Tinsel and Rot's Ten Best CDs of 2006

1. The Avett Brothers--"Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions"
The leader out of the gate, and it never looked back. When the only bad thing you can think to say about a CD is that it may be a little too long, you know you've got a good one. "Talk On Indolence" also wins Leadoff Track of the Year.
2. Todd Snider--"The Devil You Know"
My favorite Todd Snider album, since, well the one before it. But that last one ("East Nashville Skyline") and this one represent Todd at the peak of his powers.
3. The Yayhoos--"Put the Hammer Down"
The mightiest band around lays down a mighty fine CD. Rock and roll's supposed to be fun, and the Yayhoos sure do seem to be having a lot of fun.
4. Scott Miller and the Commonwealth--"Citation"
Another fine CD from Miller and the Commonwealth that sounds best played loud.
5. Ollabelle--"Riverside Battle Songs"
And here's one that maybe doesn't need to be played so loud. Took me awhile to really get into Ollabelle, but this CD clinched it. I'm sure they're excited about that.
6. Ray Wylie Hubbard--"Snake Farm"
Thanks to Sirius Outlaw Country's incessant playing of the title track, I decided to give Ray Wylie Hubbard another chance. The disc starts to fade toward the end, but the first half's real strong. And the title track can't be stopped.
7. Will Kimbrough--"Americanitis"
A good mix of the political and the personal from Mr. Kimbrough. Strongest top-to-bottom effort yet from one of my favorite guitarists and an all-around swell guy.
8. Trent Summar and the New Row Mob--"Horseshoes and Hand Grenades"
Sometimes I think Trent Summar's a little too corny for me. But then I listen to the songs and they're real damn good.. The cover of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" may have been better served as a concert-only treat (the original intent), but I'm damn happy to have a version to listen to over and over again.
9. Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League--"The Longest Meow"
It's definitely not my favorite of his discs, but the bookends of "The Heart Bionic" and "Stop Crying" overshadow any missteps in between.
10. The Bottle Rockets--"Zoysia"
Best Bottle Rockets CD since "24 Hours A Day." And good late-night, bus/train ride music.

Want a CD with songs from these CDs, plus ten others (and a bonus)? Just ask. Send requests to the name of this blog (no spaces) at gmail(dot)com. (Spammers will not steal that e-mail address here!)


2006: The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures

2006 was a pretty good year for photos of me taken with a hodgepodge of people with varying degrees of fame. And it culminated in what might be my favorite Christmas card photo tandem (for those unfamiliar with the Sigman Holiday Greeting, every year I send a photo of me with a person more famous than me...there are two selections per year, so you can collect and trade 'em). So, as a year-end recap, Tinsel and Rot presents the Top 10 "Celebrity" Photos of 2006:

10. Me, David Ruprecht, and David Walls

Taken after a very trying bus ride and an abbreviated "Price Is Right" show, this photo pairs Mr. Tinsel and Rot with the announcer guy (David Walls) and "Supermarket Sweep" emcee ("next time you're at the checkout counter and you hear that beep [beep, beep], think of the fun you could have on "Supermarket Sweep!") and faux Atlantic City "Price Is Right" host David Ruprecht. Honestly, if I won anything during the show, it would have paled in comparison to having a picture taken with a real live game show host. I went back and he wasn't the host anymore. And the magic was gone. But at least there was that one magical day.

9. Me and Bobby Bare Sr.

Since Bobby Bare Sr. generally stays away from touring, particularly in the Northeast, I'd given up hope that I'd ever seen him in person. But with a new album to promote ("The Moon Was Blue"), he came up east for a show at Joe's Pub. And after the show (and having him sign a bunch of albums), this photo happened. Pretty cool.

8. Me and Pete Weber

Ever since seeing Pete Weber drop a trophy on national television, he's been my favorite bowler. What? You're surprised I have a favorite bowler? Stop reading this blog. It's not for you. Anyway, I finally managed to make my way down to the U.S. Open Pro-Am in East Brunswick to see PDW in action. And I think I'm heading back this year. Photo with Walter Ray Williams this time? Time will tell. Trivia fact: Pete's wife took the photo.

7. Me and Ray "Dr. Hook" Sawyer

The only way to get me to go to Coney Island on a weeknight in the middle of a brutal heat wave is to have Ray "Dr. Hook" Sawyer on a stage singing the hits of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (particularly those written by Shel Silverstein). Dr. Hook was part of Hippiefest, a lineup of musical giants that included Joey Molland from Badfinger, Terry Sylvester from the Hollies, Mitch Ryder, Country Joe McDonald, Mountain, and Rare Earth. I made it to Rare Earth before I bailed. I actually was hesitant to get the picture with Dr. Hook, but, really, you should never pass up the chance to get your picture taken with a guy with an eyepatch.

6. Me and Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist

Winner of this year's Completely Random Celebrity Encounter. Seeing the Avett Brothers and the Yayhoos on the same bill would've been plenty good for me, but when I realized that the guitarist in the opening band who looked familiar was Cousin Oliver, it became a Night for the Ages. This photo was taken mere moments after Robbie chugged a pitcher of beer, and seconds after he took a picture with me on his camera. I can only hope I made his blog.

5. Me and Miranda Lambert

Miranda narrowly beats out Frances "Paulie Walnuts's Mom/Aunt" Esemplare for Hottest Celebrity I Had a Picture Taken With in 2006. Sometimes, I think about the fact that I joined Miranda Lambert's fan club just for the opportunity to have this picture taken and I become slightly embarrassed. Then I think about the other odd things I've done in my life, and that seems to fall logically in line.

4. Me, Chris "Peter Brady" Knight, and Adrianne Curry

It's only because this was taken so early in 2006 that this didn't make it on to the 2006 Sigman Holiday Greeting. I kinda forgot about it until after the decision was made. But, really, do people still know who Adrianne Curry is? Has her absence from VH-1's Celebreality for, oh, several months, erased her from the public's memory? Maybe so. In any case, I do like this photo. I would almost like it better without Adrianne Curry, but I will refrain from completely admitting that is true lest you question my heterosexuality.

3. Me and Little Jimmy Dickens

Clearly, if more than two people in my circle of friends knew who Little Jimmy Dickens was, this would've been a lock for the Sigman Holiday Greeting. Much like the Bobby Bare Sr. situation, the possibility of ever seeing Little Jimmy Dickens seemed slight. But thanks to the magic of the yearly American Music Theatre Country Legends show (see you in March), a true dream was fulfilled. I don't think I've ever been more excited to take a picture than this one.

2. Me and Todd "Willis" Bridges

Sigman Holiday Greeting #1. "Diff'rent Strokes" was probably the first show to lay claim to the title of "My Favorite Show." And, so, the opportunity to be photographed next to Willis Jackson at the Fall Chiller Theatre show was quite welcome indeed. I suppose Gary Coleman would be cooler, but, based on his general orneriness, that seems unlikely. And Todd Bridges seemed like a good guy, though that was perhaps hastened by my willingness to give him money. Whatever it takes. Trivia fact: That's Lou Ferrigno's arm on my right.

1. Me and Toby Keith

Sigman Holiday Greeting #2. Only a picture of me and Garth Brooks would be more entertaining. And I've tried and failed to get that on numerous occasions. So, with Country Music Mortal Enemy #2 due to make an appearance on "The Colbert Report," I headed down to the studio to see what I could do. I brought a recent issue of "Country Weekly" with Mr. Red, White, and Blue on the cover, so I wouldn't have to go up to him and just ask him for a photo. After an excruciating wait with some righteously annoying autograph collectors, Toby emerged from the stage door with a few other guys and commenced signing their soon-to-be-on-Ebay crap. I got my CW signed (if anyone wants it, just ask...it's yours) and asked for a photo. My camera refused to cooperate initially, but the magic finally happened, just as a car ran over a plastic bottle and created a loud pop. That partially explains the sideways glance on Toby's face. Or maybe he just wanted to get away from me. Hard to say.

In any case, I thanked Toby for stopping, and, rather than put a boot in his ass (which is, after all, the American way), I think I actually patted him on the back. Now, yes, you could argue that any attempt on my part to insert a boot anywhere near Toby Keith's hindquarters would've resulted in him beating the holy hell out of me, but I choose to look at it a different way. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of a stellar Christmas card that I was able to momentarily overlook my blind hatred of the man for one shining moment and give him a well-deserved pat on the back. And if that's not the holiday spirit, I don't know what is.


The last known survivor

So, I saw a preview screening of "Rocky Balboa" (a/k/a "Rocky VI: Please Forget About Tommy Gunn") last week. and, as most critics around the world seem to agree, it really wasn't all that bad. Sure, there were a lot of clunky, "dramatic" speeches from Rocky and the climactic fight is both clumsily presented and not that engaging, but all the flaws are erased by the return of Sylvester Stallone's major contribution to the cinematic world: the training montage.

