From the MoSS? Pit: Sleater-Kinney (Or: What I should’ve said to Carrie Brownstein when I had the chance)

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

Sleater-Kinney at Slowdown in Omaha, February 13

 

Last weekend, I went to St. Louis to see Sleater-Kinney. Got a hotel room at the Moonrise, right next door the Pageant, where the show would take place in about four hours. Went to grab a beer in the hotel bar. Since it was just after 5 p.m., the bar had just opened, so there were about 10 people in the joint.

And in walks Carrie Brownstein.

My buddy Dub is saying, “well, go get your damn picture already, dumbass.” I said no. Didn’t want to bother her. Even when she got her drink and walked RIGHT PAST ME SIX INCHES AWAY (I mean, it wasn’t like she was 50 feet across the room), I didn’t tap her on the arm and say, “hey, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your music.” I let her sit and enjoy a drink with her friends before a gig. That’s what I assumed she’d want.

Yeah, I’ve regretted it for three days now. I should have said this …

Wait, let’s come back to that.

One of my favorite things about music is when you like a band – maybe you don’t love them yet, but you know they’re good – and then you go see them for the first time and they absolutely blow your friggin’ doors off. It’s like hearing them again for the first time.

SlowdownThat’s what it was like when I saw Sleater-Kinney in Omaha two months ago.

I’d been a fan since the late ’90s, introduced to them by MoSS?’s own Mr. Chris, himself just coming out of his stint as college radio DJ. Working late and rocking out one night at our post-college entry-level newspaper jobs, Chris slid over a copy of Dig Me Out and said “put this on.” You gotta remember, it was a dark time musically, and being trapped in central Iowa in the years before the internet truly grabbed hold, you still had to find your music organically. I had just graduated from Iowa, so the cool alternative bands weren’t as readily accessible anymore once I left my safe musical cocoon of a college town. And unfortunately in central Iowa at that time, all you had were butt-rock FM stations and the popular music dominating MTV had shifted toward Britney Spears, boy bands, and Limp Bizkit.

Also, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world is a girl with a guitar. It’s almost become a running joke. I think there’s nothing sexier. I loved the Go-Go’s and the Bangles when I was a kid. Joan Jett. Lita Ford … imagine my surprise when I realized those two were actually in a fucking BAND together at one point. Score. Love.

So when I heard Sleater-Kinney? Let’s just say I liked them a real lot.

But I never got to see them until Omaha. Missed them altogether before 2006. Never really had a chance the first time around. So when reunion tour dates were announced? I just bought four tickets. Didn’t ask anyone. I hadn’t even heard No Cities to Love yet, either. I just figured that this is one of the ’90s bands I had never gotten to see. Time to fix that. I certainly wasn’t geared up to be floored.

Well …

Corin Tucker getting into it

Corin Tucker getting into it

Everything about that show was perfect. The venue, a club called Slowdown, was sold out, but it wasn’t too crowded. Hit the floor with Chris and our friends Michelle and Jim and set up in front of where we knew Corin Tucker would be standing (of course, I was gonna stand in front of Corin Tucker).

Then they hit the stage. Wow.

That place just sounded phenomenal from where I was standing. Can’t recommend it enough in the future (check it out … Slowdown). The setlist was on point, too, with a heavy dose of the new album (which is perfectly fine when your new album immediately vaults into the “best album in your catalog” conversation upon release). But they didn’t forget to play “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” or yes, “Dig Me Out,” either. I can still see Chris bouncing up and down, singing “Turn it On” just like he would have when we first met in 1997.

But it was the band themselves that sticks with me. The ladies harmonizing perfectly – Carrie’s voice a little more girly, with Corin’s killer staccato, equally elegant yet perfectly harsh. The staggering riffs and sheer musicianship. I mean, I played drums until I was 15 when I inexplicably quit. Maybe my biggest regret in life. And if I’d stuck with it, I might be HALF as good as Janet Weiss. And let’s not forget the showmanship – love those high kicks, Carrie Brownstein!

