Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Post: Tucson Record Convention (November 6, 2011)

(Ed. note: I sent my brother Pocaroba on assignment to a record show in a questionable part of his hometown of Tucson, AZ, and he came back with a special report on this eclectic annual event. Thanks to him for another great guest post!)

This past Saturday I went and blew a lot of hard earned cash at the annual Tucson Comic Convention. I could regale you with tales of meeting the Honky Tonk Man, scoring a grip of old school Marvel Star Wars comics (including #1!) on the cheap, or getting way too excited about finding Mask comics based on the 80s cartoon show. But I won't. The point here is that my brother, Mr. Stallion Alert himself, notified me that night that there was also a record convention in my town the next day at the Las Cazuelitas event center. As a newly cash-strapped nerd I was both excited and tentative. It was one of those things where I wanted to go but was hoping not to find anything too awesome seeing as I was low on expendable fundage. I didn't want any record regrets.

So with that in mind I dragged the wife to her second Con' in two days. What a lucky lady. When we pulled up to the venue on the south side of town I got a tingle of excitement. This place was way sketchier than I had anticipated. You can't even see it from the road. You have to drive basically through a hotel parking lot and then at the very back is a dingy little building with the words "Event Center" on the front. This seemed like an awful good sign to me. This was my kind of place to score some records.
When I entered I chatted up the lady who was putting on the event with her husband. She said it was their fourth or fifth convention, also a good sign, and she got a kick out of the fact that I found out about it from a Record Collector magazine in Portland. I have to say, when I finally entered I was a little bit let down. The place actually had a pretty good size room but the record vendors only took up half. There were only probably about 20 people there and I could never really figure out who was working there and shopping there. All pretty odd. Also, for an event celebrating records and music, the place was library quiet. Every once in a while a song would come on but it would be followed by long spells of silence.

I realized pretty quick that I wasn't going to be finding a nice selection of 90s indie rock or 80s punk so I had low expectations as I made my rounds. The place was probably 60% classic rock, 20% jazz/blues, 10% 80s ass rock and 10% odds and ends. The odds and ends is what I was after. My favorite overheard conversation, and probably a good indicator of the crowd at this thing, went something like this:

Customer: What kind of records do you have here?
Record Guy: Mostly jazz. And latin jazz.
Customer: Oh yeah? Do you buy records also if I have records to sell?
Record Guy: Yes.
Customer: What kind of stuff are you interested in?
Record Guy: Mostly jazz. And latin jazz.
And it just kept going. He also took a good second pause between "jazz" and "and latin jazz." Which I found quite strange. Furthermore, are jazz and latin jazz different enough that they have to be separated like that? Next time someone asks me what I'm looking for I'm going to say, "Punk. And hardcore punk." I'll let you know how it goes. So I did end up getting some pretty cool stuff but not as much as I was hoping for. I did end up with a record regret. I found a copy of Hot Butter's album that has their song "Popcorn" on it. The cool thing was that the cover features an actual popcorn bag glued on the front. It was 10 bucks, which felt too rich for my blood at the time, but of course I regretted not getting it the moment I went home. Sweet, sweet regret. Still, I did get some stuff.

Tygers of Pan Tang - Wild Cat (1980)

I had never heard of this band before in my life but apparently they still play today, making them a big deal for somebody. For me, it was the trifecta of an awesome record cover, a sweet band name and the fact that it was metal from 1980. Curiosity and the three dollar price tag got the best of me. Listened to a little bit of it and it is assy. Song titles like "Badger Badger" and "Don't Touch Me There" promise a good time. With Rocky on bass and Big Dick on drums you know they've got the rhythm section on lock.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys - A Session with Gary Lewis and the Playboys (1965)

Growing up we had a copy of Gary Lewis' first album, This Diamond Ring, and I always enjoyed it. I digitized it recently and listened to it quite a bit (the title track is insanely catchy). So when I found this and realized it was his follow up, released only six months after his debut, I had to grab it. The cover is also really cool, showing Lewis behind the drum kit and snapshots that can't decide if their a cute boy band or a serious band making things happen in the studio. Oh, the confusion of 1965. This looks to be more of the same from their first album, with the boys contributing a few originals and filling most of the album with well-known covers. Can't wait to hear Lewis' take on "For Your Love" and "Runaway." Seriously, I can't.

V/A - A Compilation to Benefit Food Not Bombs Gainesville, FL (7", 1997)

I bought this simply because it has the Descendents' "Lucky" on it and it was a buck. Truth be told, I already had the song but the dollar price tag and the sweet light green marble vinyl made it hard to put down. The other bands on here are Less Than Jake, Good Riddance and Animal Chin, all of whom I could care less about.

