New Year, New Clothes

    Veggie Chili I made for New Years

    Photo by Chase Macri of some Vegetarian Chili I made for New Years

    I bought three shirts on Monday, January 2nd. My family—namely my parents, sisters Melody and Katelyn, Aunt and Uncle, and my grandparents on my mother’s side (those on my father’s side are dead)—also bought me various clothing items as Christmas presents this year. Some shirts, a heavier military style jacket in navy, some leather shoes that look like Chuck Taylor’s but aren’t, a ski cap; all of which maintain their original thread count, are as bright as the day they were sewn, and are, most importantly, new.

    New clothes have a baptismal affect on me. Their newness is a fresh start, a clean slate and the ability to think of and define myself as someone I was not only moments before. To consider who I am, what I believe and what that means. Are these the clothes of the old me? This cut, this color, this pattern, and this combination is the fashion of the person I want to be. Forget the former things baby, and check out the new sneaks.

    Inevitably, when the new year approaches the question of “resolutions” arises. I seldom think very long about my answer to this question and somehow I’m always surprised that it is asked.

    “Do you have any new years resolutions?”

    I respond, “Hmm, not that I’ve thought of but maybe I could…”

    These hip-shot resolutions last about as long as I consider the question. In the past, I’ve tried adding to my schedule some humanitarian volunteer work, playing guitar every day, writing a song-a-week (with lyrics and even singing!), regularly attending morning prayer services, and (that is until lent of recent past) vegetarianism several times and not one of those resolutions ever did stick as a consistent or meaningful part of my life. They were lofty ideals that sounded good at the time but were never motivated by a realization of some existential truth or an emotional, life-changing event. They were pretentious. They were prayers of lead tied to balloons of hot air.

    The new clothes are a similar façade. They’re only new for so long, eventually becoming one with the rest of the wardrobe. And the “new me” fades just as the dye in the clothes after a thousand washes. Then I search again for another renewal, a second and third and fiftieth baptism. My problem is these fabric baptisms are the same as my new year’s resolutions: the direction of the change is backwards.

    I imagine myself doing all these lofty and righteous things and I like how that person looks on the outside, so I try to make my outside resemble that person. Take on his clothes. Resolve to do what he does. But I don’t consider the cost of believing what he believes. In years past, I tried on vegetarianism because I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to look better, sexier, and more attractive with the rational that eating more veggies would be healthier than the pork and bovine I had enjoyed. That translated into a few days of suffering through meals of salads, cans of green beans and peas, dipping baby carrots into peanut butter before finally binging on a double cheeseburger with bacon. I actually like eating those veggies! But the superficial motivation for restricting my diet was chasing after the wind. As the preacher says, that’s vanity, bro.

    My most recent foray into vegetarian living, as is any drastic lifestyle change that is worth a damn, was this time motivated by something more significant than waistline. Modern meat production in this country is anti-Christian. It is unethical, dehumanizing and unsustainable from every means of measurement (social, economic, environmental, psychological, etc., etc., etc.) Without telling the sordid tale here, because other people have already told it better than I could (Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”, the documentary Food, Inc. are two examples), I can no longer look at a hamburger, a strip of bacon, or a chicken breast without wondering if the cow my burger came from lived in a cage in which it couldn’t turn around, or how many antibiotics the pig had taken to combat the rampant disease that spreads from the close proximity the pigs are inventoried, or if the chicken was slaughtered after its legs gave out from the immense weight he was engineered to grow (which assumes the chicken spent much of its life standing to begin with!) I used to put this in my body? This is “food”? And I used to eat these creatures? I can’t avoid thinking about that anymore. I can’t block it out of my mind and ignore it. I cannot, as I paraphrase Foer’s paraphrase of Franz Kafka, “choose to forget.” It isn’t right. These are not the animals slaughtered in The Garden, and weren’t those animals begrudgingly killed to begin with?

