity for the show.  By this time, they had changed their name to Rx Bandits, and had become a solid live band with good tunes.  They weren’t my favorite band at the time, but I was definitely into the music.   Anyway, the story kind of goes on the same for awhile, as I saw them a bunch, either cause they were playing with bands I wanted to see or because I went to see them.

Then in 2001, the band released “Progress”.  This is when everything changed.  The band started to push music forward and became more than just a Sublime meets the energy of Less Than Jake band.  I started to hear influences of Refused and math rock.  Sure there was less “ska” and “punk”, but they were doing something new and different, and this was exciting to me (as well as many others).  On top of this, they were doing it with precision and with great lyrics.  I recall a time when the record had just come out and the band I was in was driving to the recording studio to record our first album and we were just blasting it all the way to the studio, it definitely pumped us up for the recording session.  This was the point I, as well as some of my friends, started to see RxB every time they were in town.  At this point though, they were a nationally touring band and were playing far less in Orange County.  To that end I remember driving up to the Hollywood Palladium to see them open for New Found Glory, just cause we thought it was cool they were playing such a big venue.

A few more years went by, and right after my freshman year of college, RxB released “the Resignation”.  This album blew me away.  Gone was the ska and the punk, replaced by a sort of post-punk with horns that had amazing lyrical content and melodies, and was completely forward thinking.  Still this remains one of my all time favorite records.  Not only was it a great record, but it was super influential on the music I was making in the band I was playing in.  Also at this time, RxB’s live shows became insane; explosions of sound, great energy, and a new jamming element made their live show a force to be reckoned with.

Basically the story continues in a similar manner.  The band continued to play great shows that were inspiring as a musician, and as a person, and I saw them as much as I could.  They put out two more records, both pushing the envelope musically and doing something new each time.  Though “the Resignation” is still my favorite of their records, “and the Battle Begun” and “Mandala” are both great records that I also love.  Because of this and their live show, which only got better and better (despite losing the horns), I tried to catch the band every time they were in town.  Though my interest in the band has waned slightly in recent years, I still loved going to see them live, as they still put on one of the best live show out there.

Last night I experienced their second to last show (possibly ever), which was at the Glasshouse, their last one being up in San Francisco for some reason (and I also saw them on Wednesday in Long Beach).  For this show, they brought some friends along to play horns and played one of the best sets I have ever seen them play.  It was groovin’, ferocious, happy, and sad, all at the same time.  The band sound amazing and it truly was a great last chance to see them play.

I spent the last 13 or so years of my life being a fan of RxB and I saw the band more than 25 times.  It is rare that I find something so compelling to stick with it this long.  I grew up with this band and it felt like they would always be around.  But all good things must come to an end.  What I take away from this experience is that great music can truly be made without the help of the mainstream music industry if you believe in what you play and continue to push the envelope by challenging yourself in the music you are playing.  But more than the great music and memories of the band, I will take away all the great friendships I have made through their music.  The number of people I have connected with because we both understood what RxB was all about is more than I can count.  I have made great friends because of this band and their music.  Even more so, being in a band that was playing music that had influence from RxB, led us to meet other bands in a small niche that were also playing music influenced by RxB.  These bands became good friends, from many different places, and have made me some great memories.  Some of these friends have also led me to hang out with the RxB guys on occasion (and by hangout I mean, play shows with their side projects or be at the same parties, not that they know me in anyway).  In a small way there was a family of bands that were connected to RxB and we were lucky enough to be on the fringe of this circle (bands like GDB, the Return, Facing New York to name a few).  The point being that this band has fostered a community of people that appreciates a culture of good music and honest things in life.

It has been a great run and I hope to see RxB return some day with something new and exciting (whether it be new projects or more RxB).  If not, it is okay, because the memories and music have already been more than anyone could ever ask of a band.  So with that I say thank you Rx Bandits and farewell.

Musing #79
June 20, 2011, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Music, Musing

“the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain

So I have returned from a short trip to San Francisco.  The main purpose of the trip was the Asian Man Records 15 Year Anniversary Festival, a celebration of a record label that has been very important to the underground music scene during the past two decades.  I took the trip with my good friends Stu and Grant.  While we were up there, we also had some time to explore the city and hang out with some old friends.

