photo by veronica serrano
its crazy seeing all the shortages of things like toilet paper and basic food stuffs happen stateside these days, basically because i've experienced it all before.
this is the kind of thing i saw happen in the mid 90s during the isolated military regime of SANI ABACHA in NIGERIA and in VENEZUELA shortly after the death of HUGO CHAVEZ when NICOLAS MADURO took over in 2013. in both cases once you saw a desired product on a shelf you knew it was only a matter of time (usually within hours) that such would be gone to return who knows when.
in NIGERIA the company my father worked for got around this with large annual shipments (one per family) that were sent via international container ships that would take months at a time. you'd fill these things up by weight stateside during the summer and then see them in AFRICA in late autumn. it was crazy because you'd purchase a year's worth of any particular item (candy, napkins, detergent, etc). but it worked and meant you weren't relying on the local market for basic necessities, which was a good thing given the corruption of the military dictatorship of the time.
recent photo by nacrowe somewhere in new jersey
VENEZUELA was a different experience altogether in that i entered the country during a time of immense upheaval and change. CHAVEZ during his reign had nationalized various industries and kicked out foreign investment in things like oil and manufacturing. the UNITED STATES in particular used to manufacture napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in the country and after CHAVEZ' decision they merely relocated the factories to COLOMBIA (which in turn assisted in stabilizing their economy). i taught for two years there and over that time their currency spiraled out of control. the inflation was the highest in the world. since 2016 their currency has inflated 53,798,500%.
so what does that mean in human terms? it means people don't save, they spend because every day you wait the money has less value. prices are always climbing and basic common necessities like bread, food stuffs and household paper products are out of range for most to buy. during the end of my time there i went to COLOMBIA for a job conference. during my time in BOGOTA i brought two bodybags with me and filled them with deodorant, toilet paper and HARINA PAN (a cornmeal used in arepas, empanadas, etc). when flying back in VENEZUELA the officials there asked me point blank if i had any of the items on a checklist in my possession (the first three items being DEODORANT, TOILET PAPER and HARINA PAN). they weren't looking for drugs or weapons. i told them i didn't have any of those and they didnt check.
i brought those back to the school i worked at and over a few days passed them all out equally to the workers at my school. these included the gardeners, custodians, clerks, guards, drivers, etc. essentially i was handing them commodities that would appreciate with time and be worth more than their paycheck.
think about that. toilet paper, deodorant and cornmeal. now i don't think that the UNITED STATES will ever get to this level, but what i did learn in these situations is the resilience and dignity of NIGERIANS and VENEZUELANS i met. they really saw their individual needs in the context of their families and greater networks of friends. these desperate situations showcased what a true community was all about. i did what i could in VENEZUELA to the people i was around, but things have gotten much much worse since then and the rise of TRUMP has only made things worse.
not a day goes by i don't think of VENEZUELA. my goal is to return one day. NIGERIA i hear from friends has gotten much better as the government has succeeded in changing over its power a few times in fair elections, bringing in foreign investment. im glad that is the case.
portrait photos by ben
way back in the fall of 2009 i took a teaching job in kuwait. at that point i was newly graduated from COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and armed with an education masters degree and a few recommendations from BROOKLYN TECH. unfortunately there was a hiring freeze due to the recession which meant finding work was next to impossible. so i looked abroad and ended up teaching at my former high school.
i lasted all but three months. it was my worst job to date. but i will save that story for another time. two months into my stay the emir at the time decided with virtually no notice that the whole country was getting an extended weekend off, so i found myself with something like a 6 day window to do something. i ended up quickly getting tickets to JORDAN.
my neighbor and fellow teaching peer came with me which was a good thing, as he was wayyyyy into JESUS. normally that would be a disaster, but given all the old testament stuff that happened in JORDAN regarding MOSES, KING HEROD, SALOME, JOHN THE BAPTIST, etc. it was nice to have someone versed on the subject. lord knows i wasnt since i never paid attention in catholic school.
video by nacrowe
when we got there we ended up taking an illegal taxi around the country, which in retrospect was beyond stupid. but it worked. going to the DEAD SEA, PETRA and AQABA, we went through numerous military checkpoints and told the officers that the driver was our cousin. i still do not know how i wasn't arrested.
im glad i took the trip because years later i went to ISRAEL and basically saw the other major biblical sights on the other side of the DEAD SEA. my interest as an english teacher at the time was just to experience the history of it all. experiencing the narrative by visiting places like MACHAERUS (historical site of the beheading of JOHN THE BAPTIST and SALOME's dance of the seven veils ) and MOUNT NEBO (where MOSES completed his prophecy of seeing ISRAEL and then dying on the spot). whether or not i believe any of it (i don't) is beside the point. irregardless of the religious significance, i was always attentive and interested on a narrative level. trips like these i regularly used as fodder for my classroom when applicable.