    We worry so much about the pollution our industry and our cars emit and how it is accelerating climate change in the world, but did you know that animals accounts for more CO2 production as our machines? According to Scientific American “It turns out that producing half a pound of hamburger for someone’s lunch a patty of meat the size of two decks of cards releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles.” All so I can eat a hamburger that costs $1. How is that sustainable? Meat is so easy and normal and commonplace and I imagine many feel it is a basic right but I have no idea where that meat came from, how that animal was treated, who killed it or how it was killed, who processed, packaged, and shipped it to us, and that lack of intentionality, that hip-shot thinking, is literally killing us. I can’t pretend that the problem doesn’t exist anymore. All the excuses I kept were childish and immature. I can’t say no any longer. I’ve changed. I am baptized.

    I didn’t resolve to eat vegetarian. I didn’t imagine this different version of myself in these animal-loving clothes or as one who joined PETA, or took part in animal activism; my beliefs were shaken by the truth and a vegetarian is who I am now. It isn’t a phase. It isn’t something I am trying on for size. It isn’t something I’m doing to appear sexier. It’s just the facts. A stream popping up in the desert. A path in the wilderness. Behold, all things are become new.

    Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.
    —Franz Kafka, while admiring fish in an aquarium

    “Behind the Scene” Reaction

    A social media response to my final project

    Interview with Tara Pham

    Preview of my upcoming final project — Behind The Scene: Those Building St. Louis’ Indie Music Community

    Tara Pham of Eleven Magazine in Eleven's office

    It’s almost here. My final project over the St. Louis indie music scene will be officially published this weekend on this site and today we have the second of two previews of “Behind the Scene”. Tuesday’s post featured an interview with Michael Tomko, promoter of St. Louis’ annual extravaganza An Under Cover Weekend which features 10 local bands performing a special, one-night only cover set.

    As part of the project I also talked to Tara Pham, the managing editor of Eleven Magazine. Pham has an interesting perspective on the recent changes in the St. Louis music scene as she is a recent transplant to the area. Listen to what she had to say about building a regionally-focused music scene, and how concert showcases organically create relationships between bands and fans in the video below.

    Interview with Michael Tomko

    Preview of my upcoming final project — Behind The Scene: Those Building St. Louis’ Indie Music Community

    Coming to you this weekend is the publication of my final project for my journalism masters degree. The project is over St. Louis’ indie music scene and those working hard to build it into something special. A major part of my project consisted of in-person interviews with fixtures of the St. Louis music community. I interviewed concert promoters, bloggers, a radio dj, a record store and label owner and a several musicians asking them how they feel St. Louis as a city is becoming less and less the “town bands love to skip” and rather, a destination. One of those I interviewed was Michael Tomko.

    Tomko is a concert promoter, the guy behind An Under Cover Weekend (about which I had talked to him once before) and formally of the band Gentleman Auction House. Tomko had a few interesting things to say about why St. Louis saw a drop off of indie bands coming through town and what it took to bring them back. Check out what he said in the above video and stay tuned for the full story on those “behind the scene.”

    Jack Buck Play Fox Hole Tonight

    St. Louis metallic noise rock band Jack Buck will perform live at The Fox Hole in St. Louis tonight, Saturday April 28th, at 8pm.

    Video by Danny Matteson

    Jack Buck has quickly developed a reputation as one of St. Louis’ most exciting bands in the short time they’ve been performing live. Described by musician and blogger Josh Levi as a band that is “[paving] the way in the art of brainwave eradication. Too noisy to be categorized as hardcore and too avant-garde to be metal, the band fills the niche for stoners and the art damaged alike.” The Riverfront Times listed their last show as one of the ten best of that weekend and tonight’s concert marks the first at The Fox Hole. The band will share the stage with No Sleep RecordsXerxes, and locals Anodes, Rotten Souls and Side-Lined.

    For more details on the show, check out the Facebook event page and come to The Fox Hole at 8pm. Be prepared for a little brain eradication too.

    Jack Buck Show Flyer
    Flyer by Adam Taylor

    You Should Be Using Spotify

    Video by Spotify

    How many songs do you have in your music library? 10,000? 30,000? 50,000?

    Do you have Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, and Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien”? Speaking of aliens, what about Alien Ant Farm’s Michael Jackson cover? Or perhaps the King of Pop’s original?

