Category: Music Page 1 of 2

An Evening with Sloan

One Chord to Another 20th Anniversary tour promo image (small) I am very excited for An Evening with SLOAN: the One Chord to Another 20th Anniversary Tour, coming up April 26th at the Rickshaw Stop here in San Francisco. [This was AWESOME, by the way. – JLG, 5/9/16] Most of my past Sloan concert experiences, with a couple notable exceptions, have been solo affairs; this time, happily, I will share it with my friend Chris (to whom I introduced the music of Sloan about 8 years ago by now). Tickets are on sale now for all you Canucks and Canuckophiles out there.

According to Exclaim.ca, your best source for the Canadian music news you crave, “Sloan will play two sets a night, with a full-album performance of One Chord to Another preceding a more general set of ‘hits and fan favourites.'” They played two sets behind their latest album, Commonwealth (a double album), at Rickshaw Stop a little over a year ago, and it was amazing.

As for One Chord to Another (a.k.a. “OCTA”), it has a special place in my heart for many reasons. It was my first Sloan CD, acquired at a record store on St. Mark’s Place over spring break 1997, visiting my childhood best friend Will during his sweet gig as an RA at NYU. I remember listening to it on my Discman on the Gray Line bus on the way back from NYC to Ithaca. In a classic college thing, I’d gotten a ride from Madison to Ithaca and back with a friend I knew from Model UN and a couple of her friends, and the bus from Ithaca was super cheap.

Discmans, the Gray Line from NYC to Ithaca, record stores on St. Mark’s — they are all gone, but Sloan is still together, and at that moment that was unthinkable. Sloan had reportedly recorded OCTA separately and broken up. That was it. Sloan, 1991-1996. Then in 1998 I saw Navy Blues on the shelf at Best Buy or something and I was floored, happy, excited. Thus began an obsession.

In 2001 I made a long-weekend pilgrimage to, well, the other side of the Midwest to see Sloan with Will in both Detroit and Cleveland, the aforementioned notable exceptions. (I made a subdomain for it, for goodness sake.) For that walk down memory lane, read my review.

Ever since, as Dawn and others know quite well, I have followed them faithfully. (If it feels good, do it. So far, so good.) I have seen them in five states, at the Metro in Chicago, the 500 Bar in Minneapolis, Peabody’s Down Under in Cleveland, the then-called State Theater in Detroit, and the Independent, Cafe du Nord, Slim’s, and the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. I have missed a show here and there in the Bay Area, but I think that can be excused.

The Dismemberment Plan play a concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco December 10, 2013

I’m no longer that kind of concertgoer

Or “What is it about concerts? (Part II)”

(Previously, on Gohlkus Maximus.)

When I came up with the idea for writing this blog post, I never dreamed it would take nearly a decade to whip into shape. I also didn’t think I would go nuts at the Fillmore one spring Wednesday in 2008.

I don’t even slightly recall the incident (because why not block it out?), but here’s what I wrote back then: “There I was, minding my own business, rocking out to Death Cab for Cutie, at least 20 minutes into the show. The sound was amazing, I was pretty much able to see the band, and I knew every word to every song except for the new ones. Then some guy, a scant foot taller than me at about 6’4″, shoved past me and stopped right in front of me. I said something to him. He responded noncommittally. And then, I raged.”

That was where I left off in my description. I have no recollection of that incident, nor much else of that night, other than buying the T-shirt I still have. I’m guessing I blocked it out, as I did with much of that difficult time period. (My friend Chris almost certainly remembers, because he was there for that and other delightful interactions I’ve had with strangers. However, for some reason, I lack enthusiasm for hearing another “potentially dangerous things that depressed Jason did” story, and thus have not asked him about it in the five weeks since I rediscovered this draft blog entry.)

I do, however, remember the original idea pretty clearly.

Basically I had conceived of two or three main categories of concertgoers. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you probably can guess what I’m talking about.

You’ve got the enthusiastic early birds who line up before the doors open and camp out immediately in the closest possible spot to the stage (where you can see the musicians much better than you can hear them). One thing to note about standing somewhere for several hours, with the same people around you who got there essentially the same way you did, is that you feel a little comfortable. You may even feel a little entitled. Anyway, there is enough variation within this population that they form a few rows.

