In honor of CityBeat’s 20th anniversary, music editor Mike Breen and music section contributor Brian Baker (both of whom have been with the paper since the first issue) did an e-chat to discuss their experiences writing about music for the past two decades, from interview horror stories to the joys of covering Cincinnati musicians.
Mike Breen: So 20 years. We were both working (or, rather, volunteering) at Everybody’s News when we found out EN’s editor John Fox was leaving to start a new paper. I remember when he first told me, when it was still hush hush, and asked me to come aboard as the music editor while I was still in college. He pulled me aside as we were leaving the EN building after a day of work, told me (in hushed tones) about his plans and said he’d like me to be the music editor. I was excited because I believed in John’s broader vision — providing a liberal/progressive voice for the city, celebrating the arts and striving to create quality journalism — but also because I was going to finally be paid for my work. Do you remember when you first heard word about CityBeat's formation?
Brian Baker: Vividly. After John left EN, no one paid the slightest attention to me. I don't think they ran a single review of mine after his departure. At some point that following summer, John James, who'd been doing the Positively Yeah Yeah Yeah column, called me at my design day job and said John Fox wanted to have lunch to talk about something he's got planned. So the three of us met at this little seafood place on Reading Road and John (Fox) laid out the blueprint he had in mind for CityBeat. It sounded like a great idea, and my reaction was the same as yours. A byline and a check? Pinch me, I'm dreaming.
But John offered a single caveat, and it would have rather lasting implications. He said, "I can't use you as a reviewer, I need you as a feature writer. Can you do that?" I said yes, and that really changed everything regarding my writing career. In a very tangible sense, everything that's happened to me over the past 20 years is due to John's insistence that I write features, and I owe him a great debt because of that one simple clause in our contract.
MB: I remember months before the first issue of CityBeat I spent days putting together request letters to mail out to hundreds of record labels asking to be added to their mailing lists. Which is funny to think of now — we weren’t using email and, as opposed to receiving most review copies these days as downloads, we started getting dozens of CDs (and even cassettes at that point) a week. It’s crazy to me to think about doing research for reviews and stories in the very earliest days of CityBeat; I had a handful of “encyclopedias of music” books, but mostly we had to just rely on those press kit folders, which usually had a press release, a bio and then a stack of stapled-together photocopied reviews and interviews from other outlets. Now you can literally press a button and see every review and feature story ever written about an artist. It’s certainly easier now to be lazy.
What do you think has changed the most about writing about music over the past 20 years?
BB: No question that the internet has made the research part of our jobs a whole lot easier. And today's connectivity makes it almost (although not quite entirely) impossible for publicists to duck our requests for material and interviews. But remember tearsheets? Sending physical proof of my features and reviews to labels and publicists used to be enormously time-consuming, especially after I started picking up outlets other than CityBeat. Now it's like everything else: email a link.
Here's the thing about the new research paradigm. Back when my daughter was in 4th grade, her class and one other were doing a project on newspapers, where they split into groups, had editors and writers and each made their own version of a newspaper. Isabelle's teacher asked if I would be interested in talking to both classes about working on a real newspaper, which I happily agreed to do. The one point that I really tried to hammer home to the young journalistic minds in the group is that the internet has no editor, and you have to be incredibly careful with pulling what you think are facts from websites that may actually be offering little more than glorified opinions. In some ways, the internet has made everything incredibly easy, and in other ways, it has added in almost arcane levels of complexity that never existed before.
As I am often fond of pointing out, computers didn't make everything better, they made everything different.
MB: We’ll move on from computer-related stuff after this, but I want to vent about internet trolls so just humor me for a sec (haha). As I’m often fond of pointing out, the best thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice. And the worst thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice.