Now would be a good as time as any to mention that the rest of the stuff I got was at one booth, run by a guy who seemed to be in his 70s. He was super nice and probably had the best selection, for me anyways, in the whole place. He also had an entire box of random movie promotional items, such as scripts, lobby cards and actor 8x10s. So not only did I pick up some records but I also came home with glossy 8x10s of oily LBST-era Jean-Claude Van Damme, Robert Goulet, MacGyver, Grosse Pointe Blank-style John Cusack and, my personal favorite, an Eddie & The Cruisers-era black and white shot of a cocksure Michael Pare. I seriously wish this image was on a t-shirt. Because I would wear it.

V/A - The Trial of Billy Jack: Original Music from the Film (1974)

Being a kid who spent most of my adolescent nights watching late night movies, I have a soft spot for Billy Jack. I'm pretty sure TBS showed nothing but Billy Jack and The Trial of Billy Jack on Saturday nights in the 80s and 90s. If you enjoy watching a Native American guy who spouts poetry, runs a commune for hippie youths and roundhouse kicks anyone who messes with said commune, then the Billy Jack flicks are the ones for you. I'm especially excited about the tunes "Karate Fight" and "Freedom School Massacre," although I'm pretty sure they are only instrumental. Still, you have to respect a record that only lists 5 of the 12 songs on the back cover. The others are only on the actual record label. Because that's convenient.

The Muppets - The Great Muppet Caper: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1981)

This one was a no brainer. The wife actually pulled this out of the bin. What a lady. Good and bad news with this one. Good news: it's still sealed, which after 30 years is pretty impressive. Bad news: it has one of those bargain notches taken out of the top. Not the full corner cut, just a notch. Still, it's pretty annoying. Aside from that this was always one of my favorite Muppet flicks so I'm happy to have the soundtrack. Now it's time to blast "Hey A Movie!" and "Piggy's Fantasy."

Pansy Division - "Bill & Ted's Homosexual Adventure" (7", 1993)

Finding this 45 made the whole trip worthwhile. My wife, the sport that she is, actually dug this out of a box and gave it to me. I seriously could not believe my luck. What are the odds of finding such an awesome record at a classic rock record show in Tucson? Also, keep in mind this is from the same elderly gent that had mainly movie stills and older movie soundtracks. Why he had a Pansy Division 45 which displays full on blowage on the front is beyond me. Funnier still was the look on his face when he was ringing it up. Needless to say he shuffled it to the middle of my stack pretty quick. Still, what a cool old guy to have this in his stuff. The best part? It was only a buck. It might be hard to tell from the picture but the Bill & Ted's logo is in a nice, shiny silver lettering. A class act, all the way. Even classier is their cover of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" on the b-side. "Talk about bun cakes, my guy's got 'em." Indeed.

And that was it. Aside from that Hot Butter record I left with no regrets. Even though I didn't pick up much I will still go next year. Hopefully I'll be into latin jazz by then.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Went to a Show: Das Racist, Danny Brown, and Despot at Branx (November 7, 2011)

Das Racist won me over a few months ago.

When I first heard them I didn't really give a shit either way, then I was slightly annoyed with their snotty bullshit attitudes, and then I fell in love with the remix of Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire's "Huzzah" and realized that maybe I misjudged them. I've been really getting into their new record, and though I can see why they're not everyone's cup o' tea, they've been mine recently.

So, when I heard they were coming to Branx here in Portland (the downstairs of Rotture), along with Danny Brown - who I've also been listening to a lot lately - and Despot, one of the other "Huzzah" dudes, I figured I'd go check it out. Monday night wasn't sweetening the deal for my wife, but she was nice enough to go along with me, because she actually enjoys Das Racist, too.