The training montage, or at least the Rocky training montage, was absent from the much-maligned (but still highly quotable, according to Tinsel and Rot) "Rocky V." In its stead was the Rocky/Tommy Gunn kinda-training montage, which didn't quite do the trick. Still, it built up to the glorious ending, where Tommy Morrison shows off his acting chops, which were just about as good as his professional boxing chops. And in case you didn't follow Tommy Morrison's boxing career, that was not a compliment.

(As an aside, part of the reason why Antonio Tarver doesn't suck as Mason "The Line" Dixon [worst opponent name ever] in "Rocky Balboa" is because he isn't allowed to talk much. So, see, something was learned from "Rocky V.")

Of course, the montage may have just needed some time off after the montage to end all montages that was Rocky training in the frigid Russian winter in "Rocky IV." Actually, there were two: one with the synthesizerrific stylings of Vince DiCola and this one, the true classic, buttressed by "Hearts on Fire" from the legendary John Cafferty (sans Beaver Brown Band):

I'm so glad Rocky beat that Russian piece of garbage.

Anyway, back to "Rocky Balboa." With this final installment (and, really, I think this is it), Burt Young solidifies his status as the unsung hero of the "Rocky" series. For proof, view the clip from "Rocky Balboa" below, which includes another in the long line of great Paulie quotes:

"Ice is stupid. People standing on ice are more stupid." Brilliant. Really. I'm not being ironic.

So, to sum up: "Rocky Balboa" gets the Tinsel and Rot Seal of Approval. Of course, you've read my other likes in life, so maybe that Seal of Approval aint all it's cracked up to be. I report, you decide.


Rethinking the Songs of My Youth: Jermaine Stewart Edition

As I am now 30, I have decided that the time has finally come to embrace nostalgia. The mockery of the music of the 1980s has now been solidly replaced with a strong desire to hear Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" much more frequently. It's not that I ever really bashed the music of the '80s (see Lewis, Huey, love of), but I just didn't see the need for the constant barrage of '80s music or the swingin' good time of gatherings like the '80s Dance Party at the Haunt in Ithaca during my college years. "Fellow students," I recall thinking (and I started most of my thoughts from 1994 to 1998 with "Fellow students," because it sounded awfully collegiate), "the '80s only ended a few years ago. Can't we give it some time to go away before we re-embrace it?"

Well, fellow jobholders, that time has now come. Or at least it has come for me. And that is why sometimes I turn on the '80s channel on Sirius (makes a nice gift for the holidays...Howard Stern wanted me to mention that to you) and take a stumble down memory lane with whatever old MTV VJ is playing songs at the moment. Sometimes the memories are pleasant (the aforementioned "Electric Avenue," which I can remember hearing on the boardwalk at Atlantic City on a family vacation), and sometimes important realizations are made (Genesis's "Land of Confusion" is a really bad song if you're not watching the video).

Generally, it's fun to hear the songs I used sing along to when they came on the radio in the family car. Like, hey, "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" by Jermaine Stewart. I liked that one when it came out that summer. Lemme check those lyrics out:

Not a word, from your lips
You just took for granted that I want to skinny dip.
A quick hit, that's your game.
But I'm not a piece of meat, still you like my brain.

Night is young, so are we.
Let's get to know each other better, slow and easily.
Take my hand, let's hit the floor.
Shake our bodies to the music.
Maybe then you'll score.

So come on baby, won't you show some class
Why you want to move so fast.
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night (all night)
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
Na na na na na na na . . . .

Just slow down if you want me
A man wants to be approached cool and romantically
I've got needs
Just like you
If the conversation's good
Vibrations through and through

So come on baby, won't you show some class
Why you want to move so fast
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night (all night)
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
Na na na na na na . . .

Repeat until fade.

Dear Lord. I really hope I never sang that out loud. Maybe if I dance and party all night (all night) and drink some cherry wine (uh huh), I'll forget ever liking this song. I mean, I actually liked a song with lines like "You just took for granted I want to skinny dip" and "A man wants to be approached cool and romantically"? Really? I blame it on the "na na na na na na na na na"s. Or too much Catholic school. Or, I don't know, something. Anything. Help me. I feel cold and ashamed.

So, I am now having second thoughts about nostalgia. Maybe I should have waited 'til 40.


Because I haven't talked about game shows in awhile

GSN, which has recently been banished deep into the Jersey City Comcast lineup, will be airing a special about one of Tinsel and Rot's heroes, the brilliant Chuck Barris, this Sunday, December 10, at 8 p.m. And there will be a three-hour block of Barris game shows ("The Gong Show," "The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game") on Saturday night, from 8 to 11 p.m. Joy.

This is the second in GSN's ongoing documentaries about classic game shows (following last month's "Behind The Blanks" about "Match Game"). And it gives me hope that GSN will not degenerate into endless blocks of "Lingo," "Dog Eat Dog," and "Playmania." Respect your elders, GSN.

So, anyway, don't go out this weekend. It's too cold anyway. Revel in the simple genius of Chuck Barris instead, and accentuate your revelry by dancing like Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.


What I Liked About November

*The Last Good Time IV Birthday Celebration
*Picking through the remains of Tower Records
*The successful making of Waldorf Salad for Thanksgiving
*The 11 a.m. matinee of "Borat" at the Newport Centre mall

*The Meat Purveyors' farewell at the CMJ Bloodshot BBQ
*The WFMU Record Fair
*Actually starting Christmas shopping before December
*Joe Ely at Joe's Pub

*The Yayhoos/Bottle Rockets at the Mercury Lounge
*The coconut chicken at Maxwell's on my birthday
*"The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blanks" on GSN
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


Get Out: The Monthlong Birthday Celebration (The End)

One last chance for you to celebrate the wonder of me and one of my favorite musicians.

TUE--Scott Miller ( Rodeo Bar, NYC)

It's definitely been a good year when I get the chance to see Scott Miller three times. Alas, this time is not with his backing band, the mighty Commonwealth, but I'm still, as the kids say, stoked. I'm slightly nervous at the prospect of a solo acoustic show at the frequently rowdy Rodeo Bar, but since it's a Tuesday, I reckon people will be able to control themselves. I often reckon wrong, however. Of course, there's only one way for you to find out. Drag your ass to the Rodeo Bar, fool. The show's free. They don't even pass around a tip bucket. Plus you can get any number of communicable diseases while eating the free peanuts. Fun! 10 p.m.!

Anyway, Scott Miller is awesome, and you oughta go. And if you can't, (a) no, I don't understand and (b) at least check out his fancy new website.

As for the week that was, last Monday at the Living Room was spent upstairs watching three really good, Marah-approved songwriters, Christine Smith, Willie Breeding , and Adam Masterson. I don't think they're good because Marah tells me to; I think they're good because they're good.

Speaking of Marah (there's a first time for everything), a late decision (and a willing driver) found me in scenic Ringwood, NJ, on Sunday to see Marah at a house concert. Those are always fun. And so it was on Sunday. You should go see Marah someday. Really. How about December 8 at Irving Plaza? Whaddya say?

And I have just returned home from the Living Room, where I successfully fulfilled my promise to see Jim Boggia and Mike Viola. Good times. A little too poppy for my tastes, but it was a fun show. Check out their live shows if you get the chance, particularly Boggia's.

Now, Tinsel and Rot must rest.


Why Billy Joe Shaver Is Cooler Than You'll Ever Be and One of the Greatest Human Beings Ever

From the current issue of Country Weekly:

"Second Chance
Billy Joe Shaver remarries ex-wife, breaks vertebra

Legendary songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, the author of hits for John Anderson and Waylon Jennings, remarried Wanda Lynn Canady on Friday, Oct. 13. The couple's first marriage was annulled. The Las Vegas ceremony was conducted by Billy Gibbons of the rock band ZZ Top. Shortly after the wedding, Billy Joe cracked a vertebra while wrestling with a friend. He was forced to cancel several shows, but is expected to recover fully. The Texas-based singer/songwriter married his first wife, Brenda, three times before her death in 1999."


So, to recap: By the power vested in Billy Gibbons, Billy Joe married Wanda for the second time, which only puts her second in the Number of Times Married to Billy Joe Shaver contest. Then, the 67-year-old groom injured his back while wrestling a friend.

All that and he writes killer songs, too. God bless Billy Joe Shaver.

If you want to read more about one of the more interesting lives ever lived (and, clearly, still being lived), check out a 2002 bio of Billy Joe. He's also written his own bio. And go buy his CDs at his website.


Get Out: The Monthlong Birthday Celebration Edition (Week 4)

After the official birthday celebrations last week, Tinsel and Rot takes it slow this week, focusing mostly on giving thanks and eating turkey.

MON 11/20 (7 p.m.) Kinky Friedman book signing (Barnes and Noble Astor Place, NYC)

The man who would have been governor reads from and signs his new book, "The Christmas Pig." I haven't read it yet, but I've read just about all of Kinky's books and enjoyed nearly every one. And his readings are always entertaining, so long as you're not easily offended. And if you are easily offended, what are you doing here? Anyway, check it out if you can.