In the earliest days, we had one computer in CityBeat’s office that had web access, so people had to share time. My earliest memory of interacting with a “reader” online was when some asshole kid sent me this scathing note about something I’d written about Goth or Industrial music. He was a dick to me, so I was a dick right back (some things never change!). He threatened to “tell my boss” the mean things I said to him, which may have been the first time I did a computer-related “LOL.” It’s weird to think of now, in a time when online trolls are just par for the course. It’s probably the thing I hate most about the job, and it was evident in my very first experience communicating with someone online about something I’d written. (I should give credit to my first “troll,” singer/songwriter/funnyman David Enright, who, since the internet was still developing and Facebook was many years away from giving voice to everyone’s vitriol, made hand-written fliers eviscerating me, CityBeat and CityBeat’s music section for being lame. He stapled them onto telephone poles all over the Clifton area. I wish I’d saved one.)
We’d always talk about how we sort of wrote in a vacuum — we’d write stuff, throw it out there and assume people were reading it, but, outside of the rare “letter to the editor” or meeting people in the flesh, we had no idea how people were reacting to the content. Now we can kind of see in real time what people are reading (online) and get instant feedback if it hits the wrong or right chord. But people seem to mostly respond only when something pisses them off, which is fine, but it’s almost always rude and insulting, which is maddening.
Anyway, you (wisely) stay off of social media, and I imagine you are spared a lot of this more annoying feedback. But over the years, what have your communications with both subjects and readers been like? Are they only mean to me or do you get some of that too? (For the record, most artists are very cool, even if a review isn’t especially glowing, and very few are anything but kind and polite when I meet them in person.)
Also, and this is mostly for my own curiosity really, why do you avoid social media?
BB: I think I've had maybe one or two weird trollish kind of events, and in both cases I tried to reframe my case for the sake of clarification and when that went nowhere, I just surrendered, which I'm guessing is probably the money shot for most of these boners, so you're welcome. The anonymity of the internet has made self-imagined giantkillers out of intellectual/emotional pipsqueaks, and it has become an occupational hazard for those of us who would dare offer an opinion to a great unwashed mass that now has the means to respond from the bliss of their ignorance at the click of a mouse. On the other hand, it has also given us an opportunity to have fascinating conversations with people who actually relish the thrill of debating divergent opinions without having to declare a winner. A fair trade, I suppose.
My experience with the artists that I review and interview has always been, as you noted, very positive. And when I get introduced to people at shows, events, county fairs, beauty pageants and hog calling contests, and they realize I'm "that guy," they're always overwhelmingly nice, typically working up to a comment that goes, in general, "I've always loved your writing," and it's always nice to hear. A woman recently wrote in with some rather lavish praise about my online coverage of MidPoint, and her compliments were were well received by my always conflicted ego, although I was slightly bemused by this admission: "I've not read any previous articles by Mr. Baker..." So thanks for your kind words on my MidPoint reviewage, and if you're so inclined, there's 20 years of this stuff in the archive. Knock yourself out.
As for my social media blackout, I'm neither Amish nor am I a crotchety old duffer who doesn't understand the platforms and just wants these damn kids to stay out of my internet yard. My avoidance of Facebook has become something of a cause celebre; I didn't join because I couldn't see the benefit weighed against the time involved in posting/monitoring/responding, and now I'm one of a dozen people connected to the modern world who is not on Facebook.
At least part of the reason for the rest of it is the electronic array in the Bunker is just a couple of steps above the radio that the Professor made out of two palm fronds and a coconut shell on Gilligan's Island, and my phone is the Flintstones to everyone else's Jetsons. I have, in fact, grown rather weary of swearing at my 10-year-old Motorola flip phone (I know, I know), and I will soon be upgrading to something more befitting the second decade of the new millennium. And when that happens, I will probably be tweeting and whatnot with the rest of humanity. Until then, you kids stay the hell out of my internet yard.
Avi Buffalo plays a free show tonight at MOTR Pub at 10 p.m. Cincinnati’s Founding Fathers open.
Avi Buffalo began when Californian teenager Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg began home-recording songs in high school. After completing high school, he had a full band and an offer from esteemed indie label SubPop Records quickly followed. Avi Buffalo’s sublime, ethereal Indie Pop wowed critics and fans alike upon the release of the band’s self-titled SubPop debut in 2010. There’s a sense of wonder, romance and mystery in Zahner-Isenberg songs, something even more evident on the group’s highly anticipated sophomore full-length, At Best Cuckold, which was released in early September and drew even higher praise from critics. Fans of The Shins and Grandaddy will appreciate the wispy, beautifully melodic genius of Avi Buffalo’s songs, which caress the eardrums as they burrow into the listener’s cranium.
• Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s Indie Chamber Pop project San Fermin returns to Cincinnati tonight for a show at the new Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. The ensemble performed one of its first shows ever at last year’s MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati; despite their debut album not being out yet, the concert still sold out.
Check out Jason Gargano’s interview with Ludwig-Leone from last week's CityBeat here.
Tonight’s show at the Woodward kicks off at 8:30 p.m. with a performance by Mikhael Paskalev. Tickets are $17.
• AltPop singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson plays the Taft Theatre tonight. Chris Koza opens the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30.
Michelson has built a large fan base and experienced chart success since her self-released debut album, Slow the Rain, came out in the middle of the last decade; her next album, Girls and Boys, was her breakthrough, garnering mainstream attention after various tracks were used on TV shows (most notably, Grey’s Anatomy). Despite offers from big corporate labels, Michaelson has remained largely a DIY artist, putting albums out through her own Cabin 24 label (though she now has distribution through the notoriously artist-friendly Mom + Pop Music imprint).
Here is the recently unveiled video for “Afterlife,” the second single from this year’s Lights Out album. The new LP was her most collaborative yet; written and recorded after bouts with illnesses and other issues that left her in a dark place, Michelson collaborated with a range of producers and fellow songwriters.
Last month, several photos featuring the members of Cincinnati’s Wussy hanging out at the CBS studios in New York made their way to the band’s social media accounts. Turns out the band wasn’t just taking a studio tour; they were invited guests!
Wussy filmed an in-studio session and were interviewed for a feature on the band that will appear on CBS This Morning Nov. 29. The date was revealed on this past Saturday’s CBS This Morning. It will be the band’s network television debut, the latest milestone for Wussy, which has seen its national profile continually rise gradually over the past several years.
CBS This Morning’s Saturday edition has been doing weekly musician profiles for a while now on a segment called “Saturday Sessions.” The show has featured artists like The Head and the Heart, Trampled by Turtles, Delta Spirit, Gaslight Anthem and Counting Crows in recent months (British musicians Johnny Marr and James play the next two “Saturday Sessions,” respectively).
Here are the Cincinnati natives of The National performing a session for the show earlier this year.
The brand new Over-the-Rhine music venue The Woodward Theater had a public open house event this past Friday and now it’s time for the venue’s first official show. The Woodward — brought to you by the people who run MOTR Pub, which is just across Main Street from the new club — hosts acclaimed Grand Rapids, Mich., ensemble The Soil & the Sun tonight. The progressive, gorgeously ethereal Indie Chamber Folk group is joined by Wisconsin Country/Folk group Count this Penny for the 8 p.m. show. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is just $5.
Here is a clip of The Soil & the Sun performing a session for the Audiotree series.
• Eclectic drummer/composer Dylan Ryan brings his Dylan Ryan/Sand project to Northside’s The Comet tonight. Ryan’s exploratory Jazz Rock trio will be joined by the Dave McDonnell Group of the free, 10 p.m. show. Ryan (now based in L.A.) and McDonnell (now based in Cincinnati) are both members of the “Prog Jazz” ensemble Herculaneum.
Here’s “Tree, Voices, Saturn,” a track from Sand’s second album, Circa, which was released on Cuneiform Records in late September.
• Diverse New Orleans Rock band The Revivalists perform at Oakley’s 20th Century Theater tonight. The show starts at 8 p.m. with special guests Black Cadillacs. Tickets are $17 at the door.
Here’s the official video for “Criminal” from The Revivalists’ City of Sound LP, which was reissued by the band’s new label home, Wind-Up Records, earlier this year.
• One of the cool things about The Woodward Theater is that when shows there end, there will always be something going on across the street at MOTR Pub, which typically presents shows at 10 p.m. (and never charges a cover). Tonight’s a great opportunity to test that out as each venue has a great band performing. SubPop recording artists Jaill play MOTR tonight, after the Soil & the Sun show across the street, with guests Smut.
