It's been a few months since I've done one of these posts, mined from my frequent visits to thrift stores in Washington State and South Florida. You'd think there just wouldn't be any more funny to find, BUT NO! IT NEVER ENDS. Please to enjoy!
EVERYTHING. The disembodied head floating in darkness, the look of stunned horror, the scary cross overlay, the bizarre mix of capital and lower case letters, and "Stereo Phonic Sound."
It always pleases me to attend a sold-out show for the friendly realization that HEY YOU ALL FOLKS LIKE WHAT I LIKE and, more importantly, the knowledge that it is an extra-nice feeling for artists themselves to put a butt in every seat. Last Thursday night, an excellent bill of Musicians From Foreign Lands -- Courtney Barnett from Australia and Alvvays from Canada -- packed Seattle's Moore Theater to it's rather steep rafters, and provided us with two very different interpretations of fine modern pop.
(I am totally delighted to bring you now the groovy words and photographs of ace Seattle rock n' roll chronicler Victoria Holt, who graciously agreed to cover my SWEET birthday celebration at Chop Suey last Thursday night, featuring the platter power of DJ Ruben MZ and the audacious awesomeness of rock 'n wrestling maniacs, STALLION! I even got to SING a bit! I cannot thank everyone enough -- so much fun, so many lovely faces, so much love. THE BEST! Scroll down to view video of the whole Stallion performance, including a jaw-dropping entrance! -- Marianne)
Sometimes things come together so fatefully, do they not? This last Thursday in Seattle was shimmering, sunny spring kind of thing, flowers in riotous bloom, everything new and fresh and nary a drop of that pesky gloom moisture we are so well known for. What could be, in a just and good world, the best activity for such a glorious day? It would be surfing over to the good ol' Chop Suey club to help our dear pop punks Tacocat celebrate the release of their brand-newie Hardly Art rekkid, "Lost Time," oh yes! Demand was such that the band scheduled two shows; an early one for the all-ages folks, and a later one for the 21+ people. Yours truly arrived early to help as I could with set-up and such, which included inflatable aliens and ice cream cones, and REAL ice cream from Bluebird Ice Cream made especially for the day: ChocoTacocat! And don't forget the custom lipsticks from Yé yé Cosmetics! (As always, click on any photo to enlarge, or click on the Flickr set links for more!)
"Foodie" culture in 2016 is ubiquitous. Everywhere you look -- on Instagram, Pinterest, Pinstagram, Instainterest, whatever -- there are beautiful photos of scrumptious-looking cuisine, making us feel awed, intrigued, hungry, and complete domestic failures for not plating such edible elegance in our own homes. The bar was not set so high when I was a youth, I might add. Sure, every so often Mom might get inspired to copy the standing rib roast from the local supper club, but in general we ate a lot of casseroles with Campbell's cream-of-something soup dumped in, and cheap ground meat concoctions. Home cooks of the mid-20th Century were encouraged to take full advantage of "time-saving" pre-packaged processed foods. Presentation of a meal, to judge now in hindsight, was designed and implemented by drunk marmosets.
This brings me to share these images from a 1966 pamphlet called, "Woman's Weekly Dairy Cookbook," offered to us by The National Dairy Council. You can see already what we're in for, with a cover dessert featuring so much whipped cream that we might assume the berries were instead layered with fire extinguisher blasts or fluffy attic insulation. How does one begin to eat that?
In the blogosphere -- a term I hate, by the way, but am too lazy to not use -- eight years is a lifetime. Blogs are rather like diaries, even if the topic has nothing to do with anything personal. People start a diary or personal journal with the best of intentions of content and maintenance, and usually run out of steam pretty quickly, because life is busy and you start forgetting to make time to update and then you forget many more times, and then you are all, "eh, whatever," and you are done. Your heartfelt blog about "My Cat And Everything She Does That Is Adorable" or "Rants About Things I Get Mad About But That No One Else Cares About" starts with a bang, and ends up abandoned, mostly because you are human and things are happening elsewhere.
