Monday, January 21, 2013

Reflections on a Baton Rouge afternoon

My new dream sound system (broom included).
My new dream sound system (broom included) seen outside the Rhythm Museum.
Please donate to keep this undersung treasure going.

Here is the non-slideshow version. Here are the photos on Flickr.

On the last day of taking a travel writer friend around Baton Rouge, I finally remembered to bring my camera. There was a lot of shooting through glass and through that, the inevitable metaphoric reflection.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Is the Music of 1/14/2013 - 1/19/2013

Here it is in non-slideshow form.

This was a rather inspiring week. The first week of class went smooth. My students are adorable and more awake than I thought they would be at 8 a.m. and so am I. We communicated about communication. We almost hugged, it went so well.

Musically, there was a lot of strings: Beethoven to art bands (Billband continues to be a font of unassuming lyical wonder) to Nico's nod-outs to the strings on House of the Holy.

I got to show a travel writer around Baton Rouge this weekend which was a fun reversal for me. It's nice to see people find inspiration or excitement in the the things you find exciting. And knowing that travel writers still get assignments to travel places.

It's like playing a favorite record for somebody; exactly what this kid does with Houses. Thanks for posting this, dude. I wish all information transfer in the Internet had this level of humanity. You might want to get some decongestant or something, though. That sniffling is only going to make it worse.

Here is the Spotify version of the week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You Might Also Enjoy: Five Weird Intimacies

From Jean Genet's Un Chant D'Amour

I started by watching Jack Smith's notorious underground film Flaming Creatures and let YouTube's suggestion engine lead me astray. Enjoy! These videos are largely NSFW and contain a lot more sexual content than I thought YouTube might let one get away with.

Here it is in non-slideshow form.

Friday, January 11, 2013

This is the music of 1/7/2013 - 1/11/2013

Industrialists, clowns, glue sniffers, 147 Carly Rae's, syllabus writers and Prince, Prince, Prince. Here is the non-slideshow version.

Spotify version.

Monday 1/7/2013:
The Godz, Remastered
The Action, Complete Punk Recordings 1977-1978
Exploding Hearts, Guitar Romantic
Heavy Times, Jacker

Tuesday 1/8/2013:
Billband, Towards Daybreak
Berlin Philharmoniker, Hervet von Karajan, Strauss, R.: Four Last Songs; Metamorphoses; Oboe Concerto
Trio, Da Da Da
Stephan Remler, 1,2,3,4...
Telex, Sex (Birds & Bees)
Generationals, "Spinoza"
Dan Deacon, "Call Me Maybe" Layers 147 Times Exponentially
Joe Jones, "Solar Music Hot House"

Laura Gibson, Little Red Riding Hood
Gemma Ray, Lights Out Zoltar!
The Durutti Column, Idiot Savants

Thursday 1/10/2013:
Beck, Modern Guilt
Prince, Planet Earth, Prince, 1999

Pere Ubu, Lady From Shanghai
Tinderstcks, The BBC Sessions
David Lynch, Crazy Clown Time
Einstürzende Neubauten, Kalte Stene: Early Recordings and Perpetuum Mobile

Throw Something at 'Em: The Sex Pistols in Baton Rouge



by Alex V. Cook

Note: This article about the 1978 Sex Pistols show in Baton Rouge never found its home. I'm posting it here to commemorate the 35th anniversary of that show.

The Kingfish was carved out of an old Baton Rouge grocery store. “Where the meat counter would be, that’s where the stage was and the door where they go to the back was the dressing rooms,” explains Grady Smith, one of the owners of the club. “Some nights we’d have biker gang kind of people who’d come in to watch whatever show it was, and then we’d have Randy Newman play for us a couple of times. He’d do two shows and it had to be dead quiet in the room or he wouldn’t play. Fats Domino played one of his last dates there.”

The Sex Pistols at the Kingfish, Baton Rouge (full show)

The Sex Pistols also played one of their last gigs there, Jan. 9, 1978, the fourth of seven shows on a U.S. tour that ended with the band splitting up a week later in San Francisco. A band born on hype and conflict, the Sex Pistols were seeking to go toe-to-toe with the real America.