So like I said – you like a band a lot, then you see them live and they blow your friggin’ doors off. Then you LOVE them. These days, Sleater-Kinney is pretty much my favorite band. And they aren’t just girls with guitars. Fuck that. They’re the best rock band on tour in America right now. Go see them. Like, right now.

Sleater-KInney at The Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

Sleater-Kinney at the Pageant in St. Louis, April 24

 

As soon as I saw they were playing in St. Louis, I wanted to go again. Always heard good things about the Pageant. Plus, one of my oldest friends who lived in the Lou was soon to be moving to Brooklyn. Might not have a chance to go visit again, so I shot her a text and said Sleater-Kinney was playing at the Pageant on April 24.

She simply answered, “I would be super into that.” That was all I needed. Bought four tickets without asking for permission. Luckily she could go.

Last weekend was more about socializing, catching up with old friends. But I’m sure Lisa would tell you that once the band started, I ignored everybody. I remember vividly telling Lisa’s husband that if the ladies were in good voice that night, we were in for a treat. They were. And this time, I got to hear “The Fox” and “One More Hour.” And I NEVER get tired of hearing that riff in “Jumpers” … you know, the one right after the second chorus? Killer.

S-K vinyl & setlistI also got to stock up on the memorabilia I missed out on the first time: you know … autographed vinyl, tour poster, even got the setlist I missed out on the first time (but not without annoying the shit out of the sound booth guy. Sorry dude, but I won’t apologize and besides, I wasn’t being THAT annoying).

But the thing I think I’ll always remember is having the chance to talk to Carrie Brownstein and not taking it. In addition to just telling her how much I love her music, I might have told her this something like this:

My buddy Dub has a 9-year-old daughter. She just started playing the violin. And like most 9-year-olds, she’s already getting a little bored with it. Being the guy that I’ve been since I was her age, when I was obsessed with Kiss records and early MTV, I’m praying that she stays with it (like I didn’t with the drums and now regret), that she gets inspired to play … although I must confess, when I first heard she had chosen the violin, I asked Dub, “if she’s gonna play strings, why didn’t you steer her toward cello? Because then, she can eventually pick up a bass guitar?” What a wonderful parent I’d be!

Rock goddess

Carrie Brownstein, rock goddess

Anyway, my first thought was this: I wish Sleater-Kinney was playing in Des Moines that night, not Omaha or St. Louis. Because I totally would have tried to talk Dub into letting me take his 9-year-old daughter to see Sleater-Kinney as her first concert. Because seeing these three powerful women on stage – who have become the best rock band in America – might inspire her. And as she gets a little older, she might have gained the skill set to put down her fiddle and pick up an electric guitar. And then she can be Carrie Brownstein.

That’s what I would’ve said to Carrie Brownstein if I had another chance.

Also, forget inspiration for a second – I’m just pretty sure a 9-year-old girl that’s as up-and-coming cool as my buddy’s daughter would eat up “Little Babies” and “Oh!” and “Modern Girl” with a spoon.

Fuck it, where’s my phone? I’m Facetiming her right now and telling her to get on YouTube …

 

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments here at Music or Space Shuttle? Have your say on our Facebook page. Yell at us on Twitter.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Festivus: Sam’s Airing of Grievances

Editor’s note: Remember that guy who wrote about Kiss? Sam’s back with some Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musings. I think this guy is passing the audition. Mainly because he mentioned the Cure again, which keeps him in my good graces. Plus, he writes one fucking thing and sets a one-day high in Music or Space Shuttle? traffic! This tells me that Sam has awesome friends who click stuff he shares on Facebook, AND that Todd and I need better, more-likely-to-click-our-links Facebook friends. (By the way, you can find all MoSS? posts at our Facebook page. Click the “Like” button on the right side of the page.) –Chris


rock and roll hall of fame exterior

I’m obsessed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually, I’m obsessed with all Hall of Fames in general, I guess. I pissed and moaned for days a few months ago when my main Houston Astro, Craig Biggio, missed induction. You see, it takes 75 percent of the votes to earn induction. He got 74.8 percent. They don’t round up. So after the number of ballots cast was made public, it was determined that he missed the cut by two votes.

Two!