I began Popthomology on February 28, 2008 mainly on something of a dare, and a need to have a place to focus my creative and emotional energy. I didn't expect much from it, because I didn't have any plans or ambitions for it. It was just a place in the universe that was mine, made virtually real by purchasing the domain name of "Diarrhea Island" (Pop's original name, ha) and just heading forth into my brain and seeing what came out. For many years I posted every day -- really, seriously, every single day -- and the thing that came back to me, the thing I didn't recognize whatsoever that I needed, was connection. Whether I was being silly or serious, a diverse group of people that kept coming back to read a few times or thousands of times started reaching out to me every so often, which was a shock to me. To hear that someone enjoyed what you wrote, thought about something in a different way, got mad about your sense of humor, loved your photography, delighted to a piece of child art or a screaming goat video...I just never thought anything like that would happen, but it did. I have a large group of beloved friends now that I never would have had if I hadn't started the blog, and kept at it. This is still so surprising to me, and my gratitude is profound.
My pace has slowed considerably here over the past 14 months. Personal challenges and losses have forced the changes, and I have to roll with them and accept that I can't and shouldn't keep up a sprinter's pace carrying what is right now a heavy load. But I'm not stopping, just bringing you content I think you will enjoy in more of a stroll, as it were. Your patience and continued attention is a marvel, and I thank you. Thank you for everything, every opportunity that's come my way, every time you've taken the time to tell me HEY IT COOL, every time you've told me about spelling mistakes, every time you let me know that this tiny, tiny place in the big, big world did something to make your day a little better.
We will end this reflective essay with a very short video starring one Loretta Jenkins, who possibly has inflated her breasts with beer.
Seattle-area cats and kitties, I am SO VERY EXCITED to be presenting my very first video night at my go-to joint for music, mirth, and mayhem, Chop Suey, this Wednesday night, February 3rd, beginning at 7PM and running until close! The evening's theme is the (mainly) mid-century anti-drug/alcohol/smoking public service announcements, songs, kids' programming, and short films that infused my childhood and yours with a lot of freaky and unintentional hilarity, and nightmares that lasted well into adulthood. I've selected over three hours of clips ranging from the 1920s (whoa!) through the early 1990s, including songs by Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby, a groovy gold-satin-suited Sonny Bono urging us to think for ourselves about the dangers of marijuana, singing blue pills warning us that they are not candy, and culminating in the infamous 1967 acid-soaked "Blue Boy" episode of TV's "Dragnet!" It's fun, funny, and a cultural time-warp -- think of it as your opportunity to soak up some sociology while marveling at the many media attempts to "get you kids on the right path."
Well. It's time to write about this show. I think I will begin with the time-tested Adjective Toss while I gather my sentence-forming abilities.
Unsettling. Massive. Fun! Weird. Heavy. Insane. Jaw-dropping. Repellent! Endearing.
I've seen Ty Segall play many times over the years. I am a yuuuuge fan, and admire so much about our young blond friend: his relentless and top-quality musical output, ultra-fun, dynamic live shows, and willingness to leave the garage every so often to give us work that is quiet and reflective all the way over to sledge-hammer heavy metal. Every so often, I think MAN AM I LUCKY that I get to be able to be a part of that talent tsunami, even in my very small way as a photographer, writer, and fan.
And of course, I am not the only one who thinks this way. Everyone at the sold-out Neptune Theater did, I'm sure, as well as all those poor sodden souls who hovered outside the venue in the rain hoping to score a spare ticket. Having a raincoat might have been helpful inside the venue, as it turned out, but you'll have to wait a few paragraphs to get the explanation.
Wow, OK, the start to 2016 has been rough for us earth folk, right? Too many irreplaceable losses, too many threats of irreplaceable losses, grief casting deep shadows over what should be a time of renewal and hopefulness. The world will get its mojo back -- it always does. For us sensitive critters, we just have to find our own ways to cope such that we make things better, and not worse.
