The Casual Geographer Presents: “Intersection Songs”

For those of you who were not connected to me during my time at CSU-Long Beach, my friends Bret Hartt, Abel Santana, and I co-founded a podcast and weekly radio show called “The Casual Geographer.” We produced over thirty episodes, most of which were posted at our original blogspot site here (the audio links no longer work, but the descriptions and graphics are still there, and if I may say so, delightful). Each episode tackled a different subject and explained how geography enveloped said subject. It lasted most of the two years I spent in Long Beach, and we had a lot of fun.

This week, in a seminar on tourism geography, my colleagues and I discussed a wonderful article by Duncan Light on the commodification and consumption of place names. I found it interesting, as a musically-inclined geographer, how he used examples such as AC/DC (seriously, why is there no lightning bolt key?) Street in Melbourne as ways in which cities and regions place and focus what John Urry legendarily called “the tourist gaze.” In particular, Light (2014, 145*) wrote:

…It is the marker – the signage – that is important in affirming and validating the visit. As such the place-name signage (the most commonplace and banal of objects) becomes the principal focus of tourist interest and the setting for a range of activities and performances.

Unsurprisingly, my mind immediately leaped to the corner of Fountain and Fairfax, where I drove by upon moving to the Los Angeles area, motivated by The Afghan Whigs’ dramatic 1993 song of that title**.  My mind then immediately jumped to Episode 3 of The Casual Geographer, where we discussed whatever background information we could find on a handful of songs named after street intersections. These included “53rd and 3rd” (NYC) by the Ramones, “Fountain and Fairfax” (Los Angeles) by the Afghan Whigs, “Queen and John” (Toronto) by Good Riddance, “9th and Hennepin” (Minneapolis) by Tom Waits, and “13th and Euclid” (DC) by the Dismemberment Plan. Thanks to Russ Rankin for his gracious email reply telling us the story of “Queen and John” (which I read during the episode), as well as Travis Morrison for his brief explanation of what happened at a gas station near 13th and Euclid (as well as giving me the go-ahead to use “The Face of the Earth” as a theme song for the show).

I’ll gradually work on wrenching more of these recordings from my archives. For now, have a listen to this episode and I hope you enjoy it. This was an early episode, and the production quality improved from here, I promise.

LINER NOTES

* Light, D. (2014). Tourism and toponymy: commodifying and consuming place names. Tourism Geographies, 16(1), 141-156.

** If you’re at all familiar with the Afghan Whigs or the greater spate of work by Greg Dulli, using the word “dramatic” to describe any of their songs could seem pretty redundant, I realize.

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On the Fight for (Getting INTO) the USA

I write this, regretfully, not in Roanoke, VA at the SEDAAG Meeting. The abstract/registration deadline proved too tight for me after I moved to Tennessee and began working here. Next year! At least I’ve received word from a few of my colleagues who are there and having a great time. Serious respect is due to my colleague Derek Martin, who took home the honors for best PhD paper. I linked that video because he hates it.

Respect is also due to my colleague Matt Cook, who I just discovered drew inspiration from my site to resurrect his. So, I’ll feed the worm of mutual inspiration its tail and use that as inspiration for me to throw a quick update out there. I’ve relayed a number of fun announcements about new books in the works (both involving and not involving my work), but since I’m knee-deep in the end-of-semester crunch time, I don’t have a whole lot of time to contribute a substantial essay to the glut of web content for now. But there are a couple of items you all may enjoy coming in the next few weeks. For now, here are a couple thoughts about Canada.

In case you’re at all interested in underground/punk culture, progressive politics, or just great writing on underrepresented issues, Razorcake is absolutely essential. It’s a non-profit monthly fully dedicated to the universe it covers, and subscriptions are inexpensive and worth every penny. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute band interviews to the magazine and their (soon to be overhauled, I think) website in the past few years.

For those of you who have access to it, do try to find the latest issue and have a read of their interview with Steve Adamyk of the Steve Adamyk Band. It’s a simple, straightforward conversation about the restrictions that he and his band face in trying to set up shows south of the border (in the United States). Between the months-long application process and expensive equipment rental and management, to simply play three hours south of his hometown of Ottawa (without risking getting banned for years) has become nearly impossible for a musician of his means.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen bands from the Middle East remove all dates from their websites in order to fly under the radar of the State Department, and I’ve heard singers from the Great White North tell crowds “if anyone asks, we’re here for a bachelor party!” Granted, if you knew the latter band I’m talking about (they’re pretty good), you’d probably question their singer’s ability to say anything serious.

Toronto: Exhibit A (source: beatgoeson.com)

Considering what fertile power-pop music scenes Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal have grown over the past decade (or for that matter, have had for decades), it’s incredibly disappointing how our government denies us this goodness by leaning on poorly managed and antiquated border laws. I’ll never understand what the United States accomplishes with roadblocks for visiting artists, forcing musicians to construct elaborate lies just to build their fan bases and bring their music to potentially tens of thousands of fans. Fortunately, countries like Germany have been a boon for Adamyk and bands like his, opening their arms to his music (even releasing records for him). Here’s hoping that the network of American fans will, sometime in the near future, be able to show up and shout along with the solid, hardworking Canadian bands that don’t happen to be filling arenas (and asking their fans to play dress up).