    Can you fit your entire library on your iPod? With Spotify you have access to the four songs mentioned plus millions more. Haven’t heard of Spotify? Here are a few reasons to check it out:

    Screenshot of Spotify Desktop

    Screenshot of Spotify Desktop

    It’s free
    That’s right. For the cost of absolutely nothing you can access a huge library of music on your Mac or PC. All it takes is an internet connection (which you’re probably “sharing with” the neighbors anyway.)

    It’s efficient
    All it takes is a few quick keystrokes and a tiny tap of the enter key in Spotify’s search bar to find that one song that has been stuck in your head all day. It’s faster than YouTube, it’s legal unlike file-sharing sites like Megaupload, and it allows you to select only the songs you want to hear unlike Pandora (and if you like internet radio, Spotify has you covered.)

    Spotify Friends

    Screenshot of Social on Spotify Mobile

    It’s social
    The days of sharing actual music files are over. Share your playlists with your friends by connecting your Spotify account to Facebook, and check out what your friends are listening to while you’re at it.

    It’s mobile
    On top of being a fantastic desktop app, you can use Spotify on your mobile device. With Spotify Premium, you can stream a catalog of over 15 millions songs directly to your phone. It would take more than 387 iPod Classics to hold all that music. In addition to a plethora of music at your fingertips, no more wasting time editing your iPods. The music library keeps growing and you never run out of space.

    Are you convinced yet? Try it out. After you’re hooked, send me a song or playlist to check out.

    Fair Use Makes Fair Play For Cover Bands?

    Michael Tomko, promoter of An Under Cover Weekend

    Michael Tomko, Photo by Chase Macri

    “Ten bands. Ten secret tribute sets. One awesome weekend.”

    This is how Michael Tomko describes his annual concert series, An Under Cover Weekend (AUCW), on its website. He considers it an “opportunity to have diverse collection St. Louis’ best bands under the one roof for one amazing concert.” Over two nights, five bands perform an entire set as a different artist, like Union Tree Review as Marvin Gaye.

    But this presents an interesting legal quandary: are the bands liable under U.S. Copyright Law? Tomko is pretty sure they are covered; “The venues pay license fees on a yearly basis. There is ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, and they hit up the venues for the fees based on radio play and set lists from the top 100 tours. So in terms of the rights to cover a song, 99% of that is covered by those groups.”

    Michael Tomko, smiling

    Photo by Chase Macri

    That is music to any cover band’s ears. But Tomko runs into other problems in promoting the show. “We can’t use video to promote the show,” Tomko says. “It’s really nebulous. At what point are the performances parodies? What is covered by fair use?”

    In this case, not much. According to U.S. Copyright Law Section 107, a copyrighted work may be fairly reproduced for “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” Section 107 also outlines four criteria when considering if a use is “fair” or foul:

    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

    In this case, the venue does charge an admission for the weekend, and the performances resemble very closely the original studio recordings. Licensing and fair use do not take trademark issues into account either. While this tends to mostly affect tribute groups, an artist’s commercial name and trademarked logo is protected and use without permission could result in legal action. Not every cover band is as lucky as Australian Pink Floyd to have the original artist invite you to perform at his 50th birthday.

    Fortunately for AUCW, the “theft” here is entirely friendly and the show’s purpose is strictly fun. Besides, according to Tomko, they may be too far off the radar to really worry. It’s only for one night.

    Every Band Needs A Van

    Portrait of Daniel Ruder

    Daniel Ruder, Photo by Chase Macri

    “At a show in Columbia, [MO] this band’s trailer had their band logo and ‘ slash this band’ and we’re like ‘Woah!’ Do you guys know that even if you put none of your band stuff on this you are already a target? You’ve put a spotlight on this saying ‘Steal this stuff.’ I think they even had their logo on their van too.”

    Daniel Ruder, drummer of the St. Louis band Jack Buck, thinks trailers need to go. “People get their trailer broken into and get their stuff stolen. It seems to happen all the time.”