I hadn't been to Branx since they started calling it that, but that building has been so many different venues over the years that I assume at some point I was in that room. Anyway, it's a dank little bar-hole that somehow manages to barrier off an all-ages section, which was packed with high school dudes when we got there. It's kind of hard to describe, but they have the barrier diagonal across the front of the stage, so all the front-row spots are in the all-ages section, with the corner of the bar part starting at the very far right side of the stage. Yeah, I'm not describing that very well. Point being, if you wanted to be right up front, you had to get in tight with a bunch of 17-year-old bros, and we weren't doing that. But, we did get a good spot in the bar part, up against the little barrier.
Despot rolled out first, backed by Das Racist crony Lakutis manning the laptop that was providing the beats. I hadn't heard a ton of his stuff before seeing him at the show (because he doesn't really have that much recorded material), so I was looking forward to seeing what he was going to come with. Not surprisingly, it was stuff from an upcoming album, and also not surprisingly, it was all pretty good. He was a bit awkward with the between-song chatter, almost to the point where I felt like he was fucking with us. Whatever. When he rapped, it was pretty badass. He probably did about eight songs and then left, though I figured we'd be seeing him later.
Danny Brown came out next, also backed by the cripplingly stoned Lakutis (I mean, the guy looked like he had just been maced). Judging from the lyrical content of his (free and awesome) recent album XXX, Danny Brown is a nut. I was looking forward to seeing him live, just to be in the same room as that weird-ass voice of his. And it really was something to hear. And he really was something to see. His hair was sprawling out from under his hat, and the dude is just mad gangly. He also rapped his ass off.

My wife's summation: "He's got the song about drugs and the song about pussy. And then what?" It's a legitimate question, and it's my one beef with the dude, too, but his delivery and energy made up for any lack of lyrical substance in this instance. He knocked out a solid little set, did the "hits" from XXX, and then said he was "ready to go smoke a blunt." And I'm sure he did.
He probably shared some with the Das Racist guys, too, because maaaaaaaan were they high. Not that I expected anything less, but Heems strolled out wearing a sweatshirt-material poncho and looking like he had been crying for two hours. Dude's eyes were bleary, and his gaze was far-offish. But when they started it up, he and Kool AD got into it, in their own act-like-we-don't-give-a-fuck sort of way. At times it was frustrating, but when they did "Amazing" and Lakutis came out from behind the laptop table and busted his verse, they were all amped up.

The set sort of dipped a bit in the middle when they decided to do like three songs in a row over an instrumental of Dr. Dre's "Xxplosive," but it was slightly entertaining in its weirdness. Around that same time one of the speaker cones on the house PA caught fire, and everyone was too high to do anything but stare at it. Some bro finally put it out with his hand. That was bizarre.

The show sort of faded out more than it ended, with the guys just waltzing off stage after one of the songs was over. I was going to be pissed if we didn't get a "Huzzah" encore, and judging from the half-assed exit they made, I assumed it was coming. And, it was. All the dudes came back out, rapped the shit out of their verses from the song, and it made for a tremendous closer.

I ended up having a really good time. DR don't put on the tightest show in the rap business, but it was fun. And never have I seen such a weirdly diverse crowd at a rap show. Made for some great people-watching, and some annoyances. But that's the deal. Did I mention that they played clips of the Law & Order: SVU intro behind them (along with a lot of other film-collage stuff) while they played? Yeah, it was weird.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Record Shopping in Portland.

My wife went out of town this weekend, so after I woke up at 3:30PM from my standard Saturday afternoon nap, I thought I'd go check out the new Green Noise on Gladstone, because I didn't have much else I had to do, and I'd been meaning to go take in their new digs.

When I moved to Portland in 1998, I lived about two blocks from where Green Noise is now. Of course, at the time, I think they were still based in Eugene, which is where I was moving from. I still remember buying my grey-marbled vinyl copy of Fugazi's End Hits from Green Noise in Eugene. Neat story, I know. They were over on Clinton St. for a long time before they recently moved, and they were somewhere else before that (here in Portland), but now I can't recall where. Anyway, they're over on 38th and Gladstone now, and along with a few other shops, they seem to be cleaning up that little area quite nicely. When I lived over there it was just boarded-up shops and an alterations store that looked like a great place to get gutted.

So, yeah, I went over there. It seems like there's less square footage than there was at the Clinton St. location, and it doesn't have that lived-in feel to it yet, but I'm sure they'll get there. There's no upstairs bargain area anymore, which I will miss. But, you know, it's still the same ol' Green Noise. Sometimes there's a ton of shit there that I want, and sometimes I can't find much at all. Today was one of those days. I poked around for an hour and ended up getting one thing:

Royal Trux - Cats and Dogs (1993)

This is the 2010 reissue, and I'd prefer to have the 1993 original, but this was used for eight bucks so I picked it up. If I ever see an original copy I'll probably get it and get rid of this, but I haven't felt the need to actively pursue this one too bad. Though I do love this record. The repress looks exactly like the original (aside from a "0" missing from the catalog number on the spine), so it's not like I'm missing out on anything.