We rolled into town, over the Bay Bridge, around 10pm, and made our way to the Bernal Heights neighborhood, the place where we would be staying for the next few days.  After we got settled, we went out to a local bar called Knockout to have a few drinks and catch some live music.  Of particular interest was a singer/songwriter named St. Christopher, from Lincoln Nebraska.  He played some aggressive blues rock with a stomp box (sort of in the vein of Mike Ness).  His songs were very typical, but his showmanship was great, and it made for an entertaining night.  The next morning, we got up, ate some breakfast, and then went for a hike up Bernal Hill.  When we reached the peak, we could see the entire city.  It was pretty epic.

After the hike, we meet with our old friend Matt and headed for the Sutra Bath House Ruins.  From what I understand, Sutra Bath House was a giant public swimming pool that was destroyed in the earlier 20th century by either a fire or earthquake (don’t remember exactly).  The ruins of the bath house remain and you can walk around on them.  It was a pretty cool little adventure of exploration.

That night we attended the first of three shows that we planned to attend which were part of the festival (I think there were a total of 10 shows).  Our old friend Mike met up with us and we headed to Slims, the venue.  Now Mike, Matt, and Grant used to play in a band with me back in high school called Better Off Dead.  We used to all go to shows together all the time back in those days (listening to Asian Man Records bands and such).  This was the first time we had gotten together in the same place in nearly 10 years, so it was pretty cool little reunion of our own, and it was kind of a funny how after about an hour together, it felt like no time had passed.  That night’s show was the biggest of all the shows, because Mike Park was able to get the infamous Slapstick to reunite for this one night only.  But first the show start with one of Mike Park’s bands, The Chinkees.  Back in the day, The Chinkees only played 5 shows in America (most of their shows were overseas in Asia for some reason) and we were all lucky enough to attend one of those five shows.  Anyway, it was fun to see the band again, with their organ driven punk ska sound.  Halfway through the set, a drunken Matt Skiba (singer of Alkaline Trio) got up on stage and danced with Mike Park through a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Bankshot”.  The band sounded pretty good for not having played in 9 or so years, but it was clear that they had not played these songs in a long time.  Next up was Mu330, who have been defunct for the past 5 or so years.  We had seen these guys a number of times back in the day, and that night they sound tighter then ever as they played through a set of fan favorites.  It was a lot of fun seeing them again.   Next up was the band that everyone had come to see, Slapstick.  Slapstick, from Chicago, existed from about 1993-1996, and members of the band have gone on to be in bands like Alkaline Trio (Dan Andriano) and the Lawrence Arms (Brendan Kelly).  Like many in attendance that night, the band had broken up before I had ever had a chance to see them, so this was a real treat.  After a short wait, the band took the stage and ripped right into their first song.  The band sounded tight, with very minimal mistakes.  Clearly they had rehearsed for this reunion and were taking it seriously (even if Brendan Kelly, the singer, kept making fun of how immature the lyrics to the songs were).  The show went off without a hitch, with the exception of a drunken Matt Skiba stumbling on stage and saying a few inappropriate things (see below), and the band played the majority of their 25 song discography.  All in all, it was an awesome night, getting to see bands I used to love as a teen and getting to hang with the friends I used to go to show with back in those days.

