what a great concept.
A.V. UNDERCOVER was a CURATED LIVE PERFORMANCE web series produced by THE ONION entertainment offshoot THE A.V. CLUB that ran for seven seasons and had 310 episodes from 2010-2017. at the heart of it was the premise of a listener-derived list of songs that participating BANDS and ARTISTS would choose from, the catch being that ARTISTS performing further in the season had less choice over the material and made for some truly UNLIKELY covers.
and therein lies this LIVE MUSIC series REMARKABLE lasting cultural pull. the idea of GWAR covering the PET SHOP BOYS' "WEST END GIRLS," SEBADOH covering RUSH's "LIMELIGHT" or COHEED AND CAMBRIA covering THE SMITHS' "A RUSH AND A PUSH AND THE LAND IS OURS" is something i am absolutely here for. i am glad to live in a universe where this stuff exists. past participants include CHARLI XCX, THE GET-UP KIDS, DEERHOOF, NADA SURF, THE COATHANGERS, RISE AGAINST, TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS, DUM DUM GIRLS, COURTNEY BARNETT, THE POLYPHONIC SPREE, AGAINST ME!, KURT VILE, LE BUTCHERETTES, WRYE OAK and GROUPLOVE covering everyone from BIG STAR, THE GO-GOs, BLUR, NEW ORDER and NIRVANA to KATE BUSH, THE BREEDERS, ANDREW W.K., NINE INCH NAILS, NEIL YOUNG, THE CLASH, ADAM ANT, TEARS FOR FEARS, MILEY CYRUS and even THE BACKSTREET BOYS among countless others.
honestly, what is there not to love. definitely worth checking out.
i remember being at (the sadly now defunct) independent record store VINTAGE VINYL in NEW JERSEY sometime in the mid-2010s, most likely back home on summer vacation from one of my overseas teaching assignments, and having this experience that hadnt happened before or since: i asked the clerk what band was currently being played. turns out it was a MISSOURIAN band i knew existed from reading magazines like ALTERNATIVE PRESS over the years but had never investigated until then. it was a group called THE GET UP KIDS and the song i later learned was "WHEN IT DIES" off of their comeback fifth album THERE ARE RULES (QUALITY HILL, 2011).
and it was like LOVE at first listen.
i ADORE that band and especially that record, although SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT (VAGRANT, 1999) is also a key listen. i think what makes them so enchanting is their MELODIC SONG-CRAFT and singer MATHEW PRYOR's EARNEST yet-ever-so MELANCHOLY vocal delivery. this band deserves a longer write-up with their offshoot projects (REGGIE AND THE FULL EFFECT, THE NEW AMSTERDAMS) and extensive discography, but i just wanted to do my part to spread the gospel of THE GET UP KIDS. not that they need my help.
during the pandemic many a musician, much like the res of us, were stuck at home with their RECORDING and TOURING cycles effectively semi-permanently on hold. during that period a number of them initiated PODCASTS and YOUTUBE channels in order to staving off cabin fever, as well as (one would assume) supplement their income during a dry period of seemingly indefinite length as the world came to terms with COVID.
of all these endeavors, JIMMY EAT WORLD's frontman and main SONGWRITER JIM ADKINS created the PODCAST and associated VIDEO SERIES PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES (available on his band's YOUTUBE channel) over twenty episodes in 2020 as a means of discussing with other musicians the CREATIVE PROCESS and more specifically his love of SONGWRITING. and it really is very much a deep dive into the MECHANICS, RITUALS, THEORY, COLLABORATIONS, PRODUCTION, SELF-DOUBT, TECHNIQUE, HABITS, INSPIRATION, FRUSTRATION, TECHNOLOGY, HARD-WORK and SPONTANEITY that goes into writing a SONG. notable past guests include KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE), MARK HOPPUS (BLINK-182), MATT PRYOR (THE GET UP KIDS), BETHANY CONSENTINO (BEST COAST), WILLIAM RYAN KEY (YELLOWCARD), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE), TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA), GERARD WAY (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) and FRANK TURNER.
i think what really comes across in these discussions is the level of INTENTION and CRAFTSMANSHIP involved in SONGWRITING. given its EPHEMERAL nature, the experience of listening to music make it seem an almost INVISIBLE ART and PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES very much establishes how such is definitely not the case. makes me wonder about what other aspects of modern entertainment is passively consumed with little to no notice for its creation. FOOD, WEB DESIGN, CINEMA, JOURNALISM, GRAPHIC DESIGN and PHOTOGRAPHY (along with aforementioned MUSIC) come immediately to mind. its all a bit of a reminder to be a more MINDFUL consumer of the CREATIVE EFFOTS of others. my biggest takeaway is the role of battling CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT as a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS. it feels reassuring that most of these accomplished SONGWRITERS who have all created MEMORABLE art over the past few decades first had to overcome their own SELF-CRITICISM and sense of SELF-WORTH to make something worthwhile. makes them feel more HUMAN.