    Every band needs a van. That is, every band that wants to play shows outside of its hometown. Since the advent of Marshall amp stacks and drums too big to fit in the trunk of a hatchback, many bands opt for dragging a trailer behind their van. However, Ruder feels trailers are “theft boxes” and actually aren’t necessary for most bands.

    Ford Econoline "The Band Van"

    Ford Econoline "The Band Van"

    “[Trailers are] this disconnected thing,” Ruder explains. “If you were so motivated you could break the connection of a trailer off of a car and take the trailer.”

    It is less safe indeed. In fact, just ask Portugal. The Man, or American Me, or Vital Remains, or consult the 857,000 Google search results for “band trailer stolen”. Then the question is, how does a band better protect its gear? Ruder thinks the van itself is enough:

    I think of it as the convenience of having everything in one spot. In [Jack Buck’s] specific situation, we don’t have a lot of money to spend so it’s the best option. To have an ‘all-in-one’ everything fits in this one box and we also fit in it. With a 15-passenger van with two benches, everyone except the driver can sleep comfortably; and that’s a pretty good advantage.

    While being the more cost effective option, both at the initial purchase and in saving fuel costs, keeping your amps and guitar cabinets in the back of the van makes it easier to discourage theft. “Another really good advantage of storing your stuff in a van is you can park with it backed up against a wall. You can’t even open the door.”

    Ruder hoping to avoid theft

    Ruder on tour, Photo by Chase Macri

    Ruder admits that if someone wants to steal your stuff, she’s going to steal it and that locking your car is only a deterrent to a committed crook. All it takes is a broken window to get to the gear. Ruder has another idea for that: “We’re going to build a wooden and metal cage in the back for our stuff to keep things safe from the outside and from hurting us too.”

    MythBusters ran a car into a brick wall at highway speed and found that a box of Kleenex travels with enough force to kill you. “I imagine a guitar going that speed would decapitate someone,” Ruder expounds. “We build this steel thing around our equipment and we crash, our equipment will survive and be all perfect and keep it from crushing us.”

    On top of protecting yourself with iron bars, most renters’ and homeowners’ insurance also covers musical equipment at very reasonable rates. Geico’s renters insurance covers theft, and State Farm estimates $20-30,000 of coverage costing as little as $8 a month. “Renters insurance is insanely cheap. It’s like $120 a year and that covers all of your stuff. It’s worth it.”

    Jack Buck performing live in Columbia, MO

    Feedback & Engagement

    Last week’s post was the first introducing the topic of my master’s thesis: how people of faith relate to anti-religious music. Particularly, do Christians dig anti-Christian metal?

    Impending Doom's "Repentagram" Logo

    As outlined in the video in the last post, “Christian music” isn’t limited to just music for church services or for accompanying prayer. There are bands who profess their faith in all styles of music including the heaviest, most violent and extreme forms of metal. Black, death, doom metal, and everything in between. In exploring the phenomena of Christian black metal in last weeks post, and the documentary “Light In Darkness – Nemesis Divina”, the band’s flip the ideological motivations for making the music from their traditional black metal forefather’s misanthropy, individualism and hatred for religion, and are instead fueled by positivity, the light and the downfall of Satan and his kingdom. Similarly, Christian death metal bands take from historical death metal tropes and make them “Christian”. Impending Doom, a death metal band from California, created a pentagram-like symbol they called “repentagram” and label their brand of death metal “gorship” for gore-sounding worship music.

    The feedback that I have received from you all based on my thesis topic has been primarily of interest in the final product. In response to this, I plan to share my progress researching different attributes of Christianity and extreme metal. I would like more feedback from you in the process. Leave comments on the blog, interact with me on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any resources you think would be of interest to me, share them! And I’m still looking for more people to participate in the survey I posted last week.

    Last bit I want to share is this quote from Greg Piper, over at the blog Cultural Imperialists, said “Jesus was born knowing he was going to die a violent death in his dirty thirties, a virgin, wearing a loincloth, ignored by his God. Come on, how much more death metal can you get?” Truth.

    Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Come Fight Me!