Years ago, I came across a live acoustic version of David Bowie's "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)," from his 1980 album of the same name, that I absolutely adored. It was simple as could be, the song stripped down to two D-tuned acoustic guitars and Bowie's vocals and a harmony. He jokingly told the story of "being in penitentiary with Johnny Cash back in the late '50s" and how, he said, he and Johnny came up with the song there. Funny, and a delightful example of Bowie's fine sense of humor. Taking his own fairly avant-garde rock song and turning it into a Sun Records-style rockabilly jaunt underlines something I love to repeat: a great song can be done in infinite ways and musical genres and still will be a great song.
I had immediately upon hearing it wanted to have a go at recording this version myself, and for some reason put it off long enough that I forgot about it. It landed in the ever-increasing mountain of "Things I'd Like To Do Someday," along with traveling to Europe, living in New York City, joining a bowling league, and drinking adequate amounts of water. With David Bowie's passing and all the waves of tributes and songs and articles, I came across the track again, and smiled. This would be a good time to finish what I started, I thought: a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny little throw of something creative to the cosmos can't hurt.
So I did it, very minimally, yes, but I'm glad to kick one pebble off Someday Mountain and am glad to share it with you. I did a silly video to go along with it because who doesn't want to see SMPTE code leader girls and '70s space dinosaurs?
If you like, you can very much for free download the track HERE. Thank you very much for listening, and thank you David Bowie, for everything.
1969: It is summer, July to be exact, that magical season of sweet green grass, warm sunshine, endless hours of play, no school. Yet I am inside, crouched next to our ashy beige TV console, tuning in the solitary rock station on the FM band that I could receive in my rural area. My cheek is so close to the speaker that I feel the scratch of the tweedy fabric. The song that I am listening to is "Space Oddity," by David Bowie. The lines of reality blur in my mind between the story in the lyrics and the ubiquitous, surreal TV coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing -- "Can you hear me Major Tom, can you hear me Major Tom, can you hear me Major Tom?" -- and wait with a strange and awful nervousness to hear of his rescue and reunion with his wife, whom he he loves very much. I know it's just a song...or is it? I'm compelled to listen to it each time I hear it played, which was only a handful of times that I recall, hoping there was something, anything Major Tom could do to return to Earth. I am seven years old.
At the end of each year since I started this site and got back into the world of music photography, I like to pick my favorite shots that I took that year and do a little post. Now, as I prepare to look at my 2015 work, I am filled with emotion. Due to unexpected serious illness, I wasn't able take any photos -- or do much of anything with my eyes at all, other than walk around in a blur -- for the first two months of the year. It wasn't clear (black-humored PUN there) if my eyes were permanently damaged or not, or whether I'd ever be able to photograph anything again. Music photography is so much of my core, my identity, how I relate to the music I love, that the thought of losing the ability to do it decades before I expected to was profoundly worrisome.
BUT HEY GUESS WHAT? My eyes settled the eff down, I got stable sight back, and got back to shooting in March! Woo hoo! So, my two criteria as always for selecting the shots for this post remain the same: 1. Do I love it?, and; 2. Is it beautiful? This is what I strive for, no matter the conditions or challenges: to make something beautiful that you will please to enjoy. Thank you for viewing my efforts, very especially for 2015. (You may click on the photos to see them all large and in charge on Flickr, and can peruse all my photos there should you be so inclined!)
Tweedy, Neptune Theater, Seattle, WA, March 12, 2015
What makes this lovely for me is that here we have a picture of father Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and his son Spencer on drums, and that this image sums up the tone of this show: the relaxed, funny, experienced frontman who spent a lot of time interacting with the crowd, and the son who was performing on his first major tour and kept a very close eye on his Dad. Sweet.
Shooting Energizer Bunny frontman John Dwyer is the best. This time, I shot from behind the stage; interesting perspective, very challenging task. What I like about this one is that the silver of light outlining Dwyer is so minimal, but so effective.
Now there's a true fan of PMPH lead singer Gary Smith! (P.S. The twirling little boy with the Cupid curls in the wimps photo above is Perseus Smith, son of our minimally-attired fake-bloody friend here and Lisa Smith on the orange drums.)
