Here’s a Video of a Whole Bunch of Schoolkids Singing “Minor Threat”

I’m sorry for (actually/no excuses) missing Sonic Sunday this past Sunday. There has been a lot to digest, and lot of information (and counters to misinformation) to spread, and the existential crisis of TWA (Thinking While American) had me a bit overwhelmed.

I’ll have a full-on series of “amplify melanated voices” links for this coming Sunday, and I will also have a special post on some updates for the Ben Irving Postcard Project this week.

In the meantime, here’s a video of a bunch of kids in the Wirtz Elementary School after- school program in Paramount, CA singing “Minor Threat.”

The caption by Rich Jacobs:

Wirtz Elementary School 5th graders go off with their version of MINOR THREAT Tim Kerr, Mike Watt, Mark Waters, Ray Barbee, Alexis Fleisig, Randy Randall, Hagop and a host of other musical champions musically backed up the 5th graders at Wirtz Elementary school in Paramount, California. Last year they did a Sly and the Family Stone song and the year before they did 2 Big Boys songs. They also do a ten minute FREEDOM improv jam where the kids play an instrument they bring to the experience. It is really rad. Here they sing the song: Minor Threat, originally written by the band of the same name. The power and vitality of the youth was palpable, inspiring and intoxicating. Eric Caruso is their teacher. He brought an idea to his principle to have an after-school art project since they did not have an art program. He gives them art assignments based on living artists work and at the end of each year, there is an awards ceremony. The artists give the students a prize. It is a really positive experience, as many of the students are underserved and have never been given the chance to do stuff like that.

Your Sonic Sunday: May 31st (Ruby Pearl Diamond and Chris Rusk)

This week’s Sonic Sunday is brought to you by THE INTERNET. Well, specifically, the Florida Memory portion of the internet. I was looking for more information about the Hotel Floridan in Tampa – I did find this cool 1920 photo of the lobby – and wound up searching left and right for information on a Jewish dowager from Tallahassee named Ruby Pearl Diamond after this photo came up in the results. I don’t know who coded their search algorithm, but that’s where I found it.

I quickly found this article about Ruby, which runs through her (very interesting) life story, which linked the old world, Southern Jewish tradition with the post-War progressive Southern Jewish tradition (there is such a thing).

One point that jumped out to me was a passing mention of how her older brother Sydney, a decorated Tally attorney, “gained a reputation for collecting risqué literature and jazz records.” Well, clutch my pearls! The first question that sprang to mind was where that piece of trivia came from, so I wrote the author, Josh Parshall of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. I’ll share any revelations as I receive them.


That’s all I got this week, other than the very cool news that Chris Rusk, an old acquaintance of mine from Knoxville (seen here, in full effect) was the guest on this week’s episode of Mike Watt’s looooooong-running podcast The Watt from Pedro Show.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my long-overdue reading of Gloria Jahoda’s The Other Florida and revisit my favorite piece of music ever to emerge from Tallahassee. Long live Little League!*

*They broke up in 2012.

 

Your Sonic Sunday: May 24th (well, 25th)

Happy Sunday, folks (I forgot to set this to publish yesterday! Oops. Well, it’s still the weekend here in the States, so it still counts as “Sunday.”)

Do you believe we have one week left in May 2020? It’s almost like something happened to slow life down to a crawl and inversely speed up the passage of days. I wonder.

Anyway, here are a couple gems from around the internet that you may like if you like me/this site:

  • I’ve given McMansion Hell credit where (a lot of) credit’s due on this site before, but I decided to check back into her website recently, and found this fantastic article she wrote (and I somehow missed) a couple years ago about the populist (actual populism) preservers and archivists of mundane, built-to-fail architecture.
  • A user who calls himself Snake Oils for Holy Spirits posts a fantastic mix of olde timey music to Soundcloud on a near-weekly basis. Here’s his latest, which includes some Polynesian vocal music, good-time fiddle jams, and plenty of surface noise to hug your soul.
  • Newly minted Dr. Corinne Gressang (University of Kentucky) just issued and publicly filed her dissertation about a topic I had never once thought about, but now I can’t stop thinking about: French nun-hood during the Revolution and Napoleonic era.

I will be back this week with a new entry on the Ben Irving Postcard Project! I will also be writing an insane amount to catch up on some writing which complications at the end of the digital semester delayed.