Smiley Anders, beloved daily columnist for Baton Rouge’s newspaper The Advocate was a business reporter in 1978 and attended a press conference Malcolm McLaren set up in his hotel room. According to Anders's “Sex Pistols’ Rock Style not at All Hard to Take”:

A Warner Brothers representative on the tour, Heidi Robertson, said the band had wanted to go to clubs outside the major urban areas because they are a “People’s band” and wanted to reach people at a grassroots level.

A tape of the show, readily available on YouTube reveals that Baton Rouge, at least was ready for them.

The crowd is a wave of "fuck you"s, calling and responding like tree frogs in a swamp with what they understood the Sex Pistols to be just minutes before the world’s most notorious band was about to set into “God Save the Queen”. One onlooker near the mic suggests “Throw something at ‘em.” 

D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage (part 1 of 5)

In the 1980 documentary on the Pistols' American tour, D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage, offers a non-linear montage of scenes from that tour along with opening acts and other punk bands of note. The band unravels as the film unfolds. Johnny Rotten possesses an insect rage but an almost schoolboy orderliness to his punk drag of plaids and carrot soufflé hair. Sid Vicious is a lank, shirtless sex god.

 The Baton Rouge show is excised from this particular record, possibly because it was the least outraged stop on the tour. From what can be gathered through hazy memories and documentation, no one got beat up by the sheriff. No one was run out of town. The wildest thing that happened was a blowjob, but we’ll get to that. But being such a supposed sham, the Sex Pistols were a formidable band at this point.

 “I think people looked at punk rock through those kind of eyes,” says Smith of their reputation for tunelessness. “But I remember them being pretty good musicians. I mean, they weren’t on the level of Randy Newman or when Roger McGuinn played for us, but if they hadn’t been any good, no one would’ve paid much attention to them”

 Punk was and still is a fractured lens through which society’s ails can be scrutinized, and in the “Pretty Vacant” Sex Pistols, one could see what they wanted.

Noel Monk and Jimmy Guterman's 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols in America, a travel diary of the tour, depicts the groups' arrival in Baton Rouge.
5 a.m. The only positive note of the day, as far as the band and crew are concerned, is that Sid has taken his first bath since he arrived in America. He still spends much of his time deciding on the right combination of talcum powder and Vaseline for his hair.
The photo section offers a pre-bath before shot with Sid defiant and snotty and after, scrubbed and wearing only a boyish grin. 12 Days nurses a romance with the group’s annihilative streak, the twin stars of Rotten and Vicious caught in each other's death orbit with Steve Jones and Paul Cook left to play the music soundtracking their endgame. Monk and Guterman claim, “Although there are some in Louisiana who can make the connection and might be open to the band, what they see on stage is too repulsive to follow. The Sex Pistols are the extreme end of the music they love, and the audience is appalled, both by the music and what it means about the listener’s musical beliefs."

“I was blown away,” offers Dickie Landry, a Lafayette musician who made the drive in for the show. “I’d never been to the Kingfish. Baton Rouge was where you went to get to New Orleans.” A decade earlier, Landry was one of the original members of the Philip Glass Ensemble, consorting with the cutting edge of the New York art world. “I’d read a little about Sid Vicious and wondered how Baton Rouge people would react. I figured I wasn’t around to see Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring premiere in Paris in the early 1900s and the audience threw tomatoes at them. I thought maybe I’d get a group with tomatoes or raw oysters thrown at them.”

Landry, a founding member of the Philip Glass Ensemble, knew a thing or two about underground music going into it. “I hung around a lot of the people in that scene, John Cale and Patti Smith and all and we never did discuss the Sex Pistols. Not once. [The Sex Pistols] were not in Baton Rouge in the newspaper. “

Not in Baton Rouge, at least not before the show.* A scroll through the microfiche of that week’s The Advocate has Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones doing double duty at The Regina and Asleep at the Wheel playing at the Coon Trap that night. The outsized ad for Saturday Night Fever’s run at the Robert E. Lee Theatre has the tagline “The Fever is Spreading” but no mention of the Sex Pistols until Anders’ review.

Thirty years later, Anders reflects on the hype surrounding the band. “Everyone was so excited about the whole punk thing because it was so extreme, but with the mainstream media here, they didn’t get that much attention."