Formed more than a decade ago in Milwaukee, Wis., Jaill spent their formative years self-recording and releasing a variety of music on their own or for small labels. In 2008, the band put out its debut full-length, There’s No Sky (Oh My My) — which was reissued on Burger Records (the label also released a collection of early recordings called Cranes last year) — and caught the attention of SubPop.
The band signed with SubPop for 2010’s That’s How We Burn and then in 2012 released the magnificent Traps, a great representation of the group’s jangly, highly melodic Indie Pop. Pitchfork gave the album a positive review, comparing the band to Violent Femmes and the dB’s and describing it as “idiosyncratic pop-rock appealing to geeky outsiders and scene lifers.” I’d say it has a far wider appeal than that.
One of the few “Alternative Revolution” bands left over from the ’90s, Primus, returns to Cincinnati tonight for a special show at the Taft Theatre. The veteran band is still one of the more unique and eccentric groups around that maintains a large fan base. That’s singularity might have something to do with their longevity. Primus has never had anything to do with flash-in-the-pan musical fads.
Les Claypool and Co.’s latest is a blissfully oddball addition to an already blissfully oddball discography. Primus and the Chocolate Factory is a creative interpretation of the music from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film. Reviews from previous live shows on Primus’ tour for the album say the band opens with a set of Primus hits; the second set focuses on Chocolate Factory, replete with matching stage production.
Check out Charlie Harmon’s preview of the show for CityBeat here.
Tickets for tonight’s show are $39.50-$45. Showtime is 8 p.m.
• One of Greater Cincinnati’s most unique annual music events, the Blues & Boogie Piano Summit, returns for its 15th year this weekend. For the 2014 edition, the showcase of international Boogie Woogie Blues pianists takes place over two nights (Friday and Saturday) at the Southgate House Revival.
The Boogie Piano Summit was founded by Ricky Nye, Cincinnati’s top purveyor of Boogie Woogie, a rollicking, highly rhythmic style of Blues piano that was influential in the formation and development of Rock & Roll and various styles of Blues, Jazz and Country music. This year’s edition of the Summit is dedicated to the “New Breed of Boogie Woogie,” showcasing three players all under the age of 30 (the same lineup performs both nights). The event features Switzerland’s Chris Conz, Iowa’s Chase Garrett and Germany’s Luca Sestak (watch clips from each below).
Tickets are $30 for a seat or $25 for standing room only. (Save $5 on tomorrow’s show by purchasing them in advance here.)
• The Rusty Ball, organized and starring fun, popular local ’80s cover group The Rusty Griswolds returns to the Duke Energy Convention Center tomorrow night at 8 p.m.. Tickets range from $75-$175. The show is the Griswolds' annual charitable event, with proceeds going to numerous local charities (the show has generated nearly $2 million for over 300 charities since it began in 2008). Special guest this year is ’80s/’90s Pop star Taylor Dayne. Click here for full details.
• Toronto Rock twosome catl. performs a free show Saturday at MOTR Pub. It’s a night of duos, as the Canadians are joined by locals Halvsies and Brooklyn’s Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne. Showtime is 10 p.m.
Here’s a clip for catl.’s bluesy, boogying “Gotta Thing for You” from their album Soon This Will All Be Gone. This spring the band released its fourth album, The Shakin’ House.
The Wild Feathers began at the start of the decade, when guitarist/singer Ricky Young and bassist/singer Joel King decided to put together a band that featured four lead vocalists, each as important as the next. The resulting ensemble, with the addition of guitarists/singers Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly (Ben Dumas plays drums) clicked instantly. The band signed to Warner Bros. and released its self-titled debut last year. Rolling Stone gave the album a glowing review, saying the LP brings to mind “everyone from the Allman Brothers ("Hard Wind") to the Jayhawks ("Got It Wrong”),” and that “the five-piece band fuses the essentials of rock, country, folk and blues into an intriguing new approach.”