MON 11/20 (9 p.m.)--Jim Boggia/Mike Viola (The Living Room , NYC)

A Tinsel and Rot field operative has strongly suggested that I go to one of the shows in the every-Monday-in-November residency these two guys have at the Living Room. And since I'll be in the city anyway, I figure this Monday's the day. There were also rumblings that friend of Marah Adam Masterson would be doing a show upstairs in Googie's Lounge, but there hasn't been confirmation of that. So I guess I'll find out when I get there. And so can you.

The only other show I would go to this week would probably be the New York Dolls/Supersuckers show on Wednesday at Irving Plaza. But I think I will be unavailable to attend. Still, it should be good. The Supersuckers just put out a new EP now available at their online store for the special price of $6.66. They're a fun band. And once you get past the fact that Staten Island's pride and joy David Johansen looks like he weighs about 90 pounds, you'll probably enjoy the Dolls, too.

As for last week's recap, Christine Smith's CD release show (with special guests Kirk Henderson and Dave Bielanko--from a little band called Marah--and Jesse Malin) was a real good time. She performed the entire CD, which you oughta go buy, and much fun was had by all. Then it was on to Joe Ely, which was pretty damn awesome. He told lots of stories in between songs (including one about the day he joined the circus...seriously) and finished the main set with "Gallo del Cielo," which is definitely in my All-Time Top 5 Songs . The song's written by Tom Russell, but it's Ely's versions that always get me going. I don't know why a song about cockfighting gets me so emotional, but it does. And then he encored with his cover of Terry Allen's "Gimme A Ride to Heaven, Boy," another fine song. Damn, that was a good show.

I had my faith in Will Hoge restored on Wednesday, shortly after partaking in a birthday dinner of pierogies and coconut chicken at Maxwell's. Hoge was miles better than he was the last time I saw him in Brooklyn and the crowd wasn't nearly as annoying, or at least I positioned myself far enough back that they didn't bother me. They're just an awesome live band, and you really oughta check 'em out someday. Just keep your distance from the swaying, screaming drunk girls. Or get real close to them. I won't tell you how to live your life.

Sickness and crappy weather kept me away from the Bruce Hornsby show in Red Bank, but I rallied to take in another rocktastic Bobby Bare Jr. show at the Mercury Lounge. "The Heart Bionic" is battling "Zoysia" for the title of Favorite Live Song of 2006. I tried to hang in for Centro-Matic's set, but I wasn't really digging them too much. And so, because I was still a little under the weather and had to gird myself for a birthday celebration on Saturday, I bailed after 8 songs. I don't like doing that, but they just weren't doing it for me. I'm sure they'll get over that.

And on Saturday, we partied like 13-year-olds. And it was good.


Get Out: The Monthlong Birthday Celebration Edition (Week Three)

The road goes on forever, the party never ends...

TUE (7 p.m.)--Christine Smith CD Release Party (Living Room, NYC)

The first part of the evening begins at the Living Room on Ludlow Street with the CD release party for Christine Smith's new "Tomorrow Blues" disc, featuring members of Marah, whom I think I've mentioned my fondness for. Smith's been playing keyboards at select Marah shows over the last year, and I, as the kids say, dug her solo set at the Night of Phidelity back in September. So I shall celebrate the release of her CD with yet another trip to the Living Room, where my brand-new New Jersey Non-Driver's ID will get its first onceover. I've mentioned the fine zucchini sticks at the Living Room (via Zozo's, which is just around the corner), but, upon the recommendation of Maybe Pete's Johnny Macko, I can now also add that the bag of doughnuts is also delightful.

TUE (9:30 p.m.)--Joe Ely (Joe's Pub, NYC)

After the Christine Smith show, it's up and over to the Joe Ely solo show at Joe's Pub. It's been awhile since Ely's done a solo show in the area (though he's done a few gigs with the Flatlanders), so it should be cool. Joe Ely, for those who don't know (and, what the hell, for those who do know, too), is one of Texas's finest exports--a great songwriter, a killer performer, and one of the first alt-country guys I latched onto when I first started listening to that kind of music. And I probably picked up "Letter to Laredo" (maybe his best, though "Honky Tonk Masquerade" aint bad either, or any of his live discs) because I remembered his name from the list of performers who played at the National Wrestling Alliance's Great American Bash cards in the mid-1980s. And that just goes to show you that it doesn't matter how you get there, just that you get there.

WED--Will Hoge (Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ)

Still on the fence about this one, as the last Will Hoge show I saw (at Southpaw in Brooklyn) was so overly populated by giggly, drunken party-girl types that it was actually distracting. I lost count of the number of pictures taken of groups of such lasses while they had their backs to the stage. Unacceptable behavior, ladies. Backs should never be to the performers. They're putting on the show, not you. I wouldn't go to your show.

Anyway, I've yet to decide if it's worth the risk of spending my actual birthday (yep, Wednesday's the day) at a show with lots of people that will just make me angry. But I think I like Will Hoge enough to think it may just be worth it. We'll see.

THU--Bruce Hornsby (Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ)

Oh, I know. Bruce Hornsby's not cool, right? Well, maybe not, but I like him (most of the time; I'll forgive him for the Dead years and a couple crappy albums), and one of my favorite all-time shows was when he played the Count Basie (a cool theatre in a cool town) back in, I think, 1995. He invited everybody up on stage at one point in the show, something I've only seen him and Andrew W.K. do with any sort of success, and it was just an overall really cool show. I have been mocked many times for my fondness for Mr. Hornsby, but, like my fondness for Huey Lewis (and, yes, I like "Jacob's Ladder"), I ignore the mockery. Plus, Tinsel and Rot devotee and sporadic blogger Bryan Chambala recently admitted a fondness for Mr. Hornsby. Is there any greater sign that it is time to declare Bruce Hornsby cool? Lest you think that question is rhetorical, I will answer it for you. No.

Two more fine reasons to go are (a) I have a gift certificate to the Count Basie and (b) everybody gets a free boxed set with admission. Sweet.

FRI--Centro-Matic/Bobby Bare Jr. (Mercury Lounge, NYC)

Am I tired of seeing Bobby Bare Jr. yet? Nope. After recently surpassing Bob Dylan (whose local shows I'm actually skipping this week because, well, I don't feel the need to see him in an arena again) on the Times Seen by James Sigman list, Bare Jr.'s back in town, opening for Centro-Matic, whom I've heard good things about but never seen. Yes, there are bands I've never seen. Weird, huh?

The Bobby Bare Jr. shows I've seen supporting his new CD ("The Longest Meow") have been damn good. He's got a real strong band behind him, and they're playing the hell out of the new stuff. Check them out. They also play Saturday at the same place.

As for the recap from last week, the Bottle Rockets show in Brooklyn was depressingly underattended (unofficial count of actual Bottle Rockets fans: 8) and started way too late for a weeknight (doors were supposed to be at 8; the opening band--not so good--started just before 10), but was fun anyway. Europa's a weird place, but I kinda like it. How can you not like a place with a picture of underachieving hockey tool Mariusz Czerkawski proudly displayed? But their production skills need a little work.

The Bottle Rockets/Yayhoos show, on the other hand, was as close to perfect as possible. After the Bottle Rockets roared through their set (the live version of "Zoysia" is one of the best things going right now), the Yayhoos kicked off their set with NRBQ's "It Comes to Me Naturally." If there is anything greater than a Yayhoos show opening with a cover of an NRBQ song, I'm not aware of it. And like the Q, the Yayhoos are so clearly having a ball on stage that the fact that the music is killer is almost secondary. If you can't have fun at a Yayhoos show, particularly one in New York City, then you can't have fun at all. And I also got to scream out the lyrics to the set-closing "Garbagehead," a fine Eric Ambel song that I very much enjoy screaming out lyrics to.

The Matthew Ryan/Michelle Malone/Thad Cockrell show at the Living Room was good, but I must admit that I spent some of the show thinking I should've gone to the last-minute Yayhoos happy hour show at the Lakeside Lounge. It was cool to hear some new Ryan songs (though it might've been cooler to hear a few older ones) and I liked Cockrell and Malone just fine (the drunken dude heckling Malone at the table next to me I cared for a bit less), but it was so mellow that I found my mind drifting at times. And then when I found out on Terry Anderson's blog that the Lakeside show featured no repeats from the Mercury Lounge show and started with "Battleship Chains," my weekend was ruined.


Country When Country Isn't Cool

I didn't have a seat of my own in the audience at this year's Country Music Association Awards but I did have a seat on my increasingly uncomfortable futon as this year's CMAs unfolded on my television screen. And here's how it went down.

8:05--After an all-star start to the show with Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, and Sheryl Crow (for the record, if I get cancer, I won't be wasting any time singing with Brooks, Dunn, or any combination thereof), Eva Longoria is introduced to the crowd. There is apparently no invitation that Eva Longoria will turn down. Can someone find out if she'll come to my birthday party?