One Hall voter came out and said he left his ballot completely empty except for a vote for ’80s pitching ace Jack Morris, justifying his refusal to vote for anybody who played during the “steroid era.” Jack Morris, who pitched in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. In the American League. Which means he pitched, at some point in time, to Jose Canseco, the only guy proud to admit before Congress that he willingly took steroids. Take a bow, genius.

Even more insane, every fall, I spend a crazy amount of time obsessing over a thing called the Survivor Hall of Fame. Yes, a Hall of Fame for the CBS reality game show. For weeks, I solicit (they would probably say troll) the hell out of former players on Twitter. I argue about it on message boards. I’ve even had my own personal rules for induction criteria published. However, there’s no physical building or artifacts. No pilgrimage to see your favorite players enshrined. Really, the Survivor Hall of Fame is essentially just a blog, with a few photos and some online interviews. You know what? I don’t care. I love Survivor so I want it done right. I care. WAAAAYYYYY too much. Sorry, Gordon.

But there’s nothing that saps my time and energy like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by how much it matters to me. But it does. And it’s never mattered more to me than this year, because the first truly revolutionary band (Nirvana) of the generation that defines my age group (Generation X) came up for induction and got in on the first ballot. Even more significantly, after years of crying to my poor, poor friends and colleagues about the injustice of the snub, the band that helped shape my pop cultural existence (Kiss) finally got in after having to wait for 14 years. The ceremony was a couple of weeks ago now, and it’s still all I think about. I really need a life.

I engaged in plenty of back and forth on social media this season, and was fortunate to gain lots of insight from a few people much more informed than I am (check out Brian Ives, Tom Lane, and the endless resource that is Future Rock Legends, for starters). Plus, after the illuminating blog by Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, I feel like I understand better how much politics can ruin something that represents an entity that’s supposed to be about rebellion like rock and roll.

So, in the wake of all that, the following diatribe may read like a butthurt plea supporting some of my favorite bands that don’t have a chance in hell of ever being inducted (hell, even a few I don’t really care about at all but still appreciate their significance). But the time has come for the airing of grievances … and I got a lot of problems with all of you.

ONE:

MC5 shirtless

MC5, also known as T-Shirt Zero

For me, maybe the hardest thing to reconcile with that institution are the bands that get inducted because of how “important” or “influential” they are. It can become very hypocritical (and I admit, I love most of bands that qualify in this rant) to declare something “adored but never accepted by the masses.” The Sex Pistols had one album. One. Their entire existence is one album and a tour. They imploded within two years. So where is the MC5? They had THREE albums, they had the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and many knowledgeable people would say they’re amongst the godfathers of both punk AND metal.

Also, bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges are in, some might say because their frontmen (Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, respectively) became rock legends later down the road. But both of those bands, when they were actually happening, never sold any records and never had any hits. But everyone who did like them started their own bands (I know, this is not an original thought, but it’s true).

runaways group photoOK, so by that rationale, who fits the bill? The Runaways. No one, and I do mean NO ONE, bought their records (except for Japanese teenagers), but …  a frontwoman who went on to greater fame solo (Joan Jett)? Check. (Not to mention Lita Ford, often considered the first lady of heavy metal). How many all-girl rock bands formed in their wake? How many of the ‘90s riot grrrl bands cite them as primary influences? Plus, “Cherry Bomb” is more recognizable than any song the Stooges ever put out (I love the Stooges, by the way). And OK, “Cherry Bomb” is one song. But my two-word rebuttal: Percy Sledge.

There’s been a lot of talk about Joan Jett going in solo (or with the Blackhearts) and the other night – fronting a reunited version of Nirvana at both the ceremony and the soon-to-be-legendary secret show they played afterward at an underground Brooklyn metal club – did a TON to help her cause. But like Linda Ronstadt, Jett’s biggest songs are cover tunes. I’d still rather see her go in with the Runaways. It will never happen, though. They’ll forever be seen as a gimmick and I don’t think they can ever get out from under that. But they belong in the argument.