“They were rude and crude and loud,” says Anders, trying to remember the show. “But, hell, I grew up with rhythm and blues. Joe Turner, some of his lyrics are pretty rude and crude. It didn’t shock me or anything. It was kinda fun. It seemed like kids playing rock again, like throwback rock ‘n’ roll.

“They seemed pretty harmless. “

D.O.A. pits footage of the Sex Pistols against other punk acts. They get out-jittered by the Rich Kids, out sleazed/charmed by the Dead Boys. At their final show, veteran show producer Bill Graham booked the Nuns and the Adverts Avengers to open; in Baton Rouge, they got zydeco wild men Rockin’ Dopsie and the Twisters. One wonders who looked weirder to whom. Smith offers, “This was south Louisiana, pretty much the Belgian Congo of the world so to speak. They weren’t going berserk like something big and nasty was coming. I think people were more here out of curiosity. “

When the band finally takes the stage at 10 p.m. Monk and Guterman remark, “It’s the first one [of the tour stops] at which the band seems indifferent, which makes the unsettling thoughts in their music that much more unsettling.”

Katie Jeansonne, then a 19-year-old salon receptionist, was there. “The crowd. Oh my God, that was bizarre. There were all kinds of people there. People that just knew that the Kingfish had live music. It was everything from people that went to LSU that had never heard of them but was going to see them to--I don’t know. A lot of hair. To me the crowd looked confused." When asked they were expecting something like southern rock, she laughed, “No. Just skilled musicians. You know who played there the next night? The Temptations”

The truth is in the tape. Recordings reveal their early shows in the north of England to be shambolic. A year or so later in the swamps, the group rages in fine form, leaning heavily on Steve Jones’ buzzsaw guitar. You can hear Sid’s musical contribution as well, pulsing thud through (most of) the night. Rotten works the crowd like a puppeteer, pulling off a precision, full-stop cheer during “I Wanna Be Me”.

“I just thought the way he would slump down, Johnny Rotten, and swing his arms was so cool,” says Jeansonne. “Later on I read that it was his whole Richard III thing. I looked at it like Quasimodo. I’d never had a band come out and show how disgusting they were."

12 Days on the Road tells the tail of the “five-feet-three-inch, 160-pound package of bulging spandex” who found her way on stage, dancing and sharing her vodka with Sid.
During “New York”, she leans in closer with half her body onstage and closer to Sid, finally falling to her knees in front of him. Sid twists his bass behind him, giving her easy access to his crotch. She has Sid’s jeans halfway to the floor boards before the promoter called on Monk to pull her off to the side of the stage.
The onstage detrousering and attempted fellating of Sid Vicious has become a thing of legend, but it didn't have much impact on the actual show. The bass drops out a couple of times during Jones’ solo, but it does that a lot anyway. If the crowd saw anything, they took it in stride. A dude yells ,“Someone get the man a joint!”

“I did not see that,” says Jeansonne. “It was crowded. Most of the time I could see just the drummer and to move up to the front was pretty tense.”

“I don’t remember anyone pretending to give him one, but I do remember an incident behind the upper bar,” says Smith. “The show was over and we were doing the cleanup and some chicks stayed around to go play with Sid Vicious.”

12 Days recounts that the groupie finishes what she started while “Sid smiles, lays back, and takes an occasional swig of his beer.”

The Sex Pistols seemingly won over the crowd onstage as well. Rotten’s maniacal laugh during “Belsen Was a Gas” whips the room into a frenzy. The crowd claps along to the prolonged drum intro to “Holidays in the Sun”. Rotten works his anxiety about his place in history with the line, “Please don’t be waiting for me” but the crowd is way ahead of him, talking about fighting someone. Smith shrugs off any real sense of conflict that night. “David Allan Coe came through and he was rough and tough as anybody. These were just some guys that wanted to play.”

Someone close to the recorder reports, “I really want to punch this guy”. Could be the band; could be anyone.

After “No Feelings”, the suggestion to throw something at them finds purchase; they start pelting the band with fistfuls of change. “I’ve had it with coins,” Rotten bellows at the crowd. A commenter named “kevn_rocks/carlton” on a bootleg discussion site The Wrecking Room remarks, “Sid was scurrying around picking the coins up.”