8:08--LeAnn Rimes presents an award with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Note to Richie: The time in your life when you can appear in public with your chest exposed has passed. A long time ago. Put on a sweater. And a jacket on top of that.

8:19--Brad Paisley and a band with a very bored mandolin player perform what I expect will be the first of many Bad Songs That Will Soon Be Played at Many Weddings. And the lyrics are actually outsucked by two completely uncountry guitar solos.

8:29--Ooh, Sugarland. Boy, they sure let the guy do a lot in Sugarland.

8:33--I'm starting to think that Gretchen Wilson might not be entirely awful. The song she sings aint bad.

8:46--Bad Song That Will Soon Be Played at Many Weddings #2 comes from the usually acceptable Alan Jackson. Back to songs with a pulse, Jackson.

8:50--This song by Little Big Town ("Bones") sounds like what would happen if the Manhattan Transfer decided to go country. But somehow less cool. Too bad, 'cause I kinda liked "Boondocks."

8:59--The Three-Headed Satan that is Rascal Flatts (led by the sunglass-sporting demon Gary LeVox) delivers another rancid tune (and another awful guitar solo) that makes me want to give up completely on country music. Seriously, who listens to this crap and thinks, "What a great country song"?

9:07--The Country Music Association salutes the many awesomely talented musicians in Nashville by announcing its Musician of the Year Award. Unfortunately, there's no time to actually give the award out on the air. Sorry, Randy Scruggs, must make room for Chesney!

9:13--Martina McBride breaks from script by not doing a Bad Song That Will Soon Be Played at Many Weddings. Instead, she does a Really Bad Inspirational Song That Will Soon Be Played at Many Telethons. She gets a partial standing ovation. Or else people just want to stretch.

9:17--The Annual Five Minutes of Credibility begins as Kris Kristofferson inducts George Strait into the Country Music Hall of Fame. And the always-steady Strait performs--miracle of miracles--a genuinely good country song ("Give It Away"). I've never been a huge Strait fan, but he's always kept things pretty traditional, so he's A-OK with me. Plus, he calls his son Bubba. You have to like that.

9:28--Kenny Chesney performs. Guess what kind of song it is?

9:32--I like that Wreckers' song. Or maybe I just like the way the Wreckers look.

9:43--When did Dierks Bentley start sucking so hard? And don't tell me he's always sucked. The first few songs were good. This, on the other hand, is as far from good as you can get. And he looks real uncomfortable singing it.

9:46--Little Jimmy Dickens gets two seconds of camera time. Hooray!

9:50--As a Ran Fan, it pains me to say that Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is not so good. Apparently, she's sticking with the Woman Done Wrong Who Wants Revenge genre. And she tries to top last year's singing-in-a-ring-of-fire performance by smashing her guitar on the stage as the song ends. Next year, she'll be kicking a little kid in the shins.

9:59--Faith Hill sings a pretty good song. And that looks like Claritin spokeswoman Kelly Willis singing backup. Faith does seem a little off, though. I hope Tim's treating her well.

10:07--After a ho-hum Josh Turner performance, American Idol ditz Kelly Pickler and Disgrace to Men Billy Currington present the Horizon Award to Carrie Underwood. Quite a collection of folks.

10:12--More credibility as Harold Bradley and Sonny James are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Actually, I'm kinda on the fence about Sonny James. But only because there's no Jimmy Martin in the Hall of Fame.

10:28--I don't care all that much for Sara Evans's performance, but Martina McBride's husband sure seems to dig it.

10:32--Billy Ray Cyrus is raging, raging against the dying of the light. But he just looks like a tool.

10:34--The big controversy of the night, as Carrie Underwood wins Female Vocalist of the Year while Faith Hill seems to express utter disgust. It looked bad at the time (and Faith Hill had to apologize today), but see for yourself at YouTube. It is such an over-the-top reaction that I'm willing to believe Faith on this one. As much as I don't want to.

10:40--Eddie Montgomery and noted hunting enthusiast Troy Gentry present Album of the Year to Brad Paisley. No bears are harmed.

10:53--After another inspirational slow jam from Vince Gill, Barbrara Mandrell wraps up the night by presenting the Entertainer of the Year Award to the tiny-headed Kenny Chesney. And another CMA Awards ceremony comes to a welcome end.

Maybe next year will be the one when things turn around.


Get Out: The Monthlong Birthday Celebration Edition (Week Two)

The first full week of the Monthlong Birthday Celebration brings four shows featuring three of my all-time favorites, including what might be the best double bill in a year of really good double bills.

WED 11/8--The Bottle Rockets (Europa, Brooklyn, NY)

Assuming that I have enough energy by Wednesday to expend on a midweek trip to Greenpoint, this will be the fourth Bottle Rockets show I see this year. I'm torn because it's an opening set (for the Hackensaw Boys, who were good both times I saw them, but I don't know if they're worth staying in Greenpoint until midnight for) and thus may not be as mighty and powerful as the three headlining gigs I've seen this year. But then again, an earlier set means I may get more than six hours' sleep. So I think it's a good thing. I've only been to Europa once before (and never to the continent of Europe, if you're keeping track), but as I recall, it's a weird disco-type of place. Oughta be interesting. I've expounded upon the virtues of the Bottle Rockets before, so all I can say is it'll be a good time. But you know what will be an even better time?

THU 11/9--The Yayhoos/The Bottle Rockets (Mercury Lounge, NYC)

The only thing that prevents this from being the greatest thing ever is that it's not on a weekend. But that's why you leave those extra vacation days on the table for November and December. Two of the greatest live bands I've ever seen are playing on the same bill for the bargain price of $13. This is God's birthday gift to me. Thanks, Chief. I can't see how this show could possibly suck. Maybe if the Yayhoos threw Terry Anderson out of the band right before the show and replaced him with Phil Collins. But I don't suspect that will happen. And so, in a year with Yayhoos/Avett Brothers, Bottle Rockets/Bobby Bare Jr., Drive By Truckers/Bobby Bare Jr., and Alejandro Escovedo/Marah, this gig is primed to be the Double Bill of the Year. If you don't go because you have other commitments, I'll understand (and like you a little less). If you go and don't have a good time, I officially hate you.

FRI 11/10 and SAT 11/11--Matthew Ryan/David Mead/Michelle Malone/Thad Cockrell (The Living Room, NYC)

It's two evenings of Songwriters in the Round at the Living Room, with one of my favorite songwriters (and author of the phrase that gives this blog its name), Matthew Ryan, leading the way. I know very little about the other three folks on the bill, but Ryan's involvement assures my attendance at at least one night. He's got a new CD coming out (for sale at the show) that I'm anxious to hear, and when I last saw him with the now-defunct Strays Don't Sleep, there was a confidence in his performance that I hadn't seen before. In fact, one of my concertgoing highlights of the year was Ryan singing "Cars and History" directly behind a woman who was chatting away and oblivious to what was going on around her. I love it when the concert chatterboxes are embarrassed. It makes the world seem like a better place.

Anyway, it should be a cool couple of nights at the Living Room. Come on out; it's the weekend.

Speaking of the Living Room, here's a brief recap of the three shows I prattled on about last week. The Jon Langford show at the Living Room (with Sally Timms, Jean Cook, Bill Anderson from the Meat Purveyors, and special guest John Wesley Harding) was the usual loose, ridiculously fun Langford show. The music was, as usual, stellar, but you can't beat the between-song repartee between Langford and Timms. The quote of the night came from Langford: "I would take the Dalai Lama roughly from behind." I'd give you the context, but what fun would that be? You should've been there.

The Bloodshot BBQ was its usual fun time, capped off by the bittersweet farewell performance from the Meat Purveyors. They're a helluva live band, mainly because, like all bands worth anything, they seem like they're having the time of their lives while they're up on stage. You could see the mixture of sadness and gleeful, reckless abandon when the band played, and when they finally ended the show with their cover of "We Kill Evil," it was a moment that, well, you should've been there for. And you should've checked out the Deadstring Brothers and Bobby Bare Jr. sets, too. The Bloodshot BBQ rarely disappoints.

And the Maybe Pete/La Dolce Vita show was fun, too. Or it started to be fun after the Sweet Sixteen that broke out between the opening band (The Morning Theft) and La Dolce Vita sets came to a close. Some people shouldn't be given alcohol and digital cameras. And most of them were at Maxwell's Saturday night. Hoo boy. I thought the Michael Jackson songs would never end. But they did, and then Michael Imperioli and La Dolce Vita started up. I don't have much to say about them. It was neither completely awful nor astoundingly good. It was just sort of there. Maybe Pete, though--now that's a band. You, y'know, should've been there. And I'm talking to you, you Soprano-ogling cretins. Stick around next time, wouldya?


Get Out: The Monthlong Birthday Celebration Edition (Week One)

Because there are so many phenomenal shows scheduled for the month of my birth, I figured I'd write about 'em all so you can come out and enjoy them, too. And since I don't drink, you don't even have to buy me a celebratory birthday drink. You can use that money to buy yourself a drink. Cool, no?