And while we’re talking about influences … with all the Seattle bands coming up for induction, Motorhead should be considered. Black Flag should be considered. The Melvins should absolutely be considered. Watch some documentaries and listen to the words coming from the musicians themselves: Who introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic? The Melvins. Who invented that mud tone that became grunge? The Melvins. If some of these other bands get considered for trivial reasons, so should they. They’ve been around for over 30 years now. But will they get in? Absolutely not. I think the closest they’ll come is frontman Buzz Osbourne getting namedropped by Novoselic and drummer Dale Crover getting praised by Grohl during Nirvana’s induction (it must be noted that Crover played on enough songs that ended up on both Bleach and Incesticide to be considered one of the band’s pre-Grohl drummers, but he, like Chad Channing, gets left out in the cold. More on this later …)

go-go's on rolling stone coverTWO:

Women are shamefully underrepresented in the Hall. I was worried about a lot of the divas getting the shaft…that is, up until the induction of Donna Summer. Her induction opened the doors for Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey in a huge way (all three are ridiculously talented singers with mountains of No. 1 singles, but who write little and play nothing). But if those two DON’T get in, you can absolutely forget about the likes of, say, Britney Spears (hey, stop laughing…I’m just trying to think of big stars down the road). Will Mary J. Blige or Missy Elliott be there? Is Carly Simon worthy? Because she’s not in.

The Go-Go’s or the Bangles should get a fair look, but they won’t…either not enough big hits or they weren’t together long enough.

BenatarBut the Go-Go’s do have historical significance on their side—the first all-female band that wrote and performed their own material to have a No. 1 album. They deserve a shot, because without one, will other critically adored all-girl bands such as Sleater-Kinney have a chance?

And you know who should be in the talk, especially now that Ronstadt got in? Pat Benatar. People forget just how huge she was in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The hits, the massive exposure at the dawn of MTV, the multi-platinum records and Grammys…they speak for themselves.

THREE:

The bias against hard rock and metal drives me insane. Off the top of my head, the only bands identified as heavy rock or metal that are currently in are Black Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and now Kiss. OK, maybe Aerosmith and Alice Cooper, too (sorry, I don’t count Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or the Who).

Maybe I’m just annoyed that rap seems to get preferential treatment.­ To me growing up, rap and metal were truly kindred spirits—the extreme branches on the rock and roll tree, so much so that they merited their own specialty shows on MTV, metal being the extreme offshoot of rock, rap the extreme offshoot of R&B/soul. So why is one more important than the other? Look, I love Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy as much as the next guy. Love them. They absolutely deserve to be in. But why is it that the rap groups always get in on the first ballot, but a groundbreaking band like Sabbath—who invented an entire genre of music—had to wait 10 years? It’s disrespectful.

Paul Stanley really hit the nail on the head in his induction speech: fandom means nothing to these people. All that matters, it appears, is critical acclaim, something metal rarely gets.

The British godfathers of metal (Sabbath—in, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead) and the Big 4 of American thrash (Metallica—in , Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) deserve consideration. And I’ll say it again: Deep Purple on the outside looking in is a joke.

FOUR:

Speaking of Deep Purple, let’s pretend they get in next year. Who’s getting inducted? Will it only be the Mark II version of the band, the version behind “Smoke on the Water,” “Highway Star,” “Speed King,” Space Truckin’,” and “Woman From Tokyo”? (Seriously, how are the fuck are they NOT in already?) Because I think they’re up to at least Mark VIII or IX by now, right? That’s a lot of guys over 40+ years.

That seems to be the big controversy (and rightfully so). Who decides who’s getting in? Why did Parliament-Funkadelic get all 957 of its members inducted, but Kiss had to settle for the four original members, even though they had at least four other guys with decade-plus stints consisting of multiple gold albums and world tours? Both bands were garish theatrical groups on the Casablanca label in the ‘70s. Is it because Parliament got sampled on lots of g-funk rap albums in the ’90s? Who knows?

But there needs to be some consistency. Sammy Hagar gets inducted for his stint fronting Van Halen, but Ronnie James Dio can’t get the same for his time reinventing Black Sabbath? (I think this stinks of Sharon Osbourne, but that’s just a hunch.) Rob Trujillo (one album in a five-year stint at the time) gets to go in with Metallica, and 32-year-old Josh Klinghoffer, who had been in the band for about two-plus years and had played on exactly one album, gets to go in with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But a guy like Gilby Clarke, who made significant contributions to Guns N’ Roses, gets left out? (After reading the Frantz blog, it’s much more clear: where the Talking Heads had Seymour Stein, Metallica and the Chili Peppers had Cliff Burnstein (he manages both AND sits on the nominating committee).