Those people who are evidently a bit less driven to absolutely maximize their visual enjoyment of a mostly auditory event (which is fine), well, they file in slowly (usually while the opening band is playing, which is also fine) to sort of loosely fill up the floor. They find a spot, drink their beverages, perhaps create occasional tendrils of smoke, and enjoy the show. Let it not go unsaid: They are cool. They are all right. They may be the ones to aspire to be.

And then. Then there is the other group of people who used to drive me crazy (though it’s fine if you want to argue that I was already crazy). Whenever these big jerks actually arrive at the venue, they use this gambit about two to four songs into the headliner’s set, when people have let down their guard and are focused on the show. (I have always assumed that these people arrive late, but now it occurs to me they may even be more diabolical than I’d suspected.) Perhaps they have never in their lives shown up to a concert early, and maybe they were taught early in life that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and thus they assume everyone got their spot the way they do it. This is what they do: They push and shove their way to the front, physically displacing likely dozens of people on their way to those first few key rows, thus placing them directly in front of one or more of those people who had staked out a spot for, generally, hours.

To a certain very sensitive kind of person, that kind of behavior is very, very upsetting.

Naturally, I was curious tonight if anyone else had taken on this topic in the years since I came up with it, so I searched and found a few pages that (rather superficially, in my opinion) discuss “types of concertgoers” (and by “discuss” I mean make a list with at most a sentence or two per bullet). A couple of them lightly acknowledge and dismiss the kind of jerk I’m talking about here. (“I mean I only stood here for two hours to be in the front, but you, you definitely can go in front of me.”) Yet none of them really focus on what I used to allow to stoke my rage.

That’s the thing: As long as we have people, and concerts, there will always be assholes who push their way to the front of concerts. Most people, when faced with that situation, shrug and say, “glad they’re not in front of me,” or “it’s not worth getting mad.” But I have always had a strong tendency to want to right perceived injustices. (Especially when I’m the one who’s been wronged, admittedly.)

Even if I liked to imagine one in those old, naïve, idealistic days, there is nowhere near a sufficient enough sense of community among the people near the front of the show (especially after the lights go down) for it to matter too much to them when an aggressive jerk, usually tall, rarely female, shoves in front of someone else. It’s too temporary an arrangement to get involved with someone else’s problem. The initial aggressive behavior goes unpunished, and it’s the response in kind that ends up getting negative attention. Probably understandably. People came there to see a show, not to right a wrong (even if it happens to be getting in the way of someone else enjoying a show), and definitely not to see a lunatic yell at someone. (“Chill.” “Don’t trip.” Definitely good west coast advice.)

But in this situation and in general, the main reason not to allow anger to flame up into a full, active rage is that it simply does not pay. It is nowhere near worth it. It’s bad for your health in so many different ways (detailed elsewhere). It might also result in a fight (and I know I have friends who can’t believe I never got into one, because I can see how for a while it seemed like I was looking for one). I’m not saying I was always like that. But I was like that far more than was healthy for a relatively brief period of time.

The kind of concertgoer I have become is a different kind of enthusiastic early bird. Now I get there early enough to get a seat on the balcony (assuming the venue is large enough to have one) or a comfortable standing or sitting position in the rear of the room. Ideally, say at the Fillmore, if you get a balcony seat directly above the stage, you’re golden. If you’re in the back, sure, the performers are too far away to see, but the sound tends to be good, you can move around enough to see okay [and even so there will be a million photos of the show online afterwards], and (most importantly) no one will step directly in front of you enough to enrage you.

This all matters because my now most frequent fellow concertgoer is my wife. She has communicated quite clearly that she is in this for the long run — as long a run as possible. That matters to me. Like her, I want us both to be happy and healthy as long as possible. That matters enough for me to really have examined, and changed, my behavior.

We still like going to shows. We’re just the people who sit in the balcony or the back. And I am having more fun than ever.

A blog entry and an EP that are all over the place

It frequently occurs to me to react to something I read online. That is not that interesting.

The interesting thing (at least to me) is that I almost always choose to submit a comment on the site that I’m reading, rather than linking to and reacting to the content on this blog. It might behoove me to reverse that. (I also tackled this topic two and a half years ago, to no avail.) Why should I add value to someone else’s site with my cogent, incisive, entertaining analysis? Why not promote myself right here? Why not express my thoughts here?