I'll break it down week by week so as not to overwhelm you. I'm too good to you.

11/1--Steve Earle/Allison Moorer/Laura Cantrell/Tim Easton (Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY).

Whoops. You missed this one. It was a good time, though. Crowded, but good. And there were the usual Steve Earle fan hecklers who always seem to buy a ticket so they can yell at him when he starts talking politics. Look, I like to hear Steve Earle sing more than talk too, but I can handle it if he wants to say something for a bit. And he's been talking politics at shows for awhile now. It's not a real huge surprise. Deal with it.

Anyway, everybody on the bill was good. Tim Easton started the show at 8:30 and Steve Earle ended it at 1:15, so I'm a little too tired to provide many more details. But Steve Earle is and shall always be cool. Believe that. And seeing him at a small place like Southpaw, while not exactly "mecca" (as proclaimed by the guy next to me, who kept requesting songs while covering his mouth, so Steve wouldn't see him and get angry), was yet another example of why it's cool to be in the NYC area. Yes, even Brooklyn was cool. For one night anyway.

11/3--Jon Langford (Living Room, NYC)

Though the Waco Brothers are still seemingly on deep hiatus (no NYC shows in, I think, two years), any Jon Langford show is still a helluva time. This CMJ show, with Sally Timms, violinist Jean Cook, and Bill Anderson from the Meat Purveyors, should be, as our friend Borat might say, "Ni-ice" (I'm hip to what the kids are digging). And it'll only cost you the one-drink minimum and whatever you want to put in the tip bucket. I also recommend ordering the zucchini fries while you're there. It's all the fun of eating french fries with the added bonus that you're actually eating a vegetable.

11/4 (afternoon) CMJ Bloodshot BBQ with the Meat Purveyors, Bobby Bare Jr., Scott H. Biram, Deadstring Brothers, The Silos, Mark Pickerel, and the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir (Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY)

It's the annual Bloodshot Records shindig, and it's also the final performance of the Meat Purveyors, a fine band with one album I really love ("All Relationships Are Doomed To Fail"), one I like quite a bit ("Pain By Numbers", one that I haven't listened to much yet but may have the title of the year ("Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse!"), and a few I never got around to buying. Throw in Bobby Bare Jr. and the Deadstring Brothers (and some other bands of varying goodness) and you've got the best $10 show you'll find all year. Plus you get free food. And maybe the really big dog that's at Union Pool every BBQ will be there, too. So go support Bloodshot Records, my favorite all-time record label. In a CMJ festival full of shows with bands that maintain a safe, eerie distance from the audience, the Bloodshot BBQ is a bona fide, unironic party. Come on down.

11/4 (night)--Maybe Pete/La Dolce Vita (feat. Michael Imperioli [Christopher] from The Sopranos), (Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ)

Look, I don't know what else I can do to get you to see Maybe Pete. I beg, I plead, I describe a week on the road with them, I give you pictures...I'm at a loss. OK, how about I throw in the added attraction of seeing Christopher Moltisanti in a rock band? All for $8. Is that enough? Do you want me to pay for your ticket? OK, I'll do it. Just go. You'll hear a quantagious (spelling clarified by Mr. McGrath) rock band, ogle a TV star and make him uncomfortable, and see if Frankie can contain himself from doing his Silvio Dante impression in front of a real live Soprano. It's a can't-miss.


What I Liked About October

*Baby's first Renaissance Festival, Annapolis, MD
*The games the Mets won and the games the Yankees lost
*The birth of Wesley David Chambala
*Apple cider donuts from the farmers' market at the World Trade Center

*"Vas o No Vas"
*The Chocolate with White Polka Dots cupcake at the Flying Monkey, Philadelphia, PA
*George Jones and Kris Kristofferson at Carnegie Hall, NYC
*Artie Lange kissing Blue Iris

*Marah at the Underground, Philadelphia, PA
*MTV's "True Life: I'm a Staten Island Girl"
*Anthony Iaffaldano's entry into the World of the Engaged
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


Ooooh, Scary: Chiller Theatre Fall 2006

Ah, the vibrant majesty of the fall, with its many glorious sights and smells. The turning of the leaves. The aroma of pumpkin that occasionally wafts through the air. And me, standing on a line outside a hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey, waiting to get my pictures taken with stars of '80s sitcoms.

Yessir, last Friday night brought me to the Chiller Theatre convention at the delightful Crowne Plaza hotel in hopes that I could obtain an autograph or two and a couple of pictures from the folks that popped up on my TV when I was a wee lad. This is the fourth Chiller in a row for me, which I think officially means that "sociopath" is now an accurate word to describe me. Awesome!

Anyway, I noted a few names on the guest list that piqued my interest, and since there was a rare gap in my social calendar, I figured it was worth the trip to Secaucus (though, really, who needs an excuse to visit Secaucus?). And my new Chiller Fall battle plan (because the fall show is the biggest of the year, with about 150 autograph guests) was to go on opening night, thus avoiding a repeat of last year's bazillion-hour wait on Saturday afternoon. And it was a success, as Friday was crowded but I never waited in a line for more than about 10 minutes. I'm so excited that I've solved the mystery of attending Chiller. There's nowhere to go but up. Or is it down? Well, now we're just arguing semantics. Let's move on to the show, OK?

Actually, one of the main reasons for going to Chiller was to see a TV "star" of a more recent vintage, Carla Gallo from the dearly missed (by me and at least two other people) "Undeclared." Alas, she was a no-show. So, say goodbye to that very special Christmas gift, Mr. and Mrs. Cagnazzi. I tried. I suppose I could have gotten you a signed Hulk poster from Lou Ferrigno (shown above), but I sense that wouldn't have been as cool. Sorry if I was wrong.

The Hulk was next to the one guy whose autograph I wound up buying, Todd "Willis Jackson" Bridges (you can see him bending down in the background of the photo above). He was actually quite an amiable chap, though he did give me the hard sell on buying the "Diff'rent Strokes" Season 2 DVDs from him. He was trying to get me to buy the set (he would sign every disc) for $50, which I would never, ever do. Plus, I can't be sure, but they looked to be bootleg DVDs, meaning that one of the stars of "Diff'rent Strokes" appeared to be selling bootlegs of a show that he starred in. I sense that things could be going better for Mr. Bridges. But he signed my Season 1, non-bootleg DVD case for $20 and did so gladly, after I barely stopped myself from asking him if Season 2 had the King Neptune two-parter in it. The question was on the verge of coming out of my mouth when I realized that asking him if the episode where the bike-shop owner molests Arnold and Dudley was on the discs might come across as a bit, um, creepy. But it's an historic show in my TV-watching life. That was probably the first "Very Special Episode" of a show I remember seeing. Freaked me out. Never even went into a bike shop after that. I don't wanna talk about it anymore.

I came to Chiller with the intention of getting a photo with Tony Burton, Apollo Creed's trainer in the "Rocky" movies and Rocky's trainer in the always timely "Rocky IV." Somehow I came to my senses before forking over the $15 to have a picture taken with my camera ($20 for a Polaroid signed to me). I couldn't even bring myself to get a photo signed because he was barely in half the photos he was selling. When I saw him sign an autograph, "Hands Up, Chin Down," I almost rethought my decision, but I stuck to my guns. Sorry, Duke.

As shown in the picture above, Burton was next to Peter Lupus, the original Nordberg in the "Police Squad!" TV show that preceded the "Naked Gun" movies (and O.J. Simpson's portrayal of Nordberg therein). That would almost have been enough to get me to buy a signed photo, except (a) no "Police Squad!" photos and (b) he looked really creepy. He's 74 and I guess he's in great shape or whatever, but it's that sort of old-person fit look that gives me the willies. He was peddling some supplements that allegedly "slow the body's aging process," so I guess that's what gives him his youthful glow. I think I'd prefer the aging process to just keep going at its normal rate.

Across from Burton and Lupus was the star of the show (or costar, I guess, since Kiss's Peter Criss, who had his own separate room inside the hotel, also drew a long line), Pee Wee Herman, whose autograph I thankfully once got for free, thus enabling me not to wait on the long line that wrapped around the back of the autograph tent most of the night. He seemed genuinely happy to be there and was awfully pleasant with everyone. And I think he was only charging $30, which may seem like a lot until you hear that Anthony Michael Hall was charging $40 (and only brought "Dead Zone" photos...where's the "Vacation" love, Rusty?). Or at least that's what I'm told happened on Saturday and Sunday. Somehow, his prices went up after Friday. Interesting.

Pee Wee was seated next to Lynne Marie Stewart, who played Miss Yvonne on "Pee Wee's Playhouse." As seen in the photo above (and, yes, I think that's Pee Wee standing up and taking a picture of something--hopefully, not me), she looks slightly different than she did in the Playhouse. Then again, I look slightly different than I did in 1990, too. That was a bad year for me. Very pudgy. So I actually look better than I did in 1990. I think. I hope.