like a lot of people, i was pretty bummed when the INDEPENDENT NEW JERSEY record store VINTAGE VINYL closed abruptly seemingly without warning in the middle of the summer of 2021. i had been going there for years since the early 2000s when i effectively relocated to the area for college after randomly spending my senior year of high school in SACRAMENTO. in fact part of my yearly ritual during my years teaching abroad was a trip to VINTAGE VINYL during my brief stateside vacation. id even argue the experience made me feel connected to a sense of "home."
i remember learning about the FORDS, NEW JERSEY store through a plugged-in classmate and friend of my brother, who were both still in high school at the time. in the early 2000s there was an UNDERGROUND ROCK N ROLL scene that centered around RUTGERS UNIVERSITY in NEW BRUNSWICK that included bands of varying genres (POST-HARDCORE, POP PUNK, HARDCORE and METALCORE) from various relatively nearby northeast cities such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (MORRIS PLAINS), THURSDAY (NEW BRUNSWICK), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (NEWARK), MIDTOWN (NEW BRUNSWICK), STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (NEW BRUNSWICK) as well as more established acts like THE BOUNCING SOULS (BASKING RIDGE) and LIFETIME (NEW BRUNSWICK) among others. interestingly bands like THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (NEW BRUNSWICK) and THE SCREAMING FEMALES (NEW BRUNSWICK) also came from the embers of this scene years later.
VINTAGE VINYL was only a ten minute drive from the heavily congested streets of the NEW BRUNSWICK campus and proved to be quite the quiet respite during my years as an undergraduate there. i can only imagine what that store meant to musicians from the surrounding area. did i mention the place also put on in-store promotional shows for UNDERGROUND and established bands? i recently came across their YOUTUBE channel which has in-store live performances by the likes of everyone from BAD RELIGION, CAVE-IN, THE USED, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, JIMMY EAT WORLD, CIRCA SURVIVE, MXPX, THE GET UP KIDS, THURSDAY, NEW FOUND GLORY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (all embedded below) among many others. if you dig through their channel you will find in-store signings by the likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, KERRY KING (of SLAYER), DARRYL "DMC" MCDANIELS (of RUN-DMC) and ROB ZOMBIE. its all unedited single shot tripod footage with unmixed in-camera audio. in essence its mostly uncompelling, shitty footage, except for the fact that as a cultural artifact these videos are invaluable as markers of a local and national musical culture at a certain place and time.
whats sad is that the hurried manner in which the store closed, at the behest of the owner who wished to move on after 40+ years and had no interest in having it continue under new management, effectively meant that a community had no opportunity to celebrate it. there was no send-off or concert by the local musical community that no doubt had embraced this obscure INDEPENDENT establishment for many years. for me that is the unfortunate legacy of VINTAGE VINYL. it was a private, locally-owned business that was embraced by a culture and in the end the owner did not embrace them back.
in the wake of VINTAGE VINYL there are several local and independently owned and operated record stores (some new, some long established) in NEW JERSEY that i frequent which have largely replaced it, including STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL (POMPTON LAKES), REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR (MILLTOWN), LOFIDELIC RECORDS (BELMAR), VINYL ADDICTION RECORDS (NORTH ARLINGTON), FACTORY RECORDS SHOP (DOVER), SOUND EXCHANGE (WAYNE), GROOVY GRAVEYARD (ASBURY PARK), JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE (RED BANK), THE RECORD COLLECTOR (BORDENTOWN) and yes, even the dreaded PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE (PRINCETON). id also include the NEW YORK record stores GENERATION RECORDS (GREENWICH VILLAGE), ACADEMY RECORD ANNEX (GREENPOINT) and LOONEY TUNES (WEST BABYLON) as well as the PHILADELPHIA store REPO RECORDS (SOUTH STREET) in the mix as well. unfortunately none of these stores have live in-store performances at the same level of impact as VINTAGE VINYL.
a little over a year later it still feels like a loss.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
in the right circumstances i think its all good when a corporate entity that has a relationship with a SUBCULTURE attempts to get some good marketing going by using its platform and advertising muscle to promote it.
such is the case with VANS which obviously has a long-standing relationship with the SKATE, SURF and BMX communities that has only flourished since the 1960s. makes perfect sense for them to develop a series of performance videos to showcase talent associated with those scenes.
kudos for creativity to whomever decided to have the bands play in a shoebox. its a great idea. i look forward to watching these whenever they come out irrespective of the band.
the following embedded below are what i consider the highlights of the ongoing SIDESTRIPE SESSIONS series. enjoy!
parodies by nacrowe
the often maligned but irresistible sub-genre of POP PUNK is a sound that dates back to the very roots of PUNK ROCK with THE RAMONES and THE BUZZCOCKS back in the 1970s. check out HERE as we celebrate guilt-free the groups that have carried on the torch the last few decades mixing classic song structures and melody with the energy, excitement and aggression of classic PUNK ROCK.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.