I'm bucking tradition by delivering my "best of" lists for 2015 in 2016 because I CAN. I could, IF I WANTED TO, deliver my 2015 lists in 2020, EVEN. Before I become too drunk with power, I think instead I shall move forward and offer you my picks for what new sounds floated my boat in 2015, because I'm always hoping your boat may be floated in a similar manner and then we can head out to sea like Lemmy leaning into the wind on the bow of the Titanic, or something perhaps slightly less crazy and doomed, like Keith Richards in a Boston Whaler. Please to enjoy!
LIKE THERE WOULDN'T BE SOMETHING FROM TY SEGALL ON THIS LIST Ty Segall: Mr. Face EP (Famous Class) Famous Class puts out the best little gems on 45, and this guy is certainly is a charmer. Mr. Face finds Ty at his weirdo best: free to add in little quirks like a penny whistle while keeping that California psych-garage vibe that feels like you just uncovered some dusty '60s freakbeat record at a yard sale. Ty totally gets both the playful and heavy aspects of '60s music, and makes it all his own. Bless you, my little prolific one.
INSTANT SUNSHINE Jacuzzi Boys: Happy Damage EP (MagMag, Burger)
How I love Miami's Jacuzzi Boys, and love them extra-much for providing me with their new "Happy Damage" EP on MagMag Records, which contains the song "Sun," which just makes me feel like flying up into the sky in joy...without doing that whole Icarus deal, of course. Sweet and strange in all the right ways, and big, shimmering production. Cool vid, too.
AN UTTER EMBARRASSMENT OF LOCAL RICHES
I'll tell ya straight up: I think Seattle has the best new music scene in all the Yoo Nighted Staytz. Throw a rock anywhere and you'll hit a great band that's combining compelling performance and kickass songwriting and their own unique thangs that are just soooo gooood as to make me feel guilty that I don't go out every single night to the clubs while it's all in full bloom. Can it stay this way? I don't know, but I know that WE IS HOT right now. I want to also say that you shouldn't throw real rocks at bands as that is not nice. Here are several Seattle releases that I loved to pieces this year.
Wimps' long-awaited sophomore album is a delight. Witty, world-weary lyrics and stripped-down DIY punk mesh into something that is thoughtful, fun, flip, and just a touch nutty, LIKE PEOPLE ARE. Are you always the "old guy" at the party? Listen to "Old Guy." Do you spend a lot of time on your couch? Listen to "Couches." Do you have a living situation that is at best a ramshackle collection of ruffians, layabouts, old food, and rats? Listen to "Dump." Wimps have you covered.
Luke Beetham and Stacy Peck make a much bigger noise that you would think two people could manage with a minimal drum kit and a fuzzed-out bass/baritone guitar. It is a good noise, a very good noise, grumbly and rumble-y with glimmers of '70s pop glam and throat-grabs of primal garage rock. This album will be released on vinyl on S.S. Records in 2016, which gives you even more opportunity to love it. Dig this Alvin Stardust video vibe!
Steal Shit Do Drugs (or SSDD if your grandma is around) burst forth this year in a big way, releasing their first EP, going on a West Coast tour, and playing some pretty high-profile gigs. Get in now so you can say you knew them when, folks, and DO NOT miss the chance to see them play. Kind of like the Stooges with lots less blood and more shirts, you can't keep your eyes off them.
This trio brought an impeccably-produced album that effortlessly mixes decade-spanning genres -- late '60s psychedelia, '70s funk, '80s technopop, '90s rap, and a little post-punk and classic rock thrown in for good measure. When this band finds its audience outside of Seattle, I think sky's the limit. They also dress really, really well.
Tammy Wynette, in the first line of her 1968 hit song "Stand By Your Man," sang "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman." YA THINK, SISTER? YA THINK?? Even in 1968 I thought that it was not fair that women were treated like second class citizens, but figured the adults would work that out for me by the time I got to be an adult myself. SURPRISE! Despite many gains, we still are drowning in a world that thinks we are lesser beings, disposable and controllable. One could get very depressed and angry about this bullshit, but if you are Childbirth you turn your angst into fun and funny feminist songs that remind you that a sense of humor is not only personal salvation, but a very clever weapon, indeed.
