17th Anniversary of WTO Riots

I was hoping to wait until next year to commemorate the anniversary of the biggest riots in the history of Seattle, but for some reason this year it feels right…

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jello Biafra, Krist Novoselic, Kim Thayil and Gina Mainwal performed a show on December 1, 1999, the day after the first night of the WTO Riots, which were protesting the meeting of the World Trade Organization.

The whole world was watching.  Starbucks’ were busted up.  Niketown was vandalized.

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Sharon Jones: 1956 – 2016

Lead singer of the Dap Kings, Sharon Jones has lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She was first diagnosed in 2013, and after losing her hair to chemotherapy, performed bald, putting her struggle front and center.

In 2015, her cancer returned and she again began chemotherapy.

Here’s Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings performing “Retreat” at Glasonbury 2014, one of my favorite songs from that year.

Fuck cancer, y’all.

An open letter to Zach de la Rocha

To:  Zach de la Rocha

CC:  Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Tom Morello

 

With the inauguration of Donald Trump about 2 months away, those of us who are still grappling with that reality need some good, high energy raging against this machine.

Mr. de la Rocha, I know that you have been working on a solo album.  “Digging for Windows” sounded amazing and I can hardly wait to hear more.  The rest of your band mates were busy over the summer performing with Chuck D and B Real as Prophets of Rage, and it sounded great, but it felt like an essential ingredient was missing.

What is needed to happen before January 20th is an announcement of a day long, free concert in Washington DC by (and I’m throwing out several possibilities here, fully realizing that some people would be pulling double- or triple-duty):  The Nightwatchman, Prophets of Rage, Run the Jewels, One Day as a Lion, Public Enemy, and Rage Against the Machine.

After that point in time, we need a full blown reunion of RATM, getting back into the studio and Raging against some fucking machine.  If you all could fill three of the best albums of the 90s with material from the Bill Clinton years, imagine what will come out of the Trump years!  Pump out albums right on top of each other.  Flood the radio with singles about mass deportation, screening immigrants for religious backgrounds, taking people off health care rolls, limiting access to abortion rights…the list could go on for entirely too long.

Alternative Rock radio sorely needs a hardcore liberal moral compass with a built in fanbase these next four years .  There will be plenty of incidences to insight rage, rebellion and  point out indignities.  Few artists are in a better place to provide than you are.

The Prophets of Rage concerts at the RNC and DNC over the summer were entirely justified and necessary.  Their motto was “Make America Rage Again”.  We still need that and what better place than here, what better time than now.

Sincerely,

 

Seattle Music Nerd

An open letter to President-Elect Trump

Dear Donald Trump-

I am a liberal voter, from a liberal city, from a liberal county, from a liberal state.  As such, I did not vote for you.  Before eventually casting my vote for Hillary Clinton, I took a long and hard look at Jill Stein.

However, I accept the fact that you will be the leader of the United States for at least the next 4 years.  Below is a list by which I will be judging your governance.  It is by no means a complete list, as neither you nor I can foresee everything that will come up in the next several years.  Being a social liberal, it’s a list of things about which I care deeply.

1)  Make health care work better.

I would rather see you working within the current framework to improve health coverage for those in need than repealing what exists and replacing it with an entirely different system.  Some of your ideas sound plausible; allowing people to get coverage across state lines, publishing/standardizing costs of procedures, having various levels of coverage based upon the perception of need.  Any of these would make health care better and improve upon what is already in place, rather than starting again from scratch.

2)  Don’t change anything about gay rights.

You and Mike Pence may not agree with the concept of homosexual marriage, but it is a right which has been fought for and won within the framework of the Constitution.  You don’t have to like it, but they are entitled to their pursuit of happiness, as much as you are entitled to yours.

3)  Defend abortion rights.

Again, you and your party may not be warm to the idea of access to abortions, but for over 40 years now, untold numbers of women, for their own reasons, have depended upon that right.  It has been their choice, not that of the government, where, whether, and why they seek an abortion.  Don’t imperil that right under pressure from your own party.

4)  Give Hispanics who are here illegally a chance to become citizens.

Many are here because they want to be here, earning a living for their families, providing a better life than they would have otherwise faced back in their countries of origin.  Even if they were told they had to go to the back of the line for citizenship applications, I’m sure millions would jump at the chance.  It’s a lot better than no path or mass deportation, and it makes you look magnanimous.  If they choose not to follow that path, and are then stopped or arrested after a given time frame, then they would face harsh penalties.  You never know, you may even increase the Republican percentage of the Hispanic vote if you do so.

5)  Make a whole-hearted attempt to fix police violence against unarmed Americans.

I understand that police have to constantly be thinking about worst-case scenarios, but that doesn’t mean that every situation should be treated as such.  I have an Autistic son.  Not that I think it would ever happen, but if he were ever in a position where he was asked to drop what he was carrying (whatever it may be) and put his hands up, I don’t think he’d understand what was being asked.  I’d hate for the police to interpret that as non-compliance or a sign of aggression.  Likewise, the color of a person’s skin should not be any factor in how the police assess the person.  This is one where I don’t know how to fix it, but it’s a problem that needs to be addressed, regardless of who is in charge.

6)  Don’t over burden the taxes of the middle- and lower- income Americans.

I am the sole income earner for a 5 member household.  As such, paychecks are tight, food budget is restrictive, and every year we look forward to being able to do things with our tax return.  If tax law were to change radically, whether by changing the amount of child credits or taking away mortgage interest deduction, or increasing the rate by which the poor and middle-class are required to contribute, it would be a burden not just on me, but on millions of Americans.  One that can be wholly avoided.  I propose that, in order to increase income and decrease the deficit, the easiest thing to do is add another marginal tax rate that only effects the wealthiest American, yourself included.  Make a higher tax rate for anything over $1 million or $5 million, something that would change rates for almost nobody, but would bring in more money for the federal government.

7)  Don’t pretend climate change doesn’t exist.

The fact that every year, the planet is setting records as “the warmest on records” should serve as a warning that the planet is warming.  It shouldn’t be dismissed as thermometers getting more accurate, or more temperatures being taken in hotter places thereby increasing the average reading.  The Paris Climate Agreement was a landmark of the world coming together to attempt to preserve the environment, and whether conservatives believe the science or not, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Making cars more fuel efficient may be hard work for the car companies, but ignoring the need to do so only speeds up the day when there will no longer be enough gasoline to meet demand.  Give car companies incentives for surpassing fuel efficiency standards.  Keep tax credits for Americans who wish to make their home more efficient or “green”.  Encourage the development of renewable energy, hopefully so that it can compete with the fossil fuel industry, thereby making  energy options better for everybody.  If nothing else, think of it from a businesses monetary concerns as opposed to strictly scientific.

8)  Have compassion for Syrian Refugees wanting in on the American Dream.

I’m not saying “let them all in”, but don’t go the opposite direction either.  The overwhelming percentage of people fleeing that region are doing so because they have seen and/or experienced horrific things.  By giving the refugees a chance to prove themselves, they as a group will not let America down.  Islam is not the problem in and of itself, yet the people who poison the word are a factor.  This country ensures people are granted freedom of religion, even if their choice of religion doesn’t match that of the person in charge.

I suspect many Americans in the coming years will judge you by the policies they deem essential to the functioning of the United States.  Mine are just a sample of those that people find necessary, don’t let politics get in the way of good governance.

Sincerly,

Seattle Music Nerd

Leonard Cohen: 1934 – 2016

I first heard Leonard Cohen on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, as I suspect did many people my age.

“Waiting for the Miracle” and “The Future” were both such stark tracks on an album dominated by Nine Inch Nails and similar (with many exceptions) that I needed to know more.

What I found was “Bird on a Wire”, “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Chelsea Hotel #2”.

What earned him songwriting glory, though, is more widely regarded for somebody who covered it.  “Hallelujah” was a stark song when Leonard Cohen sang it, but Jeff Buckley made it a hymn.

RIP, Mr. Cohen, you’ve earned it.

It was 20 years ago today…November 1996

Johnny Cash: Unchained

Unchained was the second label of covers and re-workings put out by Johnny Cash on the American Recordings label.  The first had featured songs written by Nick Lowe and Glenn Danzig, and was well received within the music world, but the series of recordings between Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash really began to take on a different form with the release of Unchained.

The album was recorded using Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as the backing band, lending their considerable talent to arrangements and suggestions.

I’m going to be honest, I really wanted to review this album so that I could talk about one song.  When I was in high school, I was devouring all the music I could get my hands on, be it the radio or television.  When I came across Johnny Freaking Cash covering Soundgarden, I just about flipped out of my mind.  I knew Johnny Cash as “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire”, all of which are good songs, but not enough for me to dig into 40+ years of the man’s body of recorded work.

Hearing “Rusty Cage” changed all that.  I now count Johnny Cash as one of my all time favorite performers.  Folsom Prison Blues is on my “must own” vinyl list.  All because I heard him covering a song I considered to be well outside his usual sphere of influence.

Word has it, producer Rick Rubin, generally known for his work as a rap producer, when he stumbled across a song he thought would sound good as a stripped down song with Johnny Cash’s distinctive voice, he would record a demo.  If Cash had heard Soundgarden’s version of “Rusty Cage”, he would have thought it was trash, but hearing a demo with acoustic guitars and the lyrics front and center, he decided to cover the song.  What he provided is a commanding performance of a stereotypical “grunge” song and turned it into a traditional country ballad.

Unchained would go on to win the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Album, beating out such competitors as Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless, George Strait and Dwight Yoakam.  It validated the work Rick Rubin was doing in choosing to work with Johnny Cash.  More than that, thought, it proved that an old traditional country artist could still provide something newsworthy within the music scene.

Unchained was the album that got me in to Johnny Cash, a debt for which I am eternally grateful.  It also warmed me to country music, for which I have since found my love of the Dixie Chicks, among other artists.  Owing to the interest generated through the years, Soundgarden now dedicates “Rusty Cage” to The Man in Black at their concerts.

 

Cass McCombs releases NSFW video for new single

Cass McCombs, whose career I have been following since he released the album Humor Risk, just released a video for his new single which features porn stars in their natural environment.

The video shows several different stars in tender and intimate situations, showing that professional porn stars frequently work hard and enjoy their profession.

Here’s a live version of the first song I heard by Cass McCombs, titled “Mystery Mail”.