But enough about me. What about Erin Moran, aka Joanie from "Happy Days"? Yep, she was there, and she was all over the place. When she wasn't snapping pictures with other celebrities or running out of the tent to grab a quick smoke, she was bugging her eyes out and hugging everybody that stopped at her table. I missed her a few times while she was on break, but I finally succeeded on the third try. Unfortunately, I was behind the Fab Six, six homosexual men who basically formed a half-circle around every celebrity that they wanted to meet and then took photo after photo. I had already spent a little time watching them work their magic as I tried to snap a photo of Charlene Tilton, which was amusing. But being behind them on the Erin Moran line was much more annoying, as they passed Joanie their cell phones so she could talk to their friends. Yes, that's the plural. She spoke to two people on the phone, while a third (who shared her birthday and thus had to be spoken to) missed his opportunity to chat with Joanie by not being home. I can only imagine the horror he now goes through every day, thinking of what might have been.

The only entertaining part of the waiting was watching Alana Curry, a really hot model/actress, who had the table next to Joanie, silently stewing as no one approached her while Erin Moran was being fawned over as if she were Julia Roberts. In fact, the four "hot chicks" around Erin Moran (Curry, Mia St. John, Brande Roderick, and Christy Hemme) didn't seem to do much business at all when I was in the tent, thus positioning Chiller as the Great Equalizer, where the large-breasted, heavily made up women of the world are routinely shunned in favor of aggressively aging actors and actresses. It was something to see.

Anyway, eventually I got my photo with Joanie. Tragically, I think I look much worse than she does.

Joanie sure does love Jamesi, though. Look how she's all over me. And her husband was taking the picture. I bet it could've been a wild night.

After tearing Erin Moran away from me (which happened soon after I gave her husband the $10 for the photo), I decided to take advantage of the stellar photo opportunity that awaited me a few tables away. "Three's Company" stars Joyce DeWitt and Priscilla Barnes (the latter of whom I was reminded on a recent, very boring Saturday afternoon was also in "Mallrats") were signing photos and occasionally taking photos with the peoples. I asked the guy at Priscilla Barnes' table how much it would cost for a photo with the both of them, and when he said it was $10 each, that sounded like a fine deal to me. So I headed to the back of the line and a few minutes later, voila:

I think Priscilla Barnes may have had some work done. Hard to tell.

After my turn as Jack Tripper, I was pretty much done for the night. There were a couple of almosts. Scott Schwartz, from "A Christmas Story" and "The Toy" (I think the first movie I ever saw, or at least remember seeing, in a theater) priced himself out when he wanted $25 to sign my copy of "The Toy." And after I realized who Stu Charno was, I almost succumbed. See, he played the real nerdy guy (IMDB says his name was Reptile) in the cinematic classic "Just One of the Guys." Seemed like a nice guy, too, but I just didn't see that fitting into the budget.

So after a quick last check of the vendor rooms, I made my way back to the NJ Transit bus stop, ready to head home for the night. It was a pretty successful night, not as crazy as last year, which was both good and bad (good because the lines were shorter, bad because there were fewer costumed freaks to stare at...only a fully decked out Robocop impressed me). Luckily(?), it's only a few more months until the next Chiller, with its dozens of great but oddball guests, occasionally long lines, and perhaps my favorite Chiller feature, the right-at-kids'-eye-level Storage Tub O' Porn.


The TV Is Whipping Me

The first in a series?

*You know what would make me more likely to watch "Yo Momma" on MTV? If just once someone would respond to one of the Yo Mommas with "My mother died giving birth to me, you insensitive prick." It wouldn't even have to be true. And, by the way, congratulations to Wilmer Valderrama for doing the impossible...somehow besting Ashton Kutcher for the title of "That '70s Show Cast Member with the Most Annoying Show on MTV." Topher Grace, please commence thinking of ways to top them.

*Sorry, but "1 vs. 100" is yet another bad game show. The questions are so easy in the early rounds that you're not really compelled to stick around to the end of the show. And Bob Saget seems like he's barely interested in the game. So that's another game show failure. Where have you gone, Chuck Barris, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

The best current game show is clearly "Vas o No Vas," the Spanish-language version of "Deal or No Deal." The contestants are cooler, the studio audience is more into it, and the host isn't afraid to touch the contestants. Te amo "Vas o No Vas."

*One good thing about no more baseball--no more Tim McCarver. When I was a kid, I couldn't understand why people hated him so much. I get it now. Completely.

* I accept that, as a virile gentleman of the modern age, I shouldn't be watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and getting all emotional. But I am. Sorry.

*While I'm copping to things, settle back and soak this admission in: I think I'm finally tired of the Real World/Road Rules alumni challenges. "The Duel" is leaving me cold. If they want to get my interest back, I think the next one should just be called "Let's Kill Beth from L.A." And get rid of the "Fresh Meat" kids. They haven't paid their dues.

*Hey, did you hear the funny joke Dane Cook told on his HBO special? Yeah, me neither.

*So, whaddya think of that new opening from "Degrassi: The Next Generation"? And the new girl who has a kid? What? You don't watch the show because it's geared toward 13-year-olds? Oh, right, yeah...I don't watch it either. I just heard there was a new opening on one of The N message boards and...I mean, someone I know told me...ah, forget I ever mentioned this.


Tinsel and Rot: The Week in Emotions

DISHEARTENED. At the report from the Daily News that orders for Dustin "Screech" Diamond's porn tape are "pouring in." If I heard that one person ordered this, I'd be upset. But "pouring in"? What is wrong with you people? Do you really have a burning desire to see Screech have sex? Has your life really come to this? Surely you can buy much more entertaining porn for your $49.95.

For the record, if you're thinking, "Hey, James likes 'Saved by the Bell' --I'll buy him this DVD as a goof," please stop thinking that immediately. I want no part of this. Seeing Jessie Spano in "Showgirls" was traumatic; I can't even begin to guess at the damage this would cause.

ANNOYED. At people who say things like, "Well, I'm a Yankees fan, but I love all the New York sports teams, so I hope the Mets win it all." Sorry, you'll have to pick a side here. You either like the Yankees and hate the Mets or hate the Yankees and like the Mets. There is no other way to root. Same goes for Giants/Jets and, most important, Rangers/Islanders. The Yankees or the Rangers could be playing against a team composed of Nazis, al-Qaeda operatives, and the would-be molesters on "Dateline" and I still would find it difficult to root for them. OK, maybe I'd give in. Hard to say until it happens. I smell a new reality TV show.

Anyway, If you're going to adopt some ridiculous "I'm cool with all New York sports teams" ethos that ensures that you will never feel actual pain because of the outcome of a sporting event, why not just stop watching sports altogether and enjoy the "Project Runway" marathon instead? You're an embarassment to sports fans everywhere.

HAPPY, DISTURBED, THEN HAPPY AGAIN, BUT STILL KINDA DISTURBED, OK, IT'S TOO FUNNY TO ACT ALL DISTURBED. The crackerjack news team at MTV presented "True Life: I'm A Staten Island Girl" (rejected title: "True Life: I'm Orange and I Tawk Funny") on Tuesday. This episode of the "True Life" series came on the heels of episodes about young people coping with Tourette's and OCD, thus establishing being from Staten Island as being much like having a debilitating illness. And the producers did a fine job of choosing three completely different young ladies to represent the borough: a tan, looks-obsessed girl who dyes her hair quite a bit and wants to be an actress, a tan, looks-obsessed girl with an unfortunate propensity to use hideous eyeshadow who wants to work in PR, and a really, really tan, looks-obsessed girl who only likes orange guys with spiky hair and bemoans the fact that she can't find a good one. I think my birthplace came off as really cool in the special. Thanks, MTV. First, the "True Life" wedding of Charlie and Sabrina, and now this. There are plenty of imbeciles in Brooklyn, too. Go film them.

On the bright side, this episode will make people a little more understanding of my decision to attend an all-boys' high school. I'm even starting to think it wasn't such a bad idea. And the show did feature my grammar school best friend's brother and clothing store. So, big ups for the Daszkowskis. Devoted fans of my work will no doubt recognize the "Dasz" part of that name from the seminal publication "Sig-Dasz Sports," which dazzled the sports-hungry preteens of Blessed Sacrament School in 1986-1987 (and all for just 25 cents...50 if it was a double issue).

VIOLENTLY ANGRY. At Albert Pujols, for engaging a guy who can barely walk in a footrace to first base instead of just tossing to the pitcher who was covering. I will never select you in a Fantasy Baseball draft again. Take your sneer and shove it up your ass.


Day Five: Lions and Tigers and Falcons, Oh My!

Yessir, the mercury slipped to a brisk 196 degrees below zero when I awoke in Huntington or Barboursville or wherever exactly we were in West Virginia. OK, you got me. It wasn't really that cold.