I've played this song more times than I'd be willing to admit.
It's true: sometimes all I want to do is to play "Tequila" over and over again and dance around like a sunburned, drunk cruise ship matron. But more often, I prefer some intelligence with my groove-on. Specifically, if I get an album by L.A./Seattle band The Intelligence in any given year, that year is then made 74% more cerebral and 100% better. It feels like I waited for "Vintage Future" THREE WHOLE YEARS, because I did, and now I hug it to my chest and dare anyone to try to get it from me. Go buy your own! Thank you, The Intelligence, for making it. Go make more, before my hearing goes.
People do like lists, and you may have noticed Courtney Barnett made a whole lot of 2015's bests. Let us all get down on our knees and thank this young Australian for writing lyrics that are so damn smart you have to listen over and over again just to figure them all out, ala Elvis Costello in his verbal heyday. Barnett goes past pithy wordplay into storytelling; the funny, weird things that happen in everyday life seem absolutely compelling in her hands. The music is simple, three-chord stuff, anchored by Barnett's heavily-accented talk-singing style and some sweet harmonies. I could not be happier that now lots and lots of people get to hear what she's doing; she's a gas, gas, gas.
The minute I heard "This Is The Sonics," I knew. I knew, even though there would be a TON of great albums out this year, this was the one. I'm still awestruck months later and suspect that The Sonics, the '60s progenitors of garage rock and, one could argue, punk rock as well, are magical beings rising out of some kind of mystical Tacoma industrial swamp. How else can one explain it that, 50 YEARS LATER, they make an album that sounds like no time has passed at all??? HOW HOW HOW HOW? I'm serious. "This Is The Sonics" has the same swagger and bite, the swing and snarl, the juvenile delinquent attitude and the Saturday night dance party joy as they delivered in 1965. Ain't nothing slowed down here, ain't no keys lowered, no quarter given to aging bones and muscles. I've never heard anything like it in my whole life, and don't suspect I will again...other than maybe if The Sonics make another album.
"This Is The Sonics" is great rock n' roll, and beyond that, a triumph of brilliant production, willpower, spirit, and resilience. It is my album of the year.
December is hands-down my busiest month of the year. Some of this is in the form of wrapping ONE PRAZILLION GIFTS and getting multiple paper cuts in the process, very actively ignoring delicious holiday sweets, and standing in line at the post office for 45 minutes with said one prazillion gifts. But my favorite December activity is going to see some holiday musical events arranged by some of my favorite Seattle pals! Last Saturday, I split my evening into two cool events: attending the short-but-sweet performance of Ms. Claus at Valentine's Tattoo, and then zipping over to the Funhouse to catch The Fe Fi Fo Fums and headliners Dancer and Prancer. I brought my camera, so please to enjoy! (Click on the photos to enlarge, and click on the Flickr set links to see more!)
Ms. Claus, Seattle's finest feminist holiday band, features Robin Edwards (Lisa Prank), Stacy Peck (Pony Time, Childbirth), Bree McKenna (Childbirth, Tacocat), and Shaine Truscott. While entertaining the party crowd at Valentine's Tattoo in Capitol Hill, the women wished each other and everyone else a Merry Christmas possibly 50 times in 15 minutes, and smiled a great deal. Lelah Maupin, McKenna's Tacocat sparkly bandmate, was so happy she used her telephone device to capture the merriment. I hated to leave the beautifully-decorated space, and regret not using the holiday photobooth.
I'm Marianne Spellman. I am in Seattle-ish. I like and make music and words and photos and coffee and have crappy eyesight, like every other blogger. I do freelance thingies for cool people and places every so often. I post here often.
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College Scholarships I Wish Existed For My Children: 1. Honors in Potato Chip Bag Hoarding 2. Exceptional Hours In Video Games 3. The Pigpen Award For Indifferent Hygiene 4. Honors In Missing The Hamper 5. Distinguished Scholar in Eating All The Sliced Cheese