• Influential British Metal crew Carcass performs Sunday at Covington’s Madison Theater. Considered pioneers of Grindcore and melodic Death Metal, the band was also a favorite of British taste-making DJ John Peel. Carcass split up in the ’90s but reunited in 2007 for a string of shows, leading up to their entire back catalog being reissued. In 2013, the group released its first album of new music in 16 years, Surgical Steel. Next week the band is releasing a five song EP, Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel, which features tracks recorded during the Surgical Steel sessions.
Here’s the lyric video for the EP’s “Livestock Marketplace”:
Read Brian Baker’s preview of the show here.
Carcass headlines the Madison Sunday with fellow Metal giants Obituary and guests Exhumed and Noisem. Showtime is 8 p.m. The show is open to all ages. Tickets are $25.
• The local chapter of the Guitars For Vets nonprofit organization, which provides musical therapy in the form of guitar lessons to military veterans at the local VA Hospital suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, presents its second annual benefit this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Jim and Jack’s on the River (jimandjacks.net). The event is free and features performances by noted local guitarists Sonny Moorman and Dick Buchholz, who will perform with Guitar For Vets students. There will also be a guitar auction and raffle to raise funds for the cause. For more information on Guitars For Vets, visit guitars4vets.org.
Restorations recently released its third album, LP3 (following LP1 and LP2, of course), though the great label, SideOneDummy Records. Rolling Stone said of the new album, “When their trio of guitarists aren't busy auditioning for Ozzy or Springsteen, they summon dynamic, smartly-shaded echo caverns more reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate and Modest Mouse – elevating the nicotine-ravaged bloodletting of Jon Loudon, the toughest young old man at the bar, to lip-quiveringly dramatic heights.” The band also had a great piece written about them and new album on Grantland; check it out here.
• Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Tas Cru and his band of Tortured Souls play West Side club Legends tonight. The upstate New York ace has released four well-received albums and has a new one, You Keep the Money, due out soon. Here’s the title track from his 2012 full-length, “Tired of Bluesmen Crying.”
Local Blues heroes The Sonny Moorman Group open the show at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.
• New York City-based instrumental trio Consider the Source plays Covington’s Madison Theater tonight. The self-descriptions from the band’s Facebook — “Sci-Fi, Middle Eastern, Progressive, Psychedelic, Jamband, Funk, Fusion” — give a great sense of the diversity inherent in the band’s music. Played with virtuosity and a sense of adventure, the threesome’s unique style and entertaining live presence has earned the group a cult following across the country, in Europe and even the Middle East, as well as dates performing with the likes of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge. Consider the Source recently released the World War Trio EP (Part 1), which consists of a “six-part composition” titled “Put Another Rock in That Bag.” Part 2 will be a double album due for release this winter.
Here’s an extended version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” a rare full cover from Consider the Source recorded live in the studio.
Consider the Source is joined by local acts Common Center, Elementree Levity Project and Don’t Fear the Satellites for tonight’s 9 p.m. show. Admission is $10.
Chicago Thrash band Oozing Wound are in town tonight for a show at Rake’s End in Brighton. Forced Opinion, Monitor Lizard and Iron Oath also perform. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Heavy on dark and clever humor and creative riffage, Oozing Wound is touring behind its second album release, Earth Suck, which came out Oct. 21 on the Thrill Jockey label. The album comes on the heels of the band’s debut, Retrash, which received widespread praise last year from The New York Times, Decibel, Pitchfork and many other outlets. Noisey recently profiled the band, writing, “So refreshingly anti-bullshit are Oozing Wound that they could conceivably turn out to be the Nirvana of thrash.”
Better known as Young Jeezy (and, to his family, Jay Jenkins), the Atlanta rapper is also quite the motivationalist. His first two albums for Def Jam were called Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 and he’s proven that that angle isn’t just talk. Yesterday, Grantland ran a piece about Jeezy’s pep talk to the Temple football team (which was coming off of two losses in important games) on Halloween, which was followed the next day by Temple’s win over No. 23 East Carolina. The win over ECU was the first time Temple beat a ranked opponent at home ever and only their third victory over a ranked team in the school’s history.
