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Raging Down Under

Nick from October Rage was awesome and gave me an interview about where his band is and where it could be going (spoiler alert: back to the US!) Check it out!

Fandom is a funny thing …

It’s 12:43. I should be asleep but the coffee’s got me awake and so I’m waiting for the wine to kick in. (Shut up, it’s healthy in some universe.)

Anyway. I’ve been making some changes in my writing life over the past couple of weeks. Now that Pride is over, I’ve been looking more and more at freelancing work – you know, so I can stop saying I’m a writer and actually be a writer. There’s some connection in there about showing and not telling, but it is later than I should be awake.

But the other thing that I’ve been doing since Pride is getting established with the Sick Puppies World Crew Ambassador crowd. It’s been an interesting process because as I’ve been doing it, I’ve been reminded about the power of fandom when you want it to succeed, when fandom has the potential to be family.

If you aren’t aware of the Sick Puppies, don’t worry. A year ago, I wasn’t either beyond “Oh, they’re the guys who sing Maybe.” I was introduced to them at a concert, one I’d attended because of Lacuna Coil. Imagine my astonishment when the veteran Italian rockers were not the headliners but instead this upstart trio – who proceeded to blow the doors off of the terribly designed venue. Never have I been so glad to stick around.

There’s something special about a band that just wants to rock, but few bands out there have transcendent talent. (Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale is one of those, but you can see my fangirling for that in earlier posts.) The truth is, what makes Sick Puppies isn’t just the kickass awesomeness they bring to a show, but the rhythm stylings of Emma Anzai, who commands the stage and the bass she wields. And that was what I took away with me after the show.

I went home, I researched the band, I got into their music, and I did what I haven’t done in years – I joined up with a webforum to meet other fans. I mean, wasn’t that what facebook was for?! Nope. I joined up. And it was then that I realized these guys had something special. So, I took the next step and this past week joined the ranks of the Ambassadors – those who are determined to help Sick Puppies achieve world domination. I’m highly amused by that tagline because my friends like to say that I’m trying to achieve world domination with my writing. I’m not sure it’s happened yet. 😉

But this cycles me back to my point – the power of fandom.

Used to be, those of us who were passionate about something, unless it was sports (Go Jazz!) were treated like outcasts. We were the geeks and the nerds and the laughter-snorting dweebs who sat around in dark rooms and watched our shows to the point of memorization and wrote fanfic and dressed up in costumes and … and … let’s not forget: Star Trek is a billion dollar franchise because fans kept it alive. Farscape’s mini-series was funded by fans.

But the truth is, nothing is supported without fans and fandom. If you look at the history of the rock/metal/punk world in the states, it was kept alive by fans trading garage recorded tapes and zines. Volunteers who got to venues early and stayed late and helped their friends do something amazing.

So here I am, getting involved in fandom again by doing something other than hanging out on message boards and posting fanfic. (Don’t ever knock fanfic.) This time I’m rolling up my sleeves and helping – whatever that might be. And it feels good because helping good music be spread around the world is a hell of a lot more fun than just hitting refresh on youtube videos and gushing about the latest song to my friends. And I hope that every single one of you out there has something that inspires you to engage. Something that inspires you to get involved. Something … fun that also matters to you.

I’m not sure if this makes sense, but it’s 1:06. So I’m sure it doesn’t.

Peace, to any of you who are reading.

Peace.

Oh, “Man Up,” Rock 106.5

To me, there is nothing sexier than a Man. A Man with a capital M. Long hair, biceps, a bit of scruff, and a fucking heart of gold that wouldn’t let a woman get knocked down in a mosh pit unless she’d made the choice to put herself there. Even then, he’s the first to help her, and any of the guys, up from the floor. And the rock and metal world is full of these guys. Problem is, popular culture is full of another kind of guy and unfortunately, these assholes seem to permeate the dj culture over at Salt Lake’s newer rock station, 106.5.