There were a few other things at Green Noise that I had my eye on, but nothing I couldn't live without. But, of course, I wasn't satisfied, so I decided to head over to Crossroads because I hadn't been there in months.
As usual, I found way too much stuff there and had to actually put some stuff back, which sucked, but it wasn't anything I'm kicking myself for now. There were also a few things that I wanted but couldn't pull the trigger on because of the price, most notably this:
12" single from Naughty by Nature when they were still known as The New Style. 30 bucks. Ugh. Almost worth it for Kay Gee's incredible hi-top fade, but not quite.

I ended up spending about an hour and a half there, and aside from some dude who kept trying to talk to me about every song that the guy working there was playing ("Stevie Wonder! That's my man right there! I haven't heard this song in forever!"), it was the usual pleasant experience. I walked out with a nice little stack. Here's what I got:

Penis Surprise - The Automatic Table 7" (1992)

When you come across a record from a Finnish band called Penis Surprise from 1992, you pretty much have to buy it, right? The fact that it's a limited edition of 500, has nine songs on the first side and one on the second, and features song titles like "Homo Helpers" sealed the deal. Oh, and it was a buck. This is some really bizarre shit. It's Finnish dudes trying to sound like Dead Kennedys and not quite getting there. They also don't speak English too well. Sample lyric from "Thank You," which is 16 seconds long: "I just wanted to stare but then I had to fuck the ass/ But I don't mind 'cause anything goes/ Thank you, ten grand is here." Good stuff.

Time Killing Isabel - "Paint My Eyes" 7" (1993)

These guys were one of the more successful local Salem grunge-type bands when I was growing up there, and though I don't think I ever saw them, I definitely remember their name, even though it might just be because they appeared on one of the I-5 Killers comps. Regardless, this was a dollar, and it's on the Schizophonic label, which was based out of Salem and I think had something to do with the Dandy Warhols at some point. The record is pressed on half-black/half-green vinyl, is a limited-edition of 1000, and features "Back Against" on the B-side. And it sounds like a young Salem band from the 90's.

Gas Huffer/Red Aunts - "Teach Me to Kill"/"Cupcakes" 7" (1994)

The Gas Huffer singles just keep coming. This one is a split with the Red Aunts and features each of the bands doing a cover of a song by the other one. The Red Aunts do "Cupcakes," which is actually "Hotcakes" with the lyrics changed in some spots. It's pretty sweet. Picture disc, with the Gas Huffer dudes in lady clothing and the Red Aunts ladies in dude suits. Sympathy label.

DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... (1996)

I was almost positive the copy I got of this was a repressing, because it's in really good shape, but apparently I lucked into an original. I've been wanting a good copy of this for a while, but didn't want to pay 20 bucks for a reissue. Got this one for 12, and it's a beauty. Thick gatefold cover, inner sleeves with pictures, and two slabs of clean wax. Mo Wax label, original UK pressing. Boom.

DJ Shadow - Preemptive Strike (1998)

When it comes to DJ Shadow, I'm way more in touch with Endtroducing... and his work with UNKLE than anything else he's done, and lately I've been feeling like I need to remedy that. So, when I saw a less-than-mint copy of this 2xLP set for six bucks, I snatched it up. Haven't listened to it yet, but this is a comp of Endtroducing...-era stuff that didn't make it onto that record, so I'm excited to get to know it.

Pavement - Watery, Domestic (1992)

The last time I was at Amoeba in Hollywood there was an original press of this EP in the racks when I walked in, and I took note of it. When I went back to get it 15 minutes later, it was gone. This record's not exactly hard to find, but people try to get 20 bucks for it, and there's only four songs on it. I found this original copy today for half that, and was happy to add it to the collection. Kind of embarrassing that I didn't already own it...

RTX - RaTX (2007)

This is the LP version of RTX's Western Xterminator and features the exact same album, only with a different title for the album and the title track (it's now called "Radtimesexpress"). The Drag City website says something about a cease-and-desist order, but who knows what that's about. Anyway, I've been looking for this used for a long time and never see it, so I was happy to find it today. This is a weird-ass LP, but I like it a lot. Sleeve is plain black, the cover is a sticker, and the LP labels are blank white. Seriously: weird.

Sleigh Bells - Treats (2010)

Another one that I had been waiting to find use, and one of my major guilty pleasures over the past few years. Feel free to clown me for liking this record, but I love it. This is the picture-disc version on thick vinyl that actually sounds good, which is rare. I've been listening to a jacked digital version of this forever, so I'm glad I finally have a legit copy.

And that's pretty much it. I bought a bunch of bargain LPs, too, but they aren't worth mentioning here. Besides, I'm sure they'll pop up somewhere else eventually.