I was actually getting used to the little-sleep routine, and by this point I was getting up earlier than everybody else so I could see what the daylight looked like. I spent the morning crossing the highway to check out the Grandview Weekend Outlet, which had a ton of crap and a handful of good deals, a bare-bones CVS, and a creaky, near-abandoned mall that housed the prestigious Huntington Beauty School. It was a little past 11 when I wandered over, so there was a fair number of people strolling around. After about 10 minutes, I got bored and walked back to the hotel to read the local paper.

Soon the rest of the troops were stirring about and it was time for breakfast, just after the crack of 1 p.m. But it was the Breakfast of the Week at Tudor's Biscuit World. The mere fact that West Virginia is home to a chain of restaurants built around the biscuit makes me think that all those backhanded slaps to the state are completely unwarranted. I had some fried apples on a biscuit and pancakes, and followed that up with some taters and a buttered biscuit to go. The taters and extra biscuit only made it as far as Ashland, Kentucky, where we stopped for some cheap Camels for the smokers in the rock and roll convoy. They walked out of the convenience store with cartons under their arms and joy radiating from their faces.

It was about a six-hour drive to Detroit, so I settled in with some Su Doku (returning to the game after a long absence) and took the occasional catnap, which I was also getting very good at. We stopped for a bathroom break in Ohio, where I happened upon the first cologne dispenser of the tour. I briefly considered plunking down a couple of quarters for a Drakkar/Obsession mix until I realized that the other four people in the van might not find it as funny as I would, particularly with about three more hours of driving ahead. So I settled for a picture.

Though the -196-degree sky at the top of this post might indicate that we had glorious weather for the ride, it's not true. By the time we hit Ohio, the sky was turning an ominous shade of gray and the clouds were ready to burst. They finally did in an impressive thunderstorm (lightning looks cool on a flat Interstate highway) that ended with a perfectly arched rainbow sometime after we passed the outlet for the unfortunately named Coons Candy.

As Mark was flipping around the radio for the Ohio State football game, I heard the familiar tones of Hairl Hensley. Then I remembered that the home of the Grand Ole Opry, WSM 650 Nashville, had a real strong signal, which, as it turns out, spreads to Detroit. So after stopping for dinner at Wendy's, I asked Mark if the Ohio State signal kept fading out if it would be possible to listen to the Opry for a bit. He was gracious enough to do so, and we got to hear Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and my main man John Conlee (doing the quintessential '80s country song, "I'm Only In It For The Love") before Jim Ed Brown came on and I gave full permission to Mark to abandon the Opry. It was pretty sweet to hear the Opry, particularly since Sirius recently stopped carrying WSM. I would be mad at Sirius, but they recently aired Todd Snider's Tipsy Gypsy Hour and next week, Artie Lange's making out with Blue Iris, so I can't stay mad long.

When we got to the 2500 Club in Detroit, Doyle got out to ask where we should park the van. Soon there was a guy in a hoodie with "Parking" written on it telling us where to go. We pulled right in front of the club, and he told us to just stay there, even though we'd be parking right in front of a fire hydrant. Then, after a few minutes of thinking and a lot of gibberish, he took a highway traffic cone and just put it right over the fire hydrant. Voila! It fit perfectly. Up until that point, the guy was annoying me, but that move upped my opinion of him considerably. I'm still not convinced, however, that he didn't just buy a shirt with "Parking" on it and appoint himself as parking attendant.

It turned out that I could see Comerica Park from outside the club, and because of a rain delay, the Tigers-Royals game was only in the 4th inning. After loading in, I decided that I couldn't be that close to a ballpark (and to a potential division-clinching game) and not go in. So I ditched the 2500 Club (sorry, opening bands) and walked over to Comerica Park, where I bought a $15 SRO ticket and took in about five innings of the game.

I spent most of my time at Comerica trying to find a decent hat, but with no hats commemorating the actual stadium, I came up empty. I contemplated buying a Justin Verlander shirt (a key fantasy baseball pick-up this year), but ultimately decided against it. It was a pretty cool park, though, especially the statues in right-center and the dancing fountains in center field. Would've been cooler if the Tigers had won and clinched the division, of course, but it's all good, because without that loss and the one that followed, they wouldn't have been matched up with the Yankees. And we all know how incredibly awesome that turned out. Let's go Mets!

I also snapped a picture of the Fox Theater marquee on the way out, because I love the old school neon marquees. Even when they're advertising a Vince Gill show (I keed, I keed; he's touring with NRBQ's Al Anderson in his band, so he aint all bad).

The third band of the night was midway through their set when I got back to the 2500 Club, meaning Maybe Pete was on next. It was also their last night of the tour, so I was looking forward to a big finish from both bands. After the opening hardcore and punk bands, it was once again a rough crowd that faced Maybe Pete (from about ten feet back) at the beginning of their set. And it took them a little while to get their stage legs under them before achieving total domination. They even had their very first crazy mosher, who was slam dancing with one other willing participant and trying to entice others (including me...no thanks) to join him.

He was well behaved for the most part, until Kelly came down from the stage to play, and he started dancing near her. I was keeping an eye on him for awhile and then all of the sudden, he kind of swooped in and, I think, tried to kiss Kelly. I had a brief vision of the night going horribly, tragically wrong, but Kelly held her own and worked out of the situtation. She also wriggled out of a headlock the guy started to wrap her in a few minutes later. First lunatic mosher successfully handled. Congratulations, Kelly.

There's a point during the Hudson Falcons' "Revolution" that someone from the crowd usually comes up and yells some hearty "Revolution"s into Doyle's mike. No one was stepping forward, so I figured this was my shot. Yep, I made my stage debut in Detroit. I kinda lost my place for a bit, but it went OK. Some other guy came up to the stage, so any pitchiness was all his fault. I take no responsibility.

Then, a few seconds after I got off the stage, the show got shut down. Coincidence...or something more?

Turns out the 2500 Club has been having its own troubles of late and can't afford to get any more violations and lose its liquor license. So the show had to end at 2:30, with the Falcons only about two-thirds into their set. So there would be no big finale with the folks from Maybe Pete, no big sendoff as we headed back to New Jersey. What a drag. And an anticlimactic ending to some of the most fun I've ever had.


I took a plane home early the next morning and headed back to civilian life somehow exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. It's definitely not easy being out on the road (and even harder when you're in a band trying to make a living doing it), but if you're with the right bunch of people, it can be the most exhilarating thing in the world.

Thanks to Mark, Kerri, Doyle, Drew, Frankie, Kelly, Bino, and Johnny for a quontagious time on tour. And please go see the Hudson Falcons if they come anywhere near you on the rest of their tour (see their website for dates). They'll be glad to see you.

'Til the next time.


Day Four: A Thundering Herd of Rock and Roll

It takes only a few days on the road to make you a little loopy. Or at least that's the excuse I'm using for why I paid $10 at Kroger's for an animatronic chicken ghost that shakes it on down to "The Chicken Dance." Ah, screw it. Who needs excuses? The dancing chicken ghost is awesome.

The spooky bird was purchased on my second trip to the Columbus Kroger's, taken after a damn fine Chinese food lunch at the Linksey-approved Little Dragons. I was pleased to return to Kroger's because I love going to supermarkets in new towns. I'm just that cool. And my supermarket trips resulted in three winners: the aforementioned dancing fowl, a pack of Kroger's dinner rolls that made for good van and hotel food for a few days, and a sweet piece of red velvet cake from the Dave's in Akron. The Food Network oughta give me a show where I go to supermarkets across America. Someone make that happen. And make sure Rachel Ray isn't involved, because she creeps me out.

Alas, there was no time to hit a supermarket in Huntington, West Virginia. We only were able to duck into Arby's (the most efficient Arby's ever...seriously) and a convenience store, where I discovered that Huntington was the home of your Marshall University Thundering Herd. In fact, the club for the night, Marley's Doghouse, was located directly across the street from the Marshall football stadium. Both are situated along Third Avenue, cleverly nicknamed "Herd Avenue." Get it?

Marley's was an interesting place. After a brief period where Kerri and I were not allowed in, followed by a session deciding how long and in what order the five bands would play, we loaded in and discovered that the night the Falcons and Maybe Pete rolled into town was Art/25-Cent Mug Night. Yes, in addition to 25-cent beer for those who brought their own mugs, hammered college students were also given the opportunity to create artistic masterpieces with the Play-Doh, watercolor paints, markers, crayons, and pipe cleaners at each table in the front room. Art Night, according to the bar's owner, was "just something to get people talking." I guess it worked, because I've been talking about it ever since.

Unfortunately, the front room's deafeningly loud jukebox made talking that night a little more challenging. At one point, it played a hideously awful mix of "What A Wonderful World" that sent me outside to rethink the song's general sentiment. Unfortunately, once outside, there wasn't much to see. I found Bino and Johnny from Maybe Pete at the about-to-close Italian restaurant down the street, so I hung out with them for awhile before heading back to the painful jukebox, pipe cleaners, and unique bathroom at Marley's.