BEDOUIN photo by nacrowe
my favorite memory of this trip was when we randomly met up with two married couples (one AMERICAN, the other CANADIAN) from our school in PETRA and followed them to AQABA in the south by ISRAEL, EGYPT and SAUDI ARABIA. i still have a scar on my hand from bumping into fire coral while snorkeling down there. on the way back to AMMAN (the capitol) the AMERICAN husband was speeding and making everyone carsick, namely the CANADIAN wife. at one point he didn't see a speed bump and everyone in the back of the van shot up in the air. unfortunately for her, the CANADIAN wife hit her head. at that point the CANADIAN couple were politely asking the AMERICAN husband driving to stop so she could vomit. he wouldn't listen and kept speeding because, well, i still have no idea. it was all ego basically.
PETRA photos by nacrowe
after watching the CANADIAN couple futilely ask repeatedly i yelled out "HEY FUCKO, PULL OVER!" which he did immediately. the CANADIANS were impressed. after she threw up outside and came back on board i tried to explain to them that AMERICANS are not much for subtlety, we are a boorish people that need to be hit over the head with the obvious.
when i quit my job a month later this couple gave me a CANADIAN flag to put on my backpack in transit so that people wouldnt think i was AMERICAN in the airports. easily one of the nicest compliments i've ever been given overseas.
promos by nacrowe
in my opinion, one of the clear high water marks of the DEER GOD RADIO program on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC insofar has been the episode dedicated to classic 70s and 80s FUNK back in JANUARY 2019. seriously, if these songs don't move you, you have issues. like serious issues. you may be dead.
easily one of my favorite shows i've done with arguably some of the better promotional materials i've created to date. i still listen to this playlist regularly and it hasnt failed to put me in a good mood.
just free your mind and your ass will follow.
back in the winter of 2019 when we were engaged in the filming, mixing and editing of our live performance video series OFF THE M we came across THE EASTERN CONDITION, which was the POST-HARDCORE/METALCORE house band (of sorts) at TRANS-PECOS. this would prove to be the last one we made and although it is short in length, it punches bigger than its weight in overall brutality and visual effect chaos.
looking back, this series was a blast to make and it was cool getting acquainted with rising bands in the local scene of various genres. looking forward should the opportunity arise again to do something similar.
parody by nacrowe
waaaay back in november 2018(!), BRIAN and i did our 20th episode of DEER GOD RADIO on the 90s BRITPOP movement, which is something near and dead to my heart.
growing up overseas in NIGERIA during the mid 90s, i had the pleasure of spending time in ENGLAND visiting extended family. being AMERICAN, its hard to relate how disorienting it is to be in a country that speaks your language (hell, they invented it) yet has few of your cultural references. people call that culture shock, but for me it was always the most exhilirating part of the process of being abroad since over time you acquiesce to their culture and these blindspots disappear.
regardless it was around the mid 90s when i was introduced to ELASTICA, OASIS, PULP, BLUR, SUEDE, SLEEPER, LUSH, SUPERGRASS, PRIMAL SCREAM, RADIOHEAD, PLACEBO, SAINT ETIENNE, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and various other groups from the BRITPOP scene as well as other electronic groups like MASSIVE ATTACK and PORTISHEAD from the coastal TRIP HOP scene. not to mention THE PRODIGY who emerged concurrently from the underground electronica scene at the time. it was quite the time and these bands were part of the soundtrack to my years living in NIGERIA with peers that were probably more indebted to the BRITISH sphere of influence than the AMERICAN one.
this show i embedded below goes into the roots and legacy of the scene, which you can also read about in my BOOK REVIEW of JON HARRIS' BRITPOP: COOL BRITANNIA & THE SPECTACULAR DEMISE OF ENGLISH ROCK as well as past SPOTLIGHT features GRAHAM COXON and ELASTICA. i have future shows planned on exploring my favorite various groups from this period as well, so look forward to that as well. endlessly fascinating for me as it was a diverse period with top-notch songwriting all around and was arguably the last time ROCK N ROLL had any large scale cultural or political sway in the UNITED KINGDOM.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
given that our friends in CHARMING DISASTER will be returning to blessed shores of STATEN ISLAND next month for a secret-ish gig (check HERE for details), it seemed a good time to look back at the shoot we collaborated with them on for their "BLACKSNAKE" video (embedded below) at the KREISCHER MANSION on a bitterly frigid night last winter.
if my memory serves me correct, we shot from sunset to sunrise in that dilapidated old 19th century victorian structure that, not surprisingly, did not have central heating. it was intense.
they were familiar with the space as we had shot them a few months before as part of our KREISCHER MANSION SESSIONS live performance video series (embedded below) and had a written a script that took visual advantage of various rooms, corridors and foyers throughout. i've learned that it is always enjoyable to work with people who know what they want, as it narrows the gig to executing a common vision. this was an exhausting but fun shoot and we were excited about the final project they edited together. special thanks to ELIA, JEFF & JOSH.
come see them play next month and check out their latest single "Longest Night of the Year."
back in october 2014 i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit RIO DE JANEIRO during a school break while i was teaching in VENEZUELA. seeing BRASIL was always a goal going back to my days growing in NIGERIA. right before i moved to AFRICA, american schoolmates of mine took VARIG AIRLINES through BRASIL (as opposed to LUFTHANSA through GERMANY) as their connection point to flying out to AFRICA. everyone that had been to SAO PAULO or RIO DE JANEIRO spoke of how similar it was to WEST AFRICA, so i was always curious moving forward.
my time in VENEZUELA found me arriving during the beginning of a historic financial collapse that saw their currency go from 1 USD/6 BOLIVARES to 1 USD/20 BOLIVARES in my first year. the second year i believe it went up to 80. this mean tickets flying in an out of VENEZUELA were cheap. roundtrip tickets to BRASIL costed somewhere around $300 if i remember correctly. just insane. i remember that because i took a 20-minute sightseeing helicopter ride in RIO DE JANEIRO (see bottom photo) that cost more than the flight there and back from CARACAS. again, just ridiculous. and beyond tragic for VENEZUELA. because of this, i ended up going with a colleague from school that was fluent in PORTUGUESE and had visited RIO DE JANEIRO the previous year. much like CARACAS, this was not a place i wanted to be found inadvertently wandering in the wrong neighborhood.
upon arriving we went to the MARACANA, which is the world-famous football stadium where PELE once played. it is basically the MECCA of world football, period. we went on a tour and then learned a game was that afternoon, so we stayed to see FLAMINGO play their SAO PAULO rival. people in the UNITED STATES talk about fans going crazy, but they really have no clue. BRAZILIAN football fans are on another level. the game is just a prologue for whose fans can out passionate the other. drums blaring and people dancing was going on long before the game ever started. next to me stood a grandmother holding her infant granddaughter sawing to the beat. once the game was underway this passion turned to venom as i learned sooooo many PORTUGUESE swear words in a short order, all directed at the referees. "BOHA" was constantly being screamed by this grandmother as she muffled her newborn grandchild's ears. just insanity.
i could go on about all the touristy stuff i did there, but in essence my big takeaway from my time in RIO DE JANEIRO was how much of a microcosm that place is for much of what i saw in LATIN AMERICA in general. there is a real "live in the moment" feel to that place that is certainly palpable. violence always seemed to be around the corner, we even witnessed an armed assailant rob a bus two blocks ahead of us while walking in the financial district one day.
we stayed in an air bnb located in-between both of the iconic beaches, but to our back was a notorious favela that had one street access point that was heavily monitored by BRAZILIAN TROOPS, complete with a tank. there was also a sense of people chasing physical beauty everywhere, which again carried a desperate "live in the moment" feel to it, not unlike what i witnessed in VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA or whole swathes of EASTERN EUROPE. it was intimidated yet sad at the same time to see that.
and that was my take on BRASIL. impossibly beautiful with a kinetic, contagious energy that seems as much about nerves and fear of the future as it is about living life at a phrenetic, unyielding clip.
if interested, more pictures from this trip are available to be viewed HERE.
been a fan of JANE'S ADDICTION since my teens and are my all-time favorite rock band. only THE SMITHS and DEVO, two very different bands, come close in admiration.
luckily i've gotten to see the band play in various iterations over the years, but none more bizarre than a 2015 gig in TOKYO at OZZFEST 2015. first off, the show itself was all kinds of strange as you had two main stages, one with american bands of various genres like A DAY TO REMEMBER, HATEBREED, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and OZZY & FRIENDS and the other japanese bands, namely BABY METAL. japanese metal is weird, its all mixed with J-POP music so there is lots of hand-clapping and choreographed dance moves. BABY METAL has a legit rhythm section so they absolutely crushed, if you ever get the chance definitely hit up their live gigs. BLACK SABBATH had to back out due to health concerns surrounding TONY IOMMI's battle with lymphoma, so essentially OZZY & FRIENDS was the legendary singer with his band plus guest guitarists DAVE NAVARRO, TOM MORELLO and his first performance with ZAKK WYLDE in over 10 years. too bad OZZY sounded awful. he just sounded old and tired. i left early.
but my reason for going was strictly JANE'S ADDICTION. living in the greater LOS ANGELES area in my formative years, i have memories of riding around with my dad heading off to soccer games in at-risk MEXICAN soccer leagues listening to K-ROQ blasting songs off RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990). to me, JANE'S ADDICTION is LOS ANGELES, the land of my youth.
the show was great with the requisite dancers and swinging models fearlessly suspended above the fray with hooks in their backs (a then-recent hobby of guitarist DAVE NAVARRO). it was everything you'd expect from them, something a bit raunchy, dangerous and obscure to go with a setlist made up primarily of their transcendent genre-defining efforts NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) and RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL. if they never do anything of merit again, those two records are canonical in my opinion.
so in summation, having attended several OZZFESTS in the early 00s, this version had little of the feeling of those events which was as much due to the lineup as it was about the location. it was more like a LOLLAPALOOZA/OZZFEST hybrid which was fine by me, although historically a bit absurd given that OZZFEST was created by SHARON OSBOURNE after not being able to secure her husband/client OZZY a gig on one of the initial LOLLAPALOOZA. regardless, i had a great time soaking in the absurdity of it all and JANE'S ADDICTION sounded killer. too bad OZZY had an off night. he really should retire. he more than deserves his time off. ALL HAIL!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
for some reason i was reminded of this anecdote recently and i'm surprised i haven't written about it here before.
for my freshman and sophomore years of high school i attended the NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON SCHOOL in western MASSACHUSETTS. its a private boarding school that, at the time, had a student population of around 2,000 students (now i believe it is closer to 650). i basically couldn't get in now if i wanted to as it went smaller and more exclusive (joining the EIGHT SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, a mirror of the IVY LEAGUE). but back then it had a reputation for being the most liberal of the elite northeast boarding schools having in the past educated the children of MARTIN LUTHER KING, MALCOLM X and even NAT KING COLE when other similar institutions wouldn't due to racism. i attended because my parents lived overseas and attending school where they were stationed in NIGERIA was not an option.
those two years were beyond weird and still affect me to this day. just the privilege and power dynamics that i saw there seem to be on display to me all the time in AMERICAN civic life and none of it deserved. it might be because i was a public school teacher, but witnessing fellow students with straight Cs go on to YALE and HARVARD still churns my stomach when i consider the number of bright, hard-working youth from limited means get turned away. such is life. i'll probably go into it in detail in subsequent posts, but fellow peers at NORTHFIELD included sons and daughters of ambassadors, HOLLYWOOD directors, WHITE HOUSE officials, heads of industry, foreign dignitaries and world leaders. it was a dizzying experience at point in my life when i was still figuring out who was.
so here's an example of a typical NORTHFIELD random event. our school had a chaplain, which was a holdover from the school's initial mid-19th century roots as a seminary founded by famed evangelist DWIGHT L MOODY. the chaplain was non-denominational and not even associated with a particular religion, in fact she was a graduate of HARVARD SEMINARY and was married to NOEL PAUL STOOKEY of PETER, PAUL & MARY fame. he lived on campus as an "artist-in-residence."
once a year he would play for all the students, which was quite the sight. this old bald dude with an acoustic guitar, from a bygone era, connecting brilliantly with the most jaded of crowds. just to give you a sense of how privileged this student body was, past guest speakers when i was there included MAYA ANGELOU and KEN BURNS.
i vividly remember STOOKEY introducing a song saying, "contrary to public opinion, this song is not about drugs" to which he played the introductory chords to "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." all my dorm-mates looked at each muttering under our collective breath "yeah right." he also played "LEAVING ON A JET PLANE" and "RIGHT FIELD" and others, but honestly nobody cared. everyone was there to hear "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." and everyone sang. like everyone. me included. and i am the last person to ever sing in unison at a big collective event. but this was different. it was "PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON." didn't hit me until later what a feat he pulled, as i was often asleep or near sleep at those formal school meetings, all dressed up in my sport jacket and all. ugh.
so there you have it. just one instance of my very odd high school years in boarding school and beyond. to be continued.
our friends in DOLLTITS recently released the first of two EPS entitled VALLEY OF THE DOLLTITS which is available on all streaming services. the new material is very much in keeping with past material in that they provide intelligent, often eviscerating lyrics dealing with caustic themes such as INSECURITY, FEMALE EMPOWERMENT, TOXIC MASCULINITY (and CATS!). sung with sweet, lilting melodies, these songs are buttressed by odd instrumentation, often ukulele and auto-harp that switch between both THERINA and MAGIE.
these songs feel more filled out sonically with more prominent bass and drumming which helps provide a counterpoint to THERINA's megavoice. this new direction was showcased at their recent RELEASE PARTY at SEARCH PARTY STUDIO which found them rounded out by bass/backup vocals (EMMY TASTIC), drums (MIKE HELL GAMBINO), and a very theremin-like saw played by BRIAN MCGOWAN.
i really enjoyed this batch of new songs and can't wait to hear where they are going next with their sound on the next EP.