So if you’re having a tough time in life right now, tonight’s show might help you turn it around. At worst, you’ll probably have fun.
• Pittsburgh’s Cello Fury, a “Chamber Rock” group featuring three cellist and a drummer, kicks off its current tour tonight at West Side club Legends. Showtime is 9 p.m. and admission is $10 at the door.
Fans of Prog Rock will appreciate Cello Fury’s winding arrangements and driving intensity. The instrumental ensemble has released a pair of album and has collaborated with a wide range of artists — from Rock acts to work in the theater, opera, dance and orchestral world.
• Veteran singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys performs at the Southgate House Revival in Newport tonight. Jeffreys spoke with CityBeat’s Steven Rosen about his “comeback,” which began in 2011after he put his career on hold to raise his daughter. His critically-acclaimed 2011 album The King of In Between was his first new material since 1992. Check out the full interview here.
Here’s Jeffreys performing on David Letterman’s show upon the release of The King of In Between:
Jeffreys’ show tonight in Newport begins at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25 at the door.
Hours spent in the van, hours spent waiting for sound check in the venue, hours spent wandering European cities waiting for the venue to open, hours waiting for show time and hours spent waiting for the show to wrap up. All of this adds up to lots of free on our hands and not much to do with it. So what is a Rock & Roll band — and its merch and sound guy — to do with opportunity?
Why, play Dibs of course.
Dibs is one of those rare games that has no end point. No one wins at Dibs; it is played simply to pass time and help spice up the long stretches of mind numbing nothingness that touring sometimes produces. As a public service to other bands in this situation, I would like to provide you with the objectives and rules of Dibs, as I have observed them, so that you may also join in on this wondrous game.
First, a few opening remarks on Dibs. One: this game may sound a little inappropriate at times. This fact is not lost on us. But after four hours of staring out of the window of a van and seeing not much more than trees, plains and gas stations, your brain starts to atrophy. Dibs helps bring it back to back to life. Two: if, while playing Dibs, you question your values or moral code at any time, don’t be alarmed — this only means that you are human.
Now, on to the good stuff!
Objective: The objective of Dibs is to see an attractive person and call dibs on said person. Being that this tour is comprised of five straight men that are either single or separated from their significant others for three weeks, this means that attractive women of all kinds are being dibsed with a speed and fury unrelenting. But if your preferences differ, feel free to switch it up. Dibs is a game for all.
Now, the objective is easy enough to grasp, but like all great games of skill and wit, it is easy to learn and hard to master. Which is why we have set up several unofficial rules that I will now place into record.
And with that, you have the basics of Dibs. It is a game with a rich strategy behind it, a strategy that I will leave to you to discover. Due to its never-ending nature, it can keep you and your bandmates entertained for hours. Or at least until you’ve seen everyone who has walked through the door at the venue. Then it’s back to Tetris. Happy hunting!
CityBeat contributor Nick Grever recently traveled Europe with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun and blogged about it for citybeat.com. His other dispatches can be found throughout the music blog.
Toronto punk rockers PUP play MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine tonight. The free show also includes performances by NYC's Chumped and Washington, D.C., Garage Pop group Typefighter.
PUP put out its debut album last year on the Canadian label Royal Mountain Records and then the subsequent buzz landed them a deal with L.A.'s SideOne Dummy Records before the end of the year (the label reissued the self-titled debut album this past spring). The quartet has received a lot of positive notice for their adrenalized and melodic sound; Stereogum called them one of the best new bands of last year and Noisey proclaimed the LP a "perfect 10," saying, "If Weezer made a punk record somewhere between the blue album and Pinkerton, this would be it. Or if The Bronx covered Modest Mouse songs."
• Experimental/Industrial/Noise duo Ora Iso play Rake's End in Brighton tonight at 9 p.m. Inbreeder, Evolve, No Heat and DJ Inhuman also perform.