Speaking of which, it’s pretty obvious that I’m just thinking out loud here, so to speak (so to speak).

I was listening to “All Delighted People” from the EP of the same name by Sufjan Stevens, and I recognized the lyric he used: “…and the people bowed and prayed / to the neon gods they’d made.” I couldn’t immediately place it. Instead of making an attempt to recall what it was from, I took the lazy way out via the oracle Google. Of course, it’s from The Sound of Silence. When I looked up the song titles together, I found (on some random site) someone’s review of the EP, which was not all that complimentary but was at least (I thought) fair. Basically he said he wasn’t a huge fan and that he couldn’t really find a “through line” on the album.

My insight into the EP is this: When Sufjan played Oakland a month or two ago, he gave a really long monologue about what was going on in his head. The sense I got was that he was in a pretty bad place for a while, and these were songs he needed to record and be done with in order to move on to his next thing (The Age of Adz, a sprawling and ambitious project).

Music is an aesthetic pursuit and, as they say, “there’s no accounting for taste.” I used to think that that statement implied that the subject had bad taste. But now I realize it means that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this stuff. A beancounter can’t quantify how good an album is. There are no audits in art. So we are all free to have our own opinions, and I like that we can talk about it.

As far as the EP itself, yes, it’s all over the place (much like this blog entry), but I love the way he’s defying conventions. As someone else said in the comments on the review, that’s the way new and original work is created. I am happy to be along for the ride.

Here Today

Here Today

I only discovered it was the 29th anniversary of John Lennon’s death tonight, hanging out at Good News Cafe with some of my nicest neighbors.

I recently stumbled upon a recording of Paul McCartney performing at Shea Stadium last summer and was really touched to hear him play “Here Today,” McCartney’s tribute to John Lennon from his 1982 album “Tug of War”. I remember listening to my mom’s vinyl copy of that album (which I’m pretty sure she still has somewhere) on big headphones in my living room, growing up.

The other day I looked up the chords to the song, and tonight I decided to record myself singing and playing it. This is the first thing I’ve recorded that I actually feel is good enough to release to the world, so here’s my debut MP3: Jason Gohlke covering “Here Today” on December 8, 2009.

Here Today – Jason Gohlke

Five-color press check & a Wiimote hacking DJ

CLCV Scorecard production - Alonzo Printing

Quite a day today. This afternoon, I went to the press check for the CLCV Scorecard at Alonzo Printing in Hayward. That’s always fun (no, really). I got to go on the tour for about the fourth time (because I was there with my new boss; it was her first time there). I think Alonzo does great work, I like the people there, and it’s now the #1 environmental printing company in the country or something like that.

As an aside, but an important one, if you are reading this but you haven’t been to my Flickr page, shame on you. It’s where I post all the pictures I take. In fact, the two things I describe here are better documented there. See it as a complement to what I’m doing here. (Though I take some responsibility for not having a widget on this page that actually shows my most recent pictures.)

Anyway, after work, I finally let Amy — who is my semi-erstwhile trivia teammate and a former Pub Night denizen — drag me along to this thing called “Dorkbot SF“. This group of total rejects (or Übermensch — who can figure it out?) gathers together, in their words, in “a monthly meeting of artists (sound/image/movement/whatever), designers, engineers, students and other interested parties… who are involved in the creation of electronic art (in the broadest sense of the term).”

Evolution Control Committee at DorkbotSF, Retox

It is definitely a broadly inclusive thing — the folks presenting tonight showed off: a faux-touchscreen/Wii-controller-hacked visual solution to the problem of not being able to mouse fast enough to DJ; artwork created on a “laser cutter,” which, you know, cuts or etches many types of materials using a laser, based on raster or vector artwork (but don’t put anything in there that will give off toxic fumes); and plans, or maybe just pipe dreams, for truly kick-starting space tourism.

I enjoyed it, of course, and will certainly go again. One of the things that appeals to me about Dorkbot, despite its silly name, is that it exists at the crossroads of art, science, technology, and long-term thinking. One of my other recent local discoveries, The Long Now Foundation, is somewhere in the same neighborhood, but Long Now could be Dorkbot’s more serious uncle.