Enjoy this mashup of Futurama footage with Red City Radio’s song “This Day Has Seen Better Bars,” which you didn’t know you needed. For those interested in learning more about the song, I interviewed RCR in Baltimore once, many years ago.

 

Your Sonic Sunday: May 17th (Punk Scholars, Jangle Pop, and Hardcore)

Happy Sunday! I have a few music documentaries to recommend (which are streaming, for free, on YouTube as of this posting), but first a couple of announcements about things near and dear to me.

First, per Dr. Matt Grimes, the Punk Scholars Network website is up and updated! For those keeping track, I published an article in the connected journal Punk & Post-Punk a couple years ago ahead of Capitals of Punk, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with this consortium more in the future. For now, take a gander at what they’ve been up to lately, and who makes up their team.

a2570743017_10Second, while working on the Sonic Geography Song Challenge, I’ve inadvertently discovered that Mark Mulcahy put the entire Miracle Legion discography up on Bandcamp (the second-best website on the internet, behind Cinema Treasures). For my fellow 90’s kids who remember the beautiful show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Polaris were, ostensibly, a massaged iteration of Miracle Legion. Chris Viscardi and Will McRobb have said that Miracle Legion’s 1985 EP The Backyard directly informed the aesthetic of the show, and it makes perfect sense.

Under the “Hey! Free Viewings!” category: Lance Bangs made this appropriately slow-burn documentary about Slint’s 1991 masterpiece Spiderland, and it’s available to watch here. He does a good job pulling from his own super-fandom of the mystery that surrounded albums like this before the internet, as well as the fascinating little world of Louisville, Kentucky.

maxresdefaultDrew Stone has been breaking his back for a long time to not only keep the spirit of New York Hardcore (or as it’s properly pronounce “N’Yuk Hahdcowa”) alive through shows he organizes in Brooklyn, but hosting numerous live-streams with NYHC figures. I caught this one with Lou Koller, the singer of one of my favorite bands Sick of It All, and as I may have said on twitter, it felt like a warm embrace. Stone’s “The NYHC Chronicles” documentary (stream-able here) digs deep into that universe, and I recommend it. Also, somehow, Walter Schriefels does. not. age.

the-jane-projectSpeaking of hardcore (just a bit further North), every time I have the privilege of introducing someone to Converge’s 2001 masterpiece Jane Doe, I get excited about the record all over again. While traversing the algorithm for those previously mentioned videos, I found this video of Kurt Ballou talking about the album to a class at the Berklee College of Music in the band’s native Boston. As an academic who thinks Jane Doe deserves every bit as much respect as any other piece of critically-coveted “art music” of the past two decades, it’s always gratifying to see Converge getting that kind of institutional validation (not that they need it). Over the past couple of years, I’ve had an epiphany: Converge may be the greatest band in Boston history. Sit on that one, and tell whether you agree that there may be weight to that argument.

Sonic Sunday Announcement: ‘Capitals of Punk’ is Available in Paperback!

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Well, I finally missed a Sunday post! I can only hope that it didn’t ruin any of your April 26th experiences, not letting me direct you to any random corners of the internet while (most of) you are still (mostly) stuck in your homes. The Sonic Sunday series (which will continue, don’t get me wrong) began as a form of New Years’ Resolution for 2020 in an effort to put a better foot forward digitally as far as my research and publication interests. Obviously, New Years’ Resolutions are made to be broken, and I’m not just saying that because my only other resolutions included “cool it with the parentheses” and “don’t get caught in a global pandemic.” Eggs on my face!

To make up for my irresponsibility, I’ve got a couple pieces of news to share here. I’m so happy to report that my 2019 book Capitals of Punk (Palgrave) is now available in paperback! I always pay tribute to the hard work of my editor and good friend, Joshua Pitt, but in this case, a lower price ($30, £30, €30, or something in that ballpark depending on where you are on Earth) was a priority we had been talking about since last summer.

Also, while we’re on the subject of the semi-lockdown many of us are still living under, anyone who orders a copy of the book from Palgrave’s website will immediately receive the digital version (a 20-dollar/pound/Euro/etc. value) for free with their order. Did I mention that the digital version price had also lowered, precipitously? Because it has! I’m grateful for this elevation of the accessibility of my book.

To anyone who’s checked out my Australia Megamix a couple weeks back (a tribute to Joshua and all of my friends Down Under) or enjoyed my France Vinyl Mix this past week (equal parts a tribute to my friends/collaborators in France as it is an audio experience of Capitals of Punk… save for my inability to find anything by Prohibition on vinyl), I’ve got an extra special mix going up this Wednesday. I won’t give away what it will be, but if you know me, it’s the kind of vinyl mix you’d make fun of me by saying I would make.

Your Sonic Sunday 04.19.20

Happy Sunday! I’m sorry not to get this posted until the later side, but I’ve been occupied with pet projects and haven’t been spending as much of my time on the internet (unless your understanding of “the internet” includes FaceTime-ing platforms). I’m grateful to report that my friends and family are generally doing well, and as I notified my students this past week, we’re over a month into lock down, and this next month is going to be slightly easier.

I don’t have too many highly relevant, thoughtful links this week, but I will gladly point you to the new Todd in the Shadows video essay on the (now-unfortunately named) Corona’s mid-90’s Italo-Dance jam “Rhythm of the Night.” I’ll also direct you to a profile that Billboard published on Todd Nathanson back in January which I completely missed, somehow.

Even further outside the subject of academia, prior to mid-March, I became involved on the tech side of a local theater production of “James and the Giant Peach.” Of all the things to look forward to on the opposite end of what this pandemic is putting us through, this is at the top of my list. For those of you anywhere near Central Michigan, I’ll keep you posted.

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Your Sonic Sunday 04.12.20: Wear a Mask

Happy Sunday, everyone. We’re almost halfway through April, and I just had a birthday a few days ago. Moving on: here’s some reading, watching, and/or listening material to commemorate (if that’s in any way appropriate) the fact that it’s been one month since everything stateside began to shutter in a big way.

  • My American-ostensibly-in-exile friend Jamey Essex is back at it again with more quality “Pedagogy in the Time of Coronavirus” content over on his website here.
  • You may not know this yet, but you need KinoNow, especially if your friends’ incredible indie theater was forced to close and they have a partnership with them.
  • Speaking of local institutions on Central Avenue in my former hometown, the Central Collective is running a virtual human claw Easter Egg hunt tonight. I have no idea about the practicality of this, but it looks like a worthwhile and curious effort.
  • ICYMI: I released my 2nd Sonic Geography Vinyl Megamix this past Wednesday, focusing on the music of Tennessee. If you’re nice, I’ll post Episode 3 this coming Wednesday!

Remember to get outside and experience the extended Clinic music video that is the great outdoors in the US of A.

Your “Stay Home” Sonic Sunday Spiel

A week ago, when I was writing about the Replacements, I couldn’t have anticipated we’d be here. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the ramifications of this moment in history that’s any better than what Mike Davis wrote (see my previous entry).

Considering how COVID-19 inspired the cancellation of multiple major sporting events, including March Madness, the next few weeks are going to help shift into focus just how necessary many of these “unalienable” institutions truly are. South By Southwest and Coachella both cancelled, and as obvious as the lost revenues will hurt many individual artists and (yes, some) vendors, both events were unquestionably bloated and appeared to have been teetering on the edge of sustainability for years.

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The euphoric experience of seeing New Order in a giant tent at midnight with thousands of other people wasn’t enough to cancel out how there are so many things wrong with this picture. (Coachella, April 2013)

To be fair, I’ve only been to Coachella once and I’ve never made it to SXSW, but the former presented a brutal overuse of already-constricted resources in California’s low desert, and the latter… well, I have many friends who’ve enjoyed attending it, but most of my Austinite friends and musician friends (who actually work or play at South-By) hate it. Mega-events like these represent the late-capitalist culmination of generations of corporate commodification of pop culture. As Simon Frith put it over three decades ago,

The rock era – born around 1956 with Elvis Presley, peaking around 1967 with Sgt Pepper, dying around 1976 with the Sex Pistols – turned out to be a by-way in the development of twentieth-century popular music, rather than, as we thought at the time, any kind of mass-cultural revolution. Rock was a last romantic attempt to preserve ways of music-making… that had been made obsolete by technology and capital (‘Music for Pleasure’ 1988, p. 1).

Cut to: A scene I think about a lot. When I was 18, I stood in the back of the crowd at the Warped Tour Main Stage, watching Henry Rollins scream about how some corporation had the nerve to charge $4 for a soda. Nearby, a young kid grabbed a Gatorade from an ice barrel, and the middle-aged vendor screamed “Hey! Put it back, you little shit.”  Corporate America had co-opted youth culture (again, in another vein), and they were making it increasingly clear that they would only tolerate the youth so long as they kept their cash flowing. It astounds me when people (mainly my age and older) wonder “why kids today don’t care about rock music.” Moreover, I can’t help but imagine that experiences like those accelerated Rollins’ departure from the music business.

As festivals got increasingly abundant, expensive, and bloated, I always wondered where the tipping point would be. Well, here it is. A lot of pundits thought it came in the form of the failure of the Fyre Festival, but (hilarious as it was), that fiasco didn’t appear to result in Goldenvoice and LiveNation stepping back and taking a long, hard, look at what they were doing. All Fyre Festival did was prove that rich idiots were still able to sell snake oil to other rich idiots.


I do not want my propensity to excavate silver linings from the most dire and ahistorical of situations to make light of how the COVID-related halting of certain institutions has already profoundly impacted millions and will likely hit millions more. It is why I will end this post with a series of links to check out to help support those in financial or physical need this month. However, I hope more than anything that those who stand to benefit from this in any way (even in terms of valuable lessons learned), do.

Sonic Sunday 03.08: Read About Your Band on Some Local Page

I know this firmly places me in the “aging guy with advanced degrees who wears glasses” stereotype, but prepare for a deluge of pure, uncut love for the Replacements and Big Star over the next week or two. 

  • First and foremost, I discovered that this exists, and I’m going to have trouble thinking about anything else or accomplishing anything else on the internet in the immediate future.
  • Actually, just as foremost, my wonderful colleague Lola San Martín (EHESS) is organizing a new conference in Paris this summer entitled “Urban Nostalgia: The Musical City in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” I can’t think of a conference more curated specifically for me, but I hope to give it as big of a signal boost I can, because I love the work that Theatrum Mundi and EHESS do. The deadline is relatively soon (April 6th), and the full CFP is right here. Here is a nifty GIF advertisement for the conference, too:
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  • Here’s another conference in Paris that appears to have been curated exactly to my interests, happening in September. Something about Pop and Rock in the past two decades of cinema. Elsa Grassy will be there!

Here’s Paul Westerberg playing my favorite Replacements song to close out a solo set on KFOG-FM in 1996. Have a great week, everyone!

Just Another Sonic Sunday (03.01.20) – VHS and Vintage Games

And just like that, it’s March already.

  • Cool Maps on Instagram
    I haven’t really taken time to express how many fun maps I’ve seen on Instagram (and really, why would I?), but it’s definitely a fun-map-lover’s dream over there. Here is one particularly head-turning one for those of us who haven’t visited South Asia.
  • Shudder to Podcast
    Craig Wedren, who spent his teens through mid-twenties helming Shudder to Think and much of the past two decades scoring almost every show on television, is starting a meditation/ambient music podcast that sounds just as interesting as everything else he does. You can read about it here.
  • Bad Brains and Defiance
    Speaking of DC punk veterans, The Root published a great little piece on how defiance crafted Bad Brains in honor of Black History Month.
  • The Wild World of VHS Digitization
    A piece of non-journalism on VICE (which I’ve already RT’d; they don’t need any more exposure) clued me into The VHS Vault. Everything from the extremely copyrighted to the mundane. Further verification of my opinion on just how much data and media exists outside of the internet, especially given the way the home video market blew up in the 1980’s. What a time to be alive.

While we’re on the topic of the weird early-80’s techno-glut, I had the rare opportunity recently to visit a friend in Ohio who is a brilliant archivist, coder, and trader of vintage video game equipment. It was remarkable, given the legendary Video Game Crash of 1983 (Wikipedia), to be able to play some of the flopped systems and realize, “Oh…that’s why it happened.”

Here are a few of the digital antiques.

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A fluffball named Lucky poses with a pair of early Apple Computers. If I’m not mistaken, the one on the right was the model I used in elementary school in 1988.

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The Timex Sinclaire 1000. This thing was just the worst.

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A floppy disk with games coded for an old Commodore system.