Prior to this tour, I thought that there would be nothing more distressing than to walk into a bathroom with a pissing trough. But things have changed. Yes, a pissing trough is a disturbing sight, but not as disturbing as Marley's pissing trough with rubber duckies swimming in it. Cutesy touches don't belong in a public restroom. Use that creativity to find away to keep me from getting hepatitis from the toilet seat.

Perhaps inspired by the stellar lavatories at Marley's (I can only assume the ladies' room was equally as classy), Maybe Pete put on their best set of the tour. They came out swinging with "Hideaway" and didn't let up, ripping through another quontagious cover of "Can't Hardly Wait" amid their own equally quontagious originals ("Between the City and the Stratosphere--go buy it, wouldya?). In between they even covered another Bruce song, "Two Hearts," for which Mark joined them on stage. By the time Bino popped his bass strings off, most of the skeptical, arms-folded-across-the-chest folks were converts. People even wandered in from Art Night to check them out. Success!

The Falcons went on around 2 a.m., which, unfortunately, meant that a lot of people packed up the Play-Doh and went home by the time they hit the stage. If I had any physical strength at all, perhaps I could've beaten them into staying. Alas, I am only capable of physically besting the infirmed and small animals, neither of which were in Huntington that night.

But the devoted few who did stick around got to witness one of the oddest things I've ever seen at a concert. I guess the folks at Marley's like to show off their moronic stage effects, which include a choking smoke machine and a just plain annoying bubble machine. Throughout the night, the smoke machine would start up in the middle of a song and soon leave my eyes watering as I looked for the way back to the relative safety of Art Night. But it was no match for the bubble machine.

Now, I suppose that there are some bands that play Marley's whose music is entirely bubble-appropriate. The Hudson Falcons are not one of those bands. Their music is many things, but it is decidedly not bubble-friendly. Apparently, this went right past the soundman. And at a ridiculously inappropriate moment. See, there's this part of the Falcons song "Scab" that breaks down into sort of a reggae beat. I'm guessing that the reggae beat was what signaled "Bubble Time" to the soundman. He probably should've listened to the words being sung at that point:

"Tire irons and baseball bats
You try to break the union, we'll break your head"

Does pounding on a scab conjure up visions of bubbles in your head? Yeah, me neither. I was so dumbfounded (and so aware at how pissed Mark was) that I didn't even take a picture. So you'll just have to imagine it. Or buy "For Those Whose Hearts and Souls Are True" and have a friend blow bubbles while you listen to Track 6. Let me know how that goes for you.

After some kind suggestions from Doyle and Mark, the rest of the set (and night) was bubble-free, though a friend of the band did remove his glass eye a few times, which was much more entertaining than the bubble show. Once the Falcons had wrapped things up and everybody's eyes were back in place, it was time to pack up the trailer again (ooh, my head) and pull out of Marley's a few hours ahead of the sun's arrival. But not before Drew and Frankie engaged in a little Dueling Silvio Dantes.

I miss being on tour.


Day Three: Look Out, Cleveland (and Hello, Columbus)

Mark Linskey, aside from fronting the Hudson Falcons, driving the van, and scoping out cheap deals for hotels, also spends a lot of time being an all-around swell guy. So, when we had a little bit of time on Day 3, he decided to drive in the opposite direction so that I could have the chance to see Cleveland and, in particular, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Really, you should buy all the Falcons CDs just because of that. Lucky for you, the CDs are also good enough to stand on their own. C'mon, what are you waiting for? Do it now. Buy "La Famiglia" first.

So ends the commercial interruption for this post. I can't promise there won't be more in future posts.

Anyway, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, situated just off Lake Erie (my first Great Lake), doesn't quite measure up to either the Baseball or the Country Music Hall of Fame, but it aint that bad. I was glad to be there during the Roy Orbison exhibition, although it was a little too heavy on the late-'80s comeback for my taste. Still, it was a room full of Roy Orbison memorabilia, so I was happy. The Rick Nelson exhibit? A little less enjoyable.

I'm also of the opinion that a Hall of Fame needs plaques, and the Rock and Roll Hall doesn't deliver. Instead, there are signatures etched into a wall, which is far less impressive (although, as an autograph collector, it was fun to count the ones I had...yes, I'm a nerd). Aside from the wall of signatures, the actual inductee hall was largely taken up by a theater that showed clips of the inductees. Multimedia presentations in halls of fame are only allowed in Cooperstown's Grandstand Theatre. Everybody else should stop trying.

The Ramones display had some pretty cool stuff, including a setlist in which all the stage movements ("Take off jackets") and even the "1234"s were written out. Also, it appears that Marky Ramone is willing to give and sign just about everything he has, as his stuff was all over tha place. Good for him.

So, yeah, it was cool to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (especially since it didn't cost a thing...bands get in free with a CD or tour laminate...shhhhh), and it was nice to actually do something during daylight hours other than sit in a van. Thanks, Mark.

The guys in the Falcons and I also had to make one more stop in Medina, on the way to Columbus. Some people were waiting to hear us speak.

Yessir, chick masters, every last one of us.

Even with the trip to Cleveland, we still pulled into Columbus early enough to make a guitar string run at Sam Ash and check into the Hotel of the Week, the Quality Inn and Suites. The guys and gal from Maybe Pete met us there, after spending the earlier part of the day bowling. Luckily, I didn't know they were doing that, otherwise I would have been faced with the Sophie's Choice of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or bowling. I'm not sure I could have handled that. The fact that I hadn't packed my ball and shoes would have made it only slightly easier.

Anyway, the Quality Inn had a courtyard and everything, with couches in the hallways. Pretty swank (and cheap). And there was enough time between check-in and the show at Bernie's Distillery to call a Tinsel and Rot reader with birthday wishes. At Tinsel and Rot, we care about the fanbase.

But soon it was off to Bernie's, where Mark was hoping for a good Thursday night crowd after a couple of rough turnouts for the first three gigs. When we pulled up, Bocephus's "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" was blasting out in the street. That should have been a good sign. But it wasn't.

Bernie's Distillery is in a part of Columbus with a decent flow of people. Unfortunately, more of them seemed interested in frequenting the bright, generic college bar down the street than the dank basement at Bernie's. Kids today. Oh well, screw them. And screw you if you'd rather get drunk with a bunch of preppy douchebags in a loud, obnoxious bar than go see live music. You're a waste. But thanks for reading!

After loading in everything (and extending my streak of days hitting my head on the trailer to three), I took a little walk around Columbus, stopping for a blueberry cake and a buttermilk doughnut at Buckeye Donuts. You don't realize how much you miss an honest-to-goodness independent doughnut shop until you step inside one. Dunkin' Donuts is fine, but there's something about a real doughnut shop that totally kicks ass. Or maybe I'm just weird.

When I got back to Bernie's, the opening band was wrapping up, and the crowd was just about as thin as when I'd left. But there were two interesting people added to the mix. One was a guy I dubbed The Ghost of George Clinton Future. I should have snapped a picture. But I was afraid he might kill me. So you'll just have to imagine.

The other newcomer was a guy I had seen during my doughnut run, and I wouldn't have expected him to be at a rock show. Then I remembered Mark and Doyle talking about "Batman," a guy who's been to all of their shows and always requests the theme to the "Batman" TV show. This, I realized, was the guy. "Viva La Bam" devotees might say he was a slimmer, slightly more understandable version of Don Vito.

As the veteran on the tour, Mark had told Frankie and Kelly that they would be playing "Batman" tonight. So they played it at the beginning of their set, but by the time they wrapped it up, Batman hadn't come up to the stage. So they had to start it again. This time, he joined in or, more accurately, he just stepped up to the mike and sang "Nananananananananananananananana" and "Batman" a lot.

Not satisfied with that, he asked for "Batman" again during the Falcons' set. And so it was Round 2 (technically, 3) of the theme from "Batman." You figure he'd be satisfied. You'd be wrong. Now he wanted to sing "Hang On Sloopy." Mark promised he'd play it later, and from a lot of bands that would just be a vow meant to silence a guy. But not the Falcons. And so those few and righteous music lovers who came to Bernie's got to hear Mark sing the verses while Batman would come in and howl, "Slooooooooooooopy" during the chorus. Words can't properly explain it. A picture can't either, but why don't we try?

Amazingly, the Falcons were able to use "Sloooooooooooopy" to propel the show forward, with the night again ending on a high note as Frankie came up on stage to play. And with so much room in front of the stage, I was able to get up close for some pictures. Mark was even kind enough to pose for one in the middle of a guitar solo.

Good times.

Yesterday's Youth closed the show, and they won the prize as Hardcore Band of the Week. I respect anybody who gets up on stage and performs, but hardcore generally wears on me pretty quick. Yesterday's Youth actually held my attention and sounded pretty good. I didn't think of going back to Buckeye Donuts once during their set. Nice work, boys.

After the show, the rock and roll caravan moved on to the Waffle House, located just down the road from the jello wrestling and right next door to the elegant Danny's Gold Fox strip club, both of which were closed up by the time we got