Say what you will about the talent-free charms of punk rock, but the Sex Pistols clocked in their non-stop at just around a respectable 60 minutes. “Shut up. We’re not fucking ready” hollers Rotten at the encore, followed by, “This is the last one you lot are gonna get.” They launch into a positively radiant explosion of “Anarchy in the U.K.” It’s a song rendered to a cliché by now, but hearing the cadre of normals and freaks in the Kingfish singing in unison that they “wanna beeee anarchy” is transformative. Maybe it’s the only one of their songs the whole of the audience knows, or maybe they felt something.

Jeansonne muses, “When I saw them, all of a sudden I realized how connected music is with politics. That was the first time I felt an ‘us against them’ kind of thing. I thought I was at the right place at the right time.”

The lot gets a few more--the Stooges' “No Fun.”

“This song is by an old hippie”, Rotten taunts. They close with a rabid run through “Liar”, embodying everything you want from a Sex Pistols song. Rotten’s vibrato hits the feedback arcing over Jones’ stripped boogie. Sid’s in there, perhaps as much as he can be, a teenager failing to meet the expectations of high ideals and society’s outrage. Plus he might have just gotten a blowjob.

Smiley Anders ends his review as charitably as her started it. “You May not like the Sex Pistols. But they are not a bunch of punks. They’re unpleasant and loud and crude, but they may well represent a new direction for pop music, back to the social protest of a few years back.” The band may have set that in motion, but they wouldn’t be there to see it. Johnny Rotten would revert back to John Lydon and explore the interior of his paranoia with Public Image Ltd. Sid Vicious would be dead in little over a year.

The Sex Pistols may have thrown a spanner in the works of English conservatism and the world’s worst fears about youth culture. In turn, Baton Rouge threw some coins, some alleged tomatoes and oysters, and a blowjob at the band, and seemingly had no problem catching everything that came their way.

Thanks to Alex Rawls, Dickie Landry, Kate Jeansonne, Grady Smith, Melissa Eastin, Smiley Anders and Johnny Palazzotto for their help with this story.

*Edited to add: My friend Clark Gernon found a short preview feature in the State-Times, the evening edition of the Morning Advocate.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Five books I didn't finish over the break

"Faulkner is a dick." - a friend.

Click here if you want to peruse the books I didn't finish in non-slideshow form. That might be the worst offer you've ever been given!

Friday, January 4, 2013

the large catfish poboy from SaveMore Market

Maya and I got the large catfish poboy from SaveMore Market for lunch. For research and journalistic purposes.

SaveMore is worth the mile walk from my office for more reasons than 27.5 inches of gas station fried catfish.

Click through the splendor! Or click here if the slideshow doesn't work!

This handy chart offers some further perspective on how huge this sandwich is.


It's a bargain for the price $12.99. That's roughly $.42 per inch.  I could to do another chart sometime to illustrate the economy of that dollar/catfish ratio, but I am so full. Let's just say one can easily spend that much on a diminutive "normal" poboy and drink just about anywhere.

Sure, it could be "better", though I suspect if you can time your visit with that of the bread truck, you might reach some sort of Singularity. Fully dressed, it's a little extremely heavy on the mayo but then we are walking William Blake's road of excess leading to the Palace of Wisdom, not the righteous path. There was some delicacy involved in the frying of this whole school of catfish; not to crispy, not too greasy but just the right amount of both. A solid B poboy.

Save More Market
2956 Nicholson Drive, Baton Rouge, LA
(225) 379-8600 ‎

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This is the music of 12/31/2012 - 1/4/2013

Get clicky! Share-y! I'm playing around with Storify and making things less stringy. I doubt you care but let me know!

Here is the week as a Spotify playlist.

Here's the whole list if you like it card catalog, index-style.

Monday 12/31/2012:
Nick Cave, Warren Ellis & Various Artists, Lawless Soundtrack
Pipilotti Rist singing "Wicked game" videos on YouTube
Bruce Gilbert, This Way to the Shivering Man

Tuesday 1/1/2013 (the "see you next year" joke never gets old):
My Morning Jacket, At Dawn
The Court and Spark, Hearts
Blood Oranges, The French Word for Love
Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, Here and Now
The Three O'Clock, Sixteen Tambourines

Wednesday 1/2/2013 (back at work; the joke is over):
The Lumineers, The Lumineers
Marisa Nadler, The Sister
Alex Chilton, Bach's Bottom
Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, Goodnight Oslo

Thursday 1/3/2013:
Linda Thompson, Fashionably Late
Jackson C. Frank, Jackson C. Frank
Mountain Man, Made the Harbor
Broadcast, Berberian Sound Studio (via NPR)
Miles Davis, The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions

Tom Waits, Alice
The Gulbenkian Orchestra (conducted by Swierczewski), Weill: Symphonies 1 & 2/ Kleine Dreigroschenmusik
Clara Rockmore performing Anis Fuleihan's Theremen Concerto, with commentary
Miles Davis, The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions some more

Thursday, January 3, 2013

pack of rats


Last night, the Baton Rouge Adult Music Club started working up Beck's Song Reader songbook - anxiously await a haggard swashbuckle through "Old Shanghai" featuring yours truly - and we landed on "Rough on Rats"

Brendon Thomas from Foreverinmotion, "Rough on Rats"

which is also

Stray Cats, "Stray Cat Strut"

but is also

Richard Hell & the Voidoids, "Blank Generation"

which is a parody of

Bob Mc Fadden (poet Rod McKuen) & Dor, "The Beat Generation"

from which I just realized I up and rat-like stole the opening for

The Baton Rouge Adult Music Club, "Lonely Man"

The circle is complete. There's good company in this pack of rats.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

live our lives out in the gaze of a pretty girl

Pipilotti Rist, I Couldn't Agree With You More (1999)

A brief appreciation of video artist Pipilotti Rist.

I suspect we all could live our lives out in the gaze of a pretty girl. This video makes me feel like I am doing just that. the dream-life outside of her gaze is paused so she can twirl around the supermarket or wherever this is - who cares, actually? We think we see what's going on in her head but its what she's projecting for us to see. For Pipilotti Rist, seeing and being seen are equally active things.

A friend of mine told me her brother's friend was complaining about a sexual encounter he'd had with some girl, that it wasn't good enough or something. Her brother shrugged, "I can't imagine having that issue. I'm just happy to be there." I feel that in this video, and in general.

Rist was all the rage in the late '90s. Sayeth the wiki:
Rist studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in Vienna, through 1986. She later studied video at the School of Design (Schule für Gestaltung) in Basel, Switzerland. In 1997, her work was first featured in the Venice Biennial, where she was awarded the Premio 2000 Prize. From 1988 through 1994, she was member of the music bandand performance group Les Reines Prochaines. From 2002 to 2003, she was invited by Professor Paul McCarthy to teach at UCLA as a visiting faculty member.
Pickelporno (1992, likely NSFW but not porny at all) was her claim to fame, a swirly miasma of bodies asea in each other, but I don't know that it holds up as well as the others.  Since the time of these videos, she has made a feature film Pepperminta. The trailer makes me think it might not be what I am looking for, but then my gaze is the one that is subverted and controlled in her work. Still, I like to be submerged in the saturated electric beauty of her projections instead of the boorish ones of my own, so here we go.

Pipilotti Rist, Sip My Ocean (1996, installation view; features her Yoko Ono-ish take on Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". I am the rare person that uses "Yoko Ono-ish" as a compliment.)

I was excited to come back to the office after the holidays because I have a projector and a wall on which to experience these videos fullscreen with some semblance of the original. These things look great on the wall. It strikes me as one of the obvious and yet fully exploited advantages of video art. Video is pretty much video; it can be freed from the equipment. It should be freed from the equipment. The phone-hunched generation of YouTube watchers will take care of that for us, I suspect.

Pipilotti Rist, Be Nice to Me (Flatten 4)

Sometimes that girl's gaze is too much. My daughter made me turn Be Nice to Me  off when I had it on the projector. I don't know if it is easier to take on a small screen. I know it is wholly unsettling on a Jumbotron.

Pipilotti Rist, from the exhibition Open My Glade. 

The world of Lungenflügel (Tulip lungs, I think) is better than the world.

Pipilotti Rist, Lungenflügel (2009)

Sometimes you want to run but her gaze is a tractor beam and you wait to be let go.

Pipilotti Rist, I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much (1986)

There is always more.