Slapstick – drunken Matt Skiba/ 74 Fullerton

After staying up all night the night before, we got moving around 11am and had a little breakfast at the Squat and Gobble (I recommend the chorizo burrito).  After eating, Grant and I ventured to the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate park to check a new exhibition on Picasso.  It was a very nice and expansive exhibit, with over 110 pieces that ranged through all different parts of Picasso’s career.  I’m glad I got to see it, and it gave me an excuse to go hang out in Golden Gate park.  After a light dinner of sushi, we headed to Thee Parkside to see Slow Gherkin play a reunion show.  When we got to the show, Monkey was just finishing their set.  Next up was Unsteady from San Diego (I believe this was a reunion for them, but I don’t know enough about them to confirm this).  They were alright, their songs all kind of sound the same to me, but they did play the one song of theirs that I really like (“Bad Attitude”).  After Unsteady finished, Buck O Nine took the stage.  Another band I used to listen to back in the day, and it was fun seeing them play.  After that, Slow Gherkin got ready to play.  Now back in high school, we used to see Slow Gherkin every time they came town (they are from Santa Cruz, but Orange County sort of became a second home to them).  They broke up about ten years ago and I have missed them, as they used to put on the most energetic live show of any band I have seen.  They blasted on to the stage with “Slaughterhouse” and the crowd went crazy.  Suddenly I was thrown back into a moment, something I hadn’t seen or felt in a long time, like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.  It was like it was ten years earlier, nothing had changed.  There is just a certain energy that this band brings to the live show that makes you have to dance and just have a great time.  So that is what I did.  I loved it.  Seeing Slow Gherkin again just brought me back to a special place and feeling that has long since been gone, and I am grateful to have been able to experience it one last time.

Slow Gherkin – How Now Lowbrow at the reunion show

The next morning we got up and went to the Bottom of the Hill for the only matinee show of the festival.  The Broadways (Brendan and Rob’s band after Slapstick) were playing their one and only reunion show.  Before they took the stage, there were three surprise openers, but we only got to see the last one, which was Bomb the Music Industry!.  Unfortunately the sound mix for them was terrible and made the band sound horrible (when in fact they are a pretty good band).  The Broadways then took the stage to play some political punk rock that hasn’t been heard live in years.  Most of the show Brendan was laughing at the fact that when they actually were a band nobody cared about them and that this was probably the biggest crowded they had ever drawn.  Regardless of how small their following was, or still is, the kids who came out to see the show loved it.  Though the band did not sound quite as rehearsed as Slapstick, they still played pretty good and it was great getting a chance to finally see them.  After the show we had a good pasta dinner at Emmy’s and then took it easy for the rest of the night, as we were pretty burnt out at that point.

The next morning we began on our journey home.  On the way down, we stopped at the Winchester Mystery House (which was interesting, despite our lame tour guide Nick) and Casa de Frutas.  After some horrendous traffic in LA, we made it home around 7:30.  All in all, a pretty good little trip.

Music #91
June 4, 2011, 10:42 am
Filed under: Music

I saw Bedouin Soundclash last night, they are still a great live band.

you come from a country where waterfalls feed into the sea …

Music #90
April 20, 2011, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Music

Heading to NYC in the morning for Tribeca Film Fest.

concert jungle where dreams are made …..

Jay-Z – Empire State of Mind (live)

Review #54
April 17, 2011, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Music, Reviews

Bright Eyes (and Jenny & Johnny) at the Fox Theater Pomona, CA (3/13/11)

Earlier this week I headed out to Pomona to catch Bright Eyes, with Jenny Johnny opening.  The show was at the Fox in Pomona.  This is my first time being at the Fox, and I was really impressed by the venue.  The only thing that was a little annoying was that the ushers were not checking tickets at the beginning of the show and we had to kick some seat poachers out of our seats.  We had gotten seats in the VIP loge area of the balcony, so it was no surprise that people were trying to poach them.  The view was great and the seats were large captains chairs.

We pretty much missed the first act, but shortly after we got there, Jenny and Johnny took the stage.  This was the second time I have seen them, and I feel like they sounded much tighter this time around.  They went through the majority of the songs on their debut album (I’m Having Fun Now) and played what I think was a cover, as well as “Next Messiah” off Jenny Lewis’ solo record, Acid Tongue.  I enjoyed seeing them, as they play good fun rock, and have great vocals.  My favorite live song was probably “Slavedriver”.  This is the set as best as I remember it:

Scissor Runner
My Pet Snakes
Cover Song
Just Like Zeus
Big Wave
Next Messiah

After a short wait, Conor Obrest and Co. came on stage to the spoken word that is the first track on the most recent record (the People’s Key) and went right into “Firewall”.  I had seen Bright Eyes only a few weeks before, when I was in Austin for South by Southwest, so I was hoping that the set would be at least slightly different.  Luckily, it was and I even got to see one of the songs that I really wanted to hear, “Hot Knives”.  There is not too much to say about the show other than Bright Eyes was excellent as usual.  Conor is backed up by an incredible group of musicians that really bring the songs alive.  They played a nice mix of songs from all of his records and pulled out some old/rare ones.  Some of the songs were pretty epic live and “Approximate Sunlight” was particularly hypnotic.  Another great moment was Conor playing “Ladder Song” alone at the piano with the spotlight focused on him.  It was an excellent show, and Bright Eyes is full of extremely talented and diverse musicians, which makes it always interesting.  I of course would recommend checking them out when they are in your town.  Here is the set list, not sure if the order is correct:

Jejune Stars
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Four Winds
We Are Nowhere and It’s Now
Cartoon Blues
From a Balance Beam
Something Vague
Shell Games
Going For the Gold
Approximate Sunlight
Bowl of Oranges
Arc of Time (Time Code)
Falling Out of Love at This Volume
Old Soul Song
The Calendar Hung Itself
Hot Knives
Beginners Mind
No One Would Riot For Less
Ladder Song
Gold Mine Gutted
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Road to Joy
One For You, One For Me

Bright Eyes – JeJune Stars (live on Letterman):



Musing #75
April 1, 2011, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Music, Musing

SXSW Part 4

The next morning I woke up feeling like all kinds of hell.  But it didn’t matter.  This was Southby, and I had a things to do and people to see.  So I got up and ventured on my own to get some breakfast tacos.  After getting a taco and some coffee in me, I headed back to 6th street and a little venue called Plush.

There I saw a band called East Cameron Folkcore.  They were your typical folk punk act, but they had a trombone.  It was pretty good.  After that I saw Fake Problems, again.  This time they were playing acoustic, just to switch things up.  It was fun seeing them a bunch of times and having it be different each time.

After Fake Problems went on, Laura Stevenson and the Cans took the stage.  I was glad that I got a second chance to see them after really enjoying their performance a couple days before.  Again, they sounded great.  I then left the venue for the free outdoor festival known as the Mess With Texas Fest to Lemuria play.  When I got there I caught a band called the Strange Boys, who were pretty good.  Lemuria then went on, and despite the sound not being stellar, I thought the play really well (but they do sound a little empty playing live as a three piece).  From there I headed back to 6th street to catch Fang Island play, but on the way I popped into Red 7 to see what was going on over there.  I caught a bit of Native’s set and then, of course, Fake Problems was playing again.  I saw a few Fake Problems songs and then headed across the street to see Fang Island.  They had been rad last year at Southby, and again this year they were rad.  After that, I headed back to the hotel to rest, as my feet were killing me (it felt like I was walking on rocks).

After a little rest, I went to Auditorium Shores to meet up with some friends for the free Bright Eyes show to close out the official festival happenings.  We got ourselves a good spot and Bright Eyes gave us an awesome hour and half set, playing a lot of new songs, but also a good amount of old songs.  During the last song “One For Me One For You” fireworks started to shoot off behind the stage.  It was a beautiful way to end the music experience of Southby.

After the show, I headed with my friends to the bars on the East side to have a few drinks.  It was a good night and eventually I made my way back to the hotel.

The next morning we got up and checked out and headed out to the famous Salt Lick for some all you can eat BBQ.  After getting a little lost, we made it and enjoyed our cooler full of Lone Stars as we waited to be seated.  After being seated we were served the most ridiculous amount of BBQ, family style. After filling ourselves silly, we headed toward the airport for our flight home.

After a fun, but exhausting, week, I had made it home from South by Southwest in one piece.  Writing about the journey has been quite exhausting as well (as you probably can tell from how much I have been summarizing in parts 3 & 4).  Another successful festival, come and gone.  Till next time.

Soundtrack: Moneybrother – Born Under a Bad Sign (off Real Control)