Brooklyn-based Ora Iso, featuring classically trained pianist/vocalist Kathleen Malay (born in Indonesia and former Australian resident) and guitarist Jason Kudo, released its debut album, Bathcat, on the Ba Da Bing! label just a few weeks ago. The twosome's Industrial/Post Punk sound has been likened to acts like Throbbing Gristle and The Dirty Three.
• Hip Hop acts Hoodie Allen and Chiddy Bang perform tonight at Bogart's in Corryville. Max Schneider also performs. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
From Reyan Ali's Hoodie Allen preview for CityBeat:
People Keep Talking, which landed in mid-October, marks his inaugural full-length after a string of mixtapes and tours. Armed with a massive trove of pop cultural references, a handful of guests (Ed Sheeran, most notably) and a really solid repertoire of beats, Hoodie spends People speaking about ambition, money, life as an underdog and relationships. That last category is truly his specialty; although he occasionally shoots for the badass rapper vibe, he really has a sensitive Justin Timberlake thing going on that he’s never afraid to embrace. Markowitz recently tweeted his interest in touring with One Direction — a move definitely up his alley.
I crowd surfed for the first time ever in Strasbourg, France. And I did it in a hot dog costume.
Man, I can’t wait to tell my grandkids this story.
The hot dog spawned from a Facebook Messenger conversation before we even left. As we were preparing for the trip, the group bought me a glow in the dark skeleton onesie. It proved far too comfy and warm for it to be a nightly outfit in dirty, sweaty bars. I know this because I happily wore it around my house on several occasions.
Through the conversation it was eventually decided that I needed an Elvis outfit to wear during shows. I agreed and took a trip to a local Spirit Halloween in search of my tour uniform.
I was quickly disappointed.
Not only did they not have any Elvis costumes, the employee told me that the only place she knew that had one was a costume rental shop across town. The price put the costume way out of my price range. So I had to come up with something just as American (i.e. over the top and ridiculous). I browsed around, shot down the idea of a German beer girl costume — no one needs to see that much of my upper thigh — and stumbled across an area of cheap, lazy costumes. One of which was the hot dog suit. I snapped a picture, sent it to the boys and was met with joyous approval. I was still under my assigned budget so I picked up a Flavor Flav-sized dollar sign pendant and made my way to the register. Now, I was truly ready for Europe.
The hot dog costume has made an appearance a handful of times at shows, typically during the last song of the set or the encore. Sometimes I’ll put it on and rush to the front of the stage to get the guys to laugh and mess up. Being the consummate professionals that they are, they’ve never flubbed a song as far as I can tell.
But recently, they’ve been requesting the hot dog from stage, meaning I have to quickly dig it out, throw it on and run out to the crowd. They usually do so for their own amusement or to drive sales at the merch booth by proclaiming they have the würst merch guy in history. I never said that these guys were comedians …
Now, the majority of crowds just look confused by the sudden appearance of a hot dog at a Rock show but some get it and boy are their reactions spectacular. You haven’t lived until you’ve headbanged with two long hairs in a sweaty Halloween costume. But the crowd reaction in Strasbourg takes the cake.
The show was Punk Rock all the way — the sound was awful, the fans were packed in like sardines and the beer was flowing freely. The crowd had already spawned a crowd surfer, which is an admirable feat due to the fact that the venue is in a basement. Crowd surfing and grazing the ceiling of a club rarely go hand-in-hand. When the band called for the hot dog, I pushed through and found myself in an open pit in the center of the crowd. The final song started and I began my “dancing” and headbanging with the crowd. Pictures were taken, laughs were had, and I thought that was the end of it.
Then I saw the universal “You want to go up?” hand signal. Apparently crowd surfing crosses language barriers. Before I knew it, I was on top of the crowd trying to simultaneously avoid being dropped to the floor or bounced into the ceiling. It was awesome and scary and ridiculous and unbelievable all at the same time. If that’s not a great commercial for Spirit Halloween, I don’t know what is.
Now I really can’t wait for our Halloween show tonight. We plan on having a merch guy who’s all skin and bones, a blinged out bassist and the würst drummer you’ve ever seen.
Hey, I never said I was a comedian, either.