106.5’s tag line is “Man Up” and you know what, I don’t fucking mind it. I actually kind of like it. Because Rock and Metal is in part a male dominated culture that prides itself on strength, power, and in many ways, honor. It also prides itself on knowing how to have a great time. The problem with this whole Man Up thing is that 106.5 is taking the fucking FUN out of rock.

Twice in the last week when I’ve turned on the radio in the afternoon, I’ve heard the DJ shaming women, shaming body choices, shaming the trans community, and shaming people with addiction issues. Honeypie, have you forgotten your rock and metal history?! We wouldn’t have rock and roll without Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Have you forgotten just how tight Robert Plant’s jeans were on stage? (I know I haven’t …) Have you forgotten that Ann and Nancy Wilson do Zeppelin better than Zeppelin? Have you forgotten that Ozzy Osborne is barely functioning because of addiction issues? That Rob Halford is gay and Freddie Mercury was bisexual!? Have you forgotten that the kick ass men in Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue all made better women than most of the women on the strip in LA? Rock 106.5, you have forgotten your roots!

Don’t get me wrong. I know full well that the metal and rock world is full of bullshit. It is full of the same amount of bullshit as a lot of other sub-culture. I know full well how hard it was for women to break onto the stage in rock and, even worse, how the media still refuses to treat them as equals. I know it’s full of sexist, racist pigs who think that because they grow their beards out and pound their chests that they’re reclaiming some sense of a lost generation of power. I laugh at the so called libertarian singers and guitar players who come across as pro-power republicans in support of the military and militarized police all the while calling for a revolution. I struggle every day with the body image pressure that is seared into my mind thanks to Bobbie Jean Brown and the like.

But I also know full well the culture that shaped me. I know a culture that embraced men in makeup and women in torn jeans. I know a world that empowered women to never be ashamed of sex or their sexuality and that taught them that sexuality doesn’t take away a woman’s power. I know a world where men take the stage and scream love songs while shredding guitars and where women punch and grind with the best of them. I know a world where the mosh pit stops the minute someone hits the ground and that protects those who don’t want to be a part of it. I respect how these men and women stand up for soliders who come home to nothing after doing a job no one else fucking wants to do. I know a world that fought like hell against the PMRC. I know how family is created the moment that the lights go down. How people who will only ever connect at the show, that night, will bang their heads together and scream lyrics that saved their lives, become brothers and sisters in a moment. There is no shame in this culture. There is only pride.

So when I hear the utter bullshit spewing from 106.5’s airwaves, it turns my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, KBER’s unending blathering on air makes the station almost impossible to listen to and more often than not I find myself catching racist sketches or gender based battles of wills. And it pisses me off because this is not the culture I grew up in nor the culture I still embrace.

See, the culture I grew up in boiled down to one idea: if you could handle the pit, you could stay in the club. Didn’t matter anything else. It was a culture that changed music, changed ideas of what it was to be a man – all the while embracing primal consciousness. It was a culture of respecting those who were different and bringing them into the fold, protecting them, all the while mocking and ripping the masks off of the white-bred suburban bullshit that so many of those who sing the music grew up in.

So don’t fucking sit there and mansplain what it means to be a man. I know what it means because I’ve seen men weep when the music overtakes them and I’ve seen the power in a curled fist and felt the bond of a mosh circle that is protecting those on the outside from being harmed. Fucking Man Up, Rock 106.5. Right now, you’re fucking wussy, whiny, and down right idiotic.

And by the way, you guys have a tendency, every time you play your Man Up drop to play some 80’s Hair Rocker band. So, I LOVE the fucking irony there.

GOD I miss the guys at The Blaze. They knew how to run a rock station.

On Sick Puppies and the Space Between

When we think of bands, we think of longtime friends gathering together in garages and empty warehouses and coffee shops, lugging gear and crowding into minivans with everything they own, setting off on a journey that will bring them not just fame and fortune and the adoration of fans but will also bring them a deeper, wiser understanding of the universe itself. They, after all, do what so many of us cannot. They bring those confusing instruments to life, the ones we all started at as kids, knowing (because our teachers told us so) that the vibrating strings made noise and that noise became music but in the hands of some of our peers, those instruments became oracles of the gods themselves.

