Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Field Report (7/12/08): The Musical Adventures of Racer and Pope JTE


When we set out on this trek, Racer and I had no intention of including it as a Field Report. After some discussion over piping hot Venti latte’s from that big green and white caffeinated teat, we decided, ‘Hey, this adventure is a music related, Ripple Effect sponsored expedition. Let’s share with the Waveriders. Originally, the Field Report was supposed to be for capturing a live performance or two, but there’s nothing stating in our by-laws that the forum can’t be tweaked a bit. So, here you have it . . . a day in the life of Racer and Pope getting together and embracing all that is music.

Knowing that I had a good hour to hour and a half before Racer landed at John Wayne airport in Orange County, I figured that this would be a good time to assess one of the discs that’s been staring laser beams into my skull for the better part of a month. I threw in the debut disc from a San Diego outfit called Wasting June.

Funny little story about this one . . . Mrs. Pope and I went to dinner one fateful Friday night at the Stone Brewery, located a hop, skip, and jump from our residence, and this disc (Mortadella) from Wasting June was stacked in the gift shop. Seeing a CD is pretty much a sure fired way to get me asking questions, so naturally, I asked dude-at-the-register what the CD was all about. He told me that it was a band that featured one of the wait staff, and it was kinda’ metal, kinda’ cool. That wasn’t a lot to go off of. When someone says “kinda’ metal,” that could mean a lot of different things. Was it thrash metal? Was it extreme metal? Was it pop metal? Was it metal at all? So, like a good adventurer, I grabbed my Indiana Jones hat, bull whip, and leather jacket, reached deep into my ever so deep pockets, and withdrew a crumpled ten dollar bill. I figured, at worst, this was my contribution to supporting the arts.

As I made my way up I-5, Mortadella began its second spin, and I found it a worthy travel companion. Wasting June are a poppy, punky, rock outfit that incorporate a bunch of sounds, both modern and retro. I hear a great deal of Police influence, especially in the first track”Pretty Little Poison Vial of Death.” It’s up beat tempo was good for the no man’s stretch through Camp Pendleton and the pass through San Onofre. By the time the second full spin came and went, I had decided that this disc will take up permanent residence with the rest of my children. Check them out for yourselves. Their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/wastingjune) has five of the seven tracks to listen to. Oh . . . and they are so far from being metal that it’s silly. I may have to go back to the gift shop with a pile of metal CD’s and show dude-at-the-register what metal is so that he can never confuse patrons again.

Once I picked up Racer from the airport rendezvous point, we trucked our way through minor Saturday traffic towards the planet known as Hollywood. Our first stop was to be at The Grove in Hollywood, a sprawling shopping Mecca built on the grounds of an old farmers market. Tucked between a Barnes & Noble and a movie theater, Richard Barone was set to perform excerpts from his book, fittingly titled, “Frontman.” When we got there, we didn’t really know what we were in for, but we did know that former Three’s Company actress, Joyce DeWitt, was somehow involved. Strange bed fellows? Sure. But, it turns out that Richard Barone and Joyce DeWitt are old chums, and Richard enlisted her help to read some passages from the book while he strummed the ole acoustic six string. Richard’s voice was in great form as he dove into some classics from his Bongos and solo career, and Joyce was the bubbly personality that I grew up watching in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. After the twenty minute performance, Racer and I went up to introduce ourselves, and found two of the most gracious people one could ever hope to meet. The highlight of the afternoon, other than finally beating a nasty headache into submission, was when Joyce squeezed my bicep. Doesn’t get too much closer to heaven, folks. www.myspace.com/richardbarone

Once the pleasantries were over, we grabbed a quick bite at a fairly pricey coffee bistro, and made our way deeper into the heart of Hollywood. Earlier in the day, I had written down a couple of addresses for record stores, and having a fairly good navigation system taking up residence in my skull, I was able to get us from point A to point B with relative ease. As made our way eastward on Melrose, Racer and I found ourselves in awe of our surroundings. Sure, we’d been to Hollywood before, but it had been some time, and unless one lives that life day in and day out . . . well, it just becomes a mind fuck once it’s revisited.