Chad Channing played drums on Nirvana’s debut album, as well as several other b-sides and live cuts. He did the early gigs and tours. He participated in the early sessions for Nevermind and wrote several drum parts that Dave Grohl willingly admitted that he just copied in the final product (kudos to Grohl for saying this during his actual Hall induction speech, by the way). Oh, and he actually IS on Nevermind, albeit in a minor role (and especially now that the early demo sessions recorded by Butch Vig have been released on the album’s anniversary deluxe edition). He didn’t get in. Yet every drummer who ever played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers got in (obviously, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke the Hall of Fame). I can’t wait to see how they handle the Pearl Jam drummer situation. Jesus…

FIVE:

Finally a few passing thoughts: Woefully missing are the alt-rock and new wave bands of the early ’80s. To name but a few … The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Cars, Duran Duran, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Husker Du. As for rap, I don’t really care…and I’ll tell you why: Eventually that’s the stuff that gonna take over this thing. Eminem. Kanye. Jay-Z. It’s coming. They’re the biggest rock stars of the post-Napster era when the record companies started losing a little bit of their influence (I mean, we’ve got a LONG time before the White Stripes and bands like Arcade Fire become eligible). With that in mind, just give me NWA, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, 2Pac, and Biggie. Those were the rappers and crews that shaped my era. After they get in, I don’t care.

As far as my best guess for the bands of my generation…I personally don’t think a band like, say, Motley Crue has a prayer. Even with solid membership, lots of legitimate hits, a strong touring history, and the greatest story ever told, I think they’re immune even if believers in poptimism gain more influence in the nominating committee.

motley crue all glammed out

A lot of girls from Chris’ hometown looked a lot like Vince Neil does in this photo.

But you know what…says who? Motley Crue doesn’t have a shot because Rolling Stone doesn’t like them? A band shouldn’t base their legacy solely on a handful of critics with too much influence and power telling them how awesome they were. Isn’t that kind of what killed Kurt Cobain? Pretty sure he hated what that did to his band. I’m not advocating their enshrinement, but one thing everybody should respect about a band like Motley Crue—even if you think their music is either awesome or shit—is that they have no fucks to give when it comes to what anyone says about them on a critical level. It hasn’t stopped them from their decades of sold-out shows and platinum records.

(I’m well aware that someone somewhere will say the same thing about Nickelback in 20 years, but that becomes a question of eras…you know what: I’ll deal with that when it happens …)

But a band from that era that should get considered is Def Leppard, the rare band from the ‘80s glam metal period that garnered critical acclaim on top of massive commercial success.

Nick Drake holding guitar

Nick Drake, true artist. Way more acclaim after death.

As for the ’90s, come on. Pearl Jam is a mortal lock (I can’t believe they haven’t had their eligibility period waved). Radiohead is a lock. Beck is a lock. Green Day is a lock (eligible next year, actually, and I’ll be stunned if they have to wait). I have a hunch Rage Against the Machine is a lock. Eventually, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Smashing Pumpkins are all major contenders and all will be there over time. And I think Oasis has the most obvious shot of representing Britpop. And I keep reading about people saying bands like Blur and Pavement, for example, are shoo-ins, but I don’t know, I gotta see it first before I believe it.

And finally, my own personal snubs…well, now that Kiss is FINALLY in, I’m going with Deep Purple (too many anthems to ignore), Chicago (Jann Wenner reportedly is to them what Dave Marsh was to Kiss), Nick Drake (maybe the most perfect discography of all time) and the MC5 (seriously, the Stooges are in and they are NOT? Come on. “Kick Out The Jams” is bigger and certainly more iconic than ANYTHING the Stooges did. They are the first band associated with the sound that is considered punk rock) …

Sheesh, I feel like a battered wife after that. Why do you hate me, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when I want to love you so much?