When we think of bands, we don’t like to think of success. Success means selling out, right? It means fans who have been there since the beginning challenging every single move they don’t approve of, it means new fans fawning over every single solitary thing ever because they have so much time to make up for. Years have gone by and communities have been formed and fan bases are so hard to break in to and dammit, but dammit, the music has saved a life.

When we think of bands, we think of music. Radio. Record labels. Youtube and Myspace. How often do we stop to think of the individual fan, the individual band member? How often do we stop to think of the story?

This week in the rock world, there’s only been one story on many people’s minds – the split inside the band Sick Puppies. And it’s just the latest in a long line of fascinating stories for these three musicians. After all, how many bands, how many people actually manage to live the “American Dream”? How many of us would be willing to put everything, absolutely everything, on hold as teenagers and take jobs to save up money, all with the sole purpose of leaving our home country and flying all the way across the world to hopefully make it big in the American Rock World? How many? I know people who wouldn’t do that for love. Now imagine being eighteen and doing it for a dream.

And Sick Puppies did just that and came to the states with two numbers in their pocket and their instruments on their backs and somewhere along the way, people started to pay attention. Somewhere along the way, people noticed the heartbeat that Mark Goodwin’s drums provided and they noticed lead singer Shimon Moore’s wild and doofy frontman stylings, and they noticed that soft-spoken bassist Emma Anzai was anything but quiet on stage.

And the story become one of how Youtube videos can go viral and change everything for a band. It became one of how women in rock music are becoming more and more respected. It became one of number one hits, fan communities, and inspiration. And now the story is “What the fuck happened?”

See, when we think of bands, we also don’t like to think of them splitting up. We don’t like to think that these friends who used to keep the neighbors up until all hours of the night could reach a point where working together is torture. We don’t like to think about how if a band is like a marriage, how half of all marriages end in divorce.

But that’s what happened this week when Sick Puppies announced that lead singer Shimon Moore was no longer with the band.

For me, as a fan and as a writer, I find myself wondering what happened. Of course I want to know. I want to know why choices were made and why things couldn’t be worked out, but I find myself wondering these things as a writer. Because, as any writer will tell you, the truth is always found in the spaces between the words.

Why did public statements use words like “time apart” or “instead”? Why were announcements made the way they were? Why did some people become active on the fan boards out of nowhere? And those will be questions that at some point, a smart reporter will ask. I’d hope.

But more than those questions, it’s the story that calls to me. Sick Puppies, a group known as much for songs like You’re Going Down and War as they are for entreating challenges to the world in softer tunes like Maybe and Run, I wonder where the story will emerge.

As a music fan, I hope it won’t be through social media snipping. The trio has been reasonably professional throughout the split, but it’s clear there are deep seeded hurts that are starting to bubble to the surface (as now-former lead singer Shimon Moore’s facebook post about the situation made clear.) There’s a part of me that hopes it even won’t be through any blogging sites or interviews (although I’m always available to give them). But, instead through the songs that are inspired by the next chapter of this band.

Because when we think of bands, we have to think of their stories and what the music is telling us. Rock is a culture of blood, sweat, and tears. And even bands at the top of the charts, the ones who so often feel like they are cranking out the same riffs and the same lyrics over and over again, even they have their own messy story to tell. They’ve sat in rooms and pondered the end of the very life that feeds them. They’ve walked away from love, from stability. All to get on a bus and go from town to town.

Over the next few months, fans are going to start to be able to say the signs were there. And they were. See, that’s the thing with music: it’s part of the soul and our souls direct us. Or, if you prefer, that instinct tells us something is up. Because in the end, it won’t just be the story they write that stays with us. It’ll be the story that Emma tells on stage with her bass every night and the tales that Mark bangs out on his drums and the webs that are spun in whatever new project Shim finds himself doing.

Speaking as a fan: I hope it’s a good one because sometimes, new blood keeps a band alive but sometimes, the story just has to end.

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