We found the first store nestled in with a bunch of other store fronts, and it was the littered pile of fliers for rock concerts that told us that we had found the right place. That and the big sign that said Headline Records. Now . . . this is one of the coolest record stores that I’ve happened upon in many years. As we walked in, we were assailed with a wave of heat, almost as if the store had been closed up so that there was no cross ventilation. Lack of cross ventilation wasn’t really the factor here, it was just bloody hot! The ceiling was covered with t-shirts from all the bands that you’d expect to see in any self respecting record store that specializes in punk rock and underground sounds. Posters in the windows, CD’s neatly organized from one dark side to the dingy other, vinyl 12” and 7” records filled up the other vacancies. We were blown away by the shear amount of material before us. But, what really made Headline Records special was the amount of punk rock knowledge and stunning personality of John and Ken. We didn’t get a chance to pick John’s brain too much, but Ken pulled names and dates out of seemingly nowhere to answer our questions. Ken is a punk rock super computer . . . and a hell of a nice guy, at that. Racer walked out with some Stiff Little Fingers (the band, not the appendages) and Dead Kennedy’s, while I finally satisfied the need to have Suicidal’s first album on CD. When you’re in the L.A. area, stop in and say hi to the guys . . . Headline Records, 7706 Melrose Ave. http://www.headlinerecords.com/


Smiling, but far from satisfied with our haul, we took off towards a store that we knew from past experience would give us our fill. We made our way to Amoeba Records (http://www.amoebarecords.com) on Sunset Blvd. Next to Rasputin’s in the Bay Area, Amoeba is the place that The Ripple Effect runs to refill the barren stock room. If you’ve never been to a store like this, the thing that you’ll need to remember is, bring nourishment and relieve yourself prior to flipping through miles and miles of miscellaneous CD’s. And, whoever is out there saying that people don’t buy CD’s anymore is a big, fat, propagandist working in cahoots with the digital media. The sound of plastic CD covers clicking upon one another drowned out the sound of the alt-retro-electronica that was blaring over the store’s P.A. system. We had to muscle our way down the aisles just to see what the store had to offer. It was fuckin’ great! Four hours later, Racer and I had thirty albums apiece in our baskets. Some we knew, some we didn’t, but the important thing here was that we had fun talking about music and getting excited about stuff that we knew little to nothing about. Was the next great Ripple find in one of our baskets? Only time will tell. But, one thing was glaringly apparent. I had forgotten one of my own rules. After four hours of digging through piles and piles of randomly assorted CD’s, well . . . I had to piss to the point that I was afraid there was gonna’ be a clean up on aisle four. Fear not, Waveriders. Fluid was not spilled in areas where fluids shouldn’t have been.

By the time we exited Amoeba, Racer was beginning to look a bit ashen. It appears he forgot one of the rules, too! Since we were supposed to meet up with one of the Ripple mainstays in Heavy Water Experiments (www.myspace.com/heavywaterexperiments), we decided that we better stop and grab a bite to eat before driving another half hour east. We found a little funky Mexican joint on Sunset and had a nice meal. Too nice, apparently. By the time we paid our bill and made it back to the ole Pope mobile, it was inching past nine o’clock. With time working against us, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and made the call to David with HWE. He was disappointed that we couldn’t make it out to see them, but understood our predicament. We vowed that we would do it right next time and be able to spend some quality time hangin’ out, listening to music, jammin’ on tunes, pickin’ their brains on how they created such an awesome album. You know . . . just doing it right.

The journey home was a hodge podge of samplings from various items that Racer randomly picked out of plastic shopping bags. Bands we heard for the first leg of the journey included Brain Police (UK), A.J. Croce, Priestess, and the holy-crap-what-is-this- Dub Trio. These guys actually blew me away and I can’t wait for Racer to give that one a few more spins. The second leg of the midnight run was supposed to be a metal freak-out, just so that we could keep our eyes open (there’s just something unsafe about driving with one’s eyes closed.) What we found as we shot through the darkened freeways of Orange County was that Byzantine was the most phenomenal metal band that graced God’s green earth. I had picked up their first album, The Fundamental Component, and we marveled at the technical musicianship from start to finish. At one point, we replayed the intro to one of the songs three times just to get a better grasp of the time signature. We still have no idea what time the tune was in, and all we can really do is sit back and smile about it. Eventually, and I’m not sure how this happened, Racer fell asleep through the heavy metal barrage and awoke immediately as the last note spilled from the speakers.

We pulled into the homestead, exhausted, and found Mrs. Pope waiting patiently for us. She ensured that our beds were made all nice and neat, and tucked us in with a gentle pat on the heads. That night, err . . . morning, we slept with dreams of CD’s clicking in our heads and the intros to 60 reviews racing through our vocabulary. All was right with the world. - Pope JTE

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