September 27, 2009
MUSICIANS ON MUSIC
Musicians On Music is a weekly column in which we feature exactly that: musicians, both local and national, writing about music, the industry, other people’s music, or whatever they feel like writing. This week we feature Mike, Nick, and Frank from In, one of the most exciting – though least internet-searchable – new bands cropping up in Brooklyn. Our writer Drew Citron sat down with In last week, where they talked about trying to understand the ’80s. This week In continues their quest by examining one particular ’80s phenomenon: the Pizza Jam.
For a brief period between the early ’80s and the early ’90s – our childhoods – pizza was the flagship token of the tyke zeitgeist. This was when the mechanics of massive-scale corporate food production and commercial television were in full swing, mostly unchecked and uncriticized. The possibility of a certain kind of instantaneous common experience, minted in movies and proliferated in broadcast TV, had become mundane, elementary. We were getting reamed by the capitalist machine, but we were kids: there’s an honest intimacy to any crucial developmental experience, and a huge portion of ours was spent under the influence of the advertising aesthetics of the day. And so often, we were served pizza, with bright colors, a way-cool demeanor, and a subtly slamming soundtrack. These last – the pizza jams – became a part of our first language, as instrumental as “Uh-oh,” and “Mommy.”
We don’t want to revere pizza in particular – the Ninja Turtles turned it into a godhead, and we’ll leave that kowtowing in the sewer – it’s a useful locus; it’s got its greasy imprint all over late-20th century issues of post-Spockian child-rearing, technology and literacy, gender, violence in the media, the apex of the fast food nation, the rancid dream of free-market economics, and, in retrospect, authorship and the epistemology of art-making. For lots of attentive people of a certain age and demographic, the term “Pizza Jam” barely needs explication. We know it’s that pizza sound that gets kids moving as fast as their legs’ll get them to the nearest Hut. It’s that carefree vibe cut through with visions of gooey cheese and extra pepperoni. No anchovies, no worries. You eat this stuff with your fingers. You put your elbows on the table. You do some armpit farts. Whatever.
More on Pizza Jams: Soundtracking the Fantasy of the Everyday
September 13, 2009
MUSICIANS ON MUSIC
Musicians On Music is a weekly feature in which we feature exactly that: musicians, both local and national, writing about music, the industry, other people’s music, or whatever they feel like writing. This week we feature Helen Buyniski, who toured the summer festivals with the Mickey Western Band and Lady Circus’s The Rusted Gun Saloon. Here, as the festival season ends, she details what that was like.
How do you prepare for a week spent under the stars, surrounded by Phish fans, mud, and eco-friendly bio-degradable plastic cups? You don’t. You buy a tent at the last minute and ignore reality until you’re under the fluorescent interrogation lights of a 24-hour WalMart in a Tennessee surburb at 4 a.m., five minutes away from the festival gates. You glance at the camping supplies piled miles high in the aisles, hike for what feels like hours to the bathroom in the back of the store. You come out and realize that despite your loathing of the great outdoors, you will be spending the next week sleeping in a tent.
In June, the Mickey Western Band and Lady Circus were invited to bring our show,“The Rusted Gun Saloon,” to the eighth-annual Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The Mickey Western Band supplied our dark gypsy-folk rock as the soundtrack to the Circus’ performance: a play of aerial acts, stilt- and fire-dances, beds of nails, displays of public drunkenness, and, of course, murder. Perfect for Bonnaroo, a festival characterized by its “peaceful vibe,” recurring appearances by jam band members, and general inescapable hippie associations.
The Mickey Western Band opened Thursday afternoon on the Solar Stage, an environmentally-friendly venue situated inside “Planet Roo.” Roo was the festival’s uber-green eco-enclave, anchored by a massive papier-mache hand grasping a wire globe and emerging from the earth like the avenging zombie limb of a PMS-ing Mother Nature. In keeping with the “green” theme, I wore a clump of silk roses in my hair, but following a sudden cloudburst two songs into our set, these and everything else on stage were soaked. I was able to shelter most of my equipment from the rain and avoid frying myself and my amp, but a wet-stringed violin sounds like cats being tortured and I couldn’t wait to stop playing. The rain confused Mickey so much he played one song twice, but the circus ladies in the audience kept the spectators dancing and watching even as the dance floor turned to mud. Several rounds of applause later, I ran offstage to try to dry off my violin with a number of other wet things. Success!
More on Musicians On Music | Helen Buyniski at Bonnaroo