We Can Do Better

Did you ever have a conversation that was worth dying for? No, me neither. I did see a guy that had such a conversation. He was yakking on his cell phone while walking across the busy four lanes of Belmont Ave. in Liberty. Cars were swerving into other lanes to miss him. He was deep in a “cell phone coma” and oblivious to where he was. Either that or it was Clark Kent and he knew he wouldn’t be injured by a two ton car hitting him. What gives with these idiots?

Mrs. Elecpencil and I went to Pittsburgh Wednesday night. We went to Club Café to see 48 year-old singer/songwriter James McMurtry. He is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry who wrote “Lonesome Dove.” Like his father James is a gifted storyteller. James’ songs are about working-class life and all of its struggles. Some of his songs are about getting older and wondering how your life went by in a flash. They also make you question whether you did enough with your life. These are questions folks my age ask themselves every day. Recently, I was looking in the mirror at all of the age spots I ‘m getting on my face. I was contemplating that it just seems like yesterday I was struggling with teenage acne.

Writer Steven King has called James McMurtry “the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” John Mellencamp co-produced McMurtry’s 1989 debut album, “Too Long in the Wasteland.” Every time McMurtry releases an album many critics will call it album of the year. Though he has had lots of critical acclaim he plays clubs like Club Café that hold 150 people. The crowd on Wednesday was age 30-70. That is the age of people that want a message in their music and James delivered the goods for two hours. The crowd was very exuberant all except the guy sitting next to me  at the bar. He spent the whole time yakking on his cell phone and texting. What gives with these idiots?

If there was any fairness in the world McMurtry would be playing at stadiums. Instead we have acts like Lady Cucka, Goo Goo or GaGa or whatever her name is selling out stadiums. Notice I said act as I wouldn’t honor her by calling her a musician.

Warren, Ohio is featuring a concert series called “River Rock at the Amp.” It features tribute bands that should be electrocuted with their amps, weighed down with a rock and tossed in the river. I don’t think I’m being harsh at all as I wouldn’t go see any of the acts they are covering let alone an imitation.  Tribute bands are also called, “tribute acts.” Most of the bands they pay tribute to don’t deserve it. I won’t go into how sad I think  tribute bands are because I’ve already done that  sometime back here. I would like to see Warren be more progressive and have a new music review like Austin, Texas does. Money would be better spent on artists like James McMutry instead of tribute acts. Let’s move into the future instead of trying to capture the past. Seriously, does anyone need to hear that screechy “Stairway to Heaven” for the millionth time.? If so, we need to set up Rock ‘n’ Roll rehabs.

I prefer leaving a concert thinking, life is short what can I do to make the world better. Others want to leave a Kiss concert singing, “I Want to Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite and Party Everyday.” Which is more constructive? I’m told Nero fiddled, “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite and Party Everyday” while Rome burned.  I’m just saying.

We drove home from Pittsburgh on the PA/OH Turnpike. We stopped at the first rest stop in Ohio. It was a McDonalds in Mahoning County. The bathroom was filthy. Stall doors hung open revealing unflushed toilets. The garbage cans were overflowing and the counter tops were flooded with water. I went and got in line at McDonalds to get an unsweetened iced tea. Several people were off to the side waiting on their orders. One elderly woman was making the food at a speed one notch above stopped. The girl at the counter was one speed above crawl. She had a frown and a bored look on her face as she looked over glasses slid low on her nose. Her face seemed to say I’m only working at McDonalds until I get that job that show cases my best talent. I’m thinking her best talent is being bored, so she’ll be retiring in thirty years from Mickey D’s. I know that patience is a virtue but I didn’t have the time so I got out of line and left.

This rest stop and McDonalds is the first thing tourist may experience about Ohio. What a sad ass note that is. Citizens of Ohio we can do better. Citizens of Warren we can do better than tribute bands. I contacted the Ohio Turnpike Commission about their rest stop. I’ve e-mailed RiverRockattheAmp.com about how sorry their tribute band concerts are. Please, please for the sake of real musicians click on the above site and say, NO MORE  TRIBUTE BANDS. Let’s make Ohio a place we are proud to call home.

James McMurtry: We Can’t Make it Here No More

Painting by Numbers

Small Town (Talkin at the Texaco)

Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre



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19 responses to “We Can Do Better

  1. It would be great if this area’s music scene was expanded beyond classic rock. I don’t know why we’re obsessed with it but between tribute bands, Y-103 and WNCD we’re moving backwards in terms of musical entertainment.

    I like your idea of emulating Austin, TX. It would be cool to see people wandering around with t-shirts saying “Keep Warren Weird”.

  2. elecpencil

    Thanks Mike. Y-103 plays the same crap so much one of my friends calls it “Y-one oh wear it out.” Having previously lived in Warren for 14 years I’d really like to see it move into the 21st century. Sadly, you are always dealing with the same dinosaurs who run things.

  3. Lucy

    River Rock at the Amp had a concert on June 12, 2010 called Warrenstock. Starting at noon and running until 6p.m. there were 11 local bands who played original music. Not all of it was rock. Some of the opening bands for the cover bands are also from the area playing their original music, i.e. Jackie a female singer and her band from Cleveland. It may not seem like much but it is a start and it does showcase local bands.

  4. elecpencil

    Lucy ~ Thanks for the info. I avoided the whole event because after these local bands played Ted Nugent and AC/DC tribute bands performed. Sadly, these local bands were only given 30 minutes to play which is hardly worth setting up for. If I would have had a band it’s the kind of gig I’d have never wanted to play. I’d have been embarrassed to say my band opened for two cover bands.

  5. Lucy

    The bands used the sound equipment that was there, so set up was minimal. For some of these bands it was the first time playing in front of an audience. Much needed experience. I think when you are a musician the opportunity to play your music for people is what really matters. Maybe next year the promoter will expand Warrenstock to include more bands with more playing time. I think we should support these baby steps, they may lead to bigger things. As I said before it’s a start. My family and I did not stay for the two cover bands as we don’t like their music. We came to enjoy and support our local musicians.

  6. elecpencil

    Lucy ~ Thanks for walking out before the tribute bands. If enough people would have left after the opening area bands it would have sent a message to the promoters. I would rather hear the worst band doing original music than a band that plays some other bands songs.

  7. Lucy

    The point I am trying to make is that there is a venue in Warren that books bands playing original music. They may be combined with cover bands but people still have an opportunity to hear original music. It may not be perfect but it is there. If people stay away because of the cover bands then the original bands are losing also. You stated that you would rather hear the worst band doing original music than a band that plays some other bands songs but you were not willing to hear the worst band becasue of the cover band. Maybe before you criticize an entire event you should give it a try. You can always take what you consider to be the good parts and leave the rest. It is your choice. Instead of seeing a situation as complete negative you could try to see the positive.

  8. elecpencil

    Lucy~ I don’t see the situation as negative. I’m glad they had some original bands. I support what you did by going to see them and leaving before the tribute bands. I think the Amp is a great place for concerts and since the shows are for local audiences they should have local bands. I support local businesses and local produce and I want to support local bands playing original music. Do like I did and send an e-mail to the folks running the Amp. I have not received a reply from them but I will e-mail again. In my next post I will show you the power of one little e-mail. I thank you for supporting local events.

  9. Lucy

    I did feel negativity in your remarks. The programs at the Amp may not be to your taste but you should have all the facts before you write your comments. You say you would like to see something like Austin, Texas here, we do in a small way. You did not go to Warrenstock because of the cover bands but you say you support local comapines, and you want to support local bands. Well, you can. The local bands are trying to be heard by a local audience. That can’t happen if people don’t hear them play. If people stay away because of cover bands the program will not have a chance to become more diverse. Instead of complaining about the Amp go hear local music and then make a decision.

  10. elecpencil

    I do go out and support local bands as often as I can afford. I applauded what you did by leaving before the tribute bands and had I gone I would have done the same. As I said I contacted the promoters and asked them to do more local original acts and once again I hope you will do the same. We all have different artistic integrity and mine would have not let me play on a bill with artless tribute bands. I say that no matter how much I would have wanted to have my band heard. I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face more than once. To each his own.

  11. Lucy

    Consider this: last Wednesday I went to the Morley Pavilion at Mill Creek to see the Shaeffer Brothers. Do you consider them a cover band because they play other people’s music? Should Blossom cancel their concert titled Music of the Greatest Generation songs from the 40’s because it is not original and people do not want to “move into the future instead of trying to capture the past”. (see your blog) Why can’t people enjoy old music if it makes them happy. Does it really matter who is playing it? Do you own a CD collection? Are there old songs in this collection? Is there classical; if so is it performed by the original orchestras? Your comment about artistic integrity really slams some very good local artists who enjoy what they are doing, making people happy who hear their music no matter where it is played.

  12. elecpencil

    As far as having the artistic integrity to refuse to play with a tribute band it’s part of my punk attitude that I haven’t lost even at my age. If some band doesn’t mind opening for a tribute band and they make people happy that’s great. I just won’t be there and they won’t miss me and I won’t miss them. I don’t have classical music in my collection. I don’t have a problem with bands who want to do some cover songs and love when they interpret them in their own vision. I have a problem with tribute bands that decide to only play one band’s music and try to look like them and play note for note. I don’t mind people listening to music they grew up with in the 1940’s. I have a problem if those 1940’s people would come to a U2 concert and yell, “Play Sentimental Journey.” You’ll read more of what I’m talking about when I next post. Thank you for all of your comments. I’m glad we are both so passionate about music!

  13. Lucy

    So, your support for local bands is conditional. Getting back to your main point that the Amp should have more local bands. They do. Only your integrity won’t allow you to see or hear them. How very sad.

  14. elecpencil

    My support for local bands is mostly conditional by my poverty. “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.”~ Chinua Achebe
    Peace Out.

  15. Lucy

    ? explained. Your first complaint was about cover bands at the Amp. When you found out that there are in fact local bands playing original music, your complaint was that these bands have no integrity. When I said people should show their support for the bands playing original music and perhaps the Amp would add more shows you said your support was based upon your poverty. I am having trouble following your logic. It does seem your support is based on your approval of the program being offered. I would think you as an artist would want to support other artists and not question their integrity. Warren is not Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Change may come to the Amp if more people showed their support for our local bands.

  16. elecpencil

    The Amp did not give local bands an event of their own. My supporting events that cost money is difficult because of my financial situation. I wish money to attend things was not a top priority but it is. There are tons of events I approve of but money limits my ability to attend most of them. No money, no admittance is simple logic. I work with special needs kids which is spiritually rewarding but financially puts me in the poverty bracket. I hope you have a job that is both spiritually and financially rewarding. I am not an artist but am a poet (it pays zero). Let me give you an example of a poetry reading and integrity. I would like to see local free poetry readings everyday. That being said I would still pick and choose which ones I attend even if they are all free. I dislike most poetry readings put on by universities and academic groups. They bring in a published poet or two to read for about an hour each. Then after they are done they have open readings. This is the opposite of musical concerts where the opening bands play before the headliner. Being published means little to me as a good per cent of published crap is either commercial (like many signed musicians) or academically boring such as trying to impress others with big words. After I sit through two hours of published poets reading 25 minute poems about a tree in their yard (a painful experience) the mike is open. I now can now read a poem about the war in Iraq (for example) for about 4 minutes total. I am thinking I will blow their meaningless tree poem crap out of the water. I note that the featured poets are loudly chatting with fellow academics while I am trying to read. More likely the poets were done and had to leave or went outside for a smoke. My second choice could have been to come late for open mike and miss the featured poets. This would make me as rude as them leaving when open mike starts. Best bet for me is to avoid any poetry reading these academics set up because their whole concept lacks integrity. By my attending means I agree with the way they do things. It also means I accept their meaningless academic shit that passes for poetry. I prefer to attend poetry readings run by regular folks for regular folks. So if I was a musicians who did original music why would I want to open for a band at an event that is set up to feature tribute bands that have no original thoughts in their heads? I say use a punk rock attitude and promote yourself, make you own posters, record yourself and stage your own events. Yes, the Amp threw local bands a bone but it was attached to a rotted decaying zombie corpse that needs buried. I’d have avoided the corpse so as not to get infected. Not everybody sees things the same and to each his/her own. Peace

  17. Lucy

    You have a way of replying without really replying.

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