Seeing the passions that people pursue — what they throw themselves into — really inspires me. It makes me think about how I could express what I want to express in different media. (It also makes me realize I don’t pay enough attention to what it is I actually want to express, or express it enough.) Music really resonates with me at a special level.

It seems to me that to this point I really haven’t decided exactly which way I’m going to go yet. I definitely continue to put my effort into things I consider at least somewhat worthwhile. I’m certainly going to avoid doing things that I don’t enjoy OR I don’t think are doing anything to improve society. Ideally, I will continue to iterate myself to a point at which I love what I do all the time, because it’s my own unique contribution to making this world better in some way. Ambitious? Yes.

Perhaps the important part of what I’ve been doing to this point in my life is the documentation and synthesis of all these different kinds of ideas and experiences and situations I’ve encountered. At the risk of sounding simultaneously pompous and hopelessly trivial (a particular talent of mine, I think), I’d like to be something like a really great bottle of Scotch. All these crazy things thrown into a wine barrel for many years, waiting, deepening, growing… and then all of a sudden you pour it out and it’s a masterpiece like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

In the short term, at minimum, I’m at CLCV. And 2009 is going to be my most productive year there yet. The changes that have taken place since May — Susan leaving and Jenesse and Warner being hired — make me certain of that. CLCV’s incoming CEO (starting January 2nd, 2009), Warner Chabot, is already hitting the ground running. He has indicated quite clearly that he plans to give some desperately needed executive-level attention to CLCV’s brand and communications efforts, both online and off — as well as some actual investment. (By the end of 2009 we might actually have launched a new back end for our website that allows us to actually interact with our members online.)

To which I say “Thank you,” and “Finally.” I have said a couple times to anyone that will listen (and probably people that don’t) that, when Jenesse and then Warner got hired, it was as if I got a new job without going anywhere. Except some of the good things stuck around, like the good working relationships I’ve built with the vast majority of my co-workers, and my knowledge of the organization, and my nice 11th-floor office, and my five weeks of vacation.

(It occurs to me that the changes at work echo the larger context of emerging from the long national nightmare that was Dubya’s so-called presidency….)

Image of rock concert at Great American in SF in 2008

What is it about concerts? (part I)

I’ve been meaning to write about rock shows for a while now.

Misty Sloan-colored memories

This was the first Sloan show I ever went to, mere weeks after I moved to Minneapolis. [Sloan is a band I like.]

I tell the following story on that page, but there’s no reason to send you there now. I’d prefer that you keep reading this entry:

a big day

I just put up a ton of photos on Flickr. It’s less bandwidth-heavy than hosting all of my photos on this site, certainly easier to upload, and probably easier to navigate. If the tools are there, why not use them?

I’m posting this at 5 am. Haven’t gone to sleep yet. But I have a big day today—I am going to Oakland Fan Fest at the Coliseum from 10 am to 4 pm and then going to see Of Montreal at Bottom of the Hill later tonight.

RIP, Elliott Smith, 34

How awful. One of my absolute favorite musicians, Elliott Smith, died yesterday. He was only 34. Rest in peace, Elliott. Thanks for the amazing music. I’m sad that I missed several opportunities to see him perform, and now I never will.

everybody knows
everybody knows
everybody knows
you only live a day
but it’s brilliant anyway

—”Independence Day,” Elliott Smith

a screwed-up definition of classic rock

I am now officially old.

I just turned on the radio and heard R.E.M.’s “The One I Love”. At age 12, when that song was on the charts, I purchased a copy of it as a 45 RPM vinyl single. (I still have it.) That admission dates me somewhat, but here’s the real cause of my irrational angst: I heard “The One I Love” on Minneapolis’ classic rock station. Classic rock.

Wait—am I old, or does WLOL just have a screwed-up definition of “classic rock”? I always thought it was stuff like Foreigner, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, and Bob Seger. (The music of my parents’ generation.)

Oh… a station ID just informed me that they call their format “classic hits.” I guess that gives them license to play old alterna-indie-college rock alongside Grand Funk Railroad and Queen. It’s not bad; it’s just weird. And, undoubtedly, angst-inducing for twenty-somethings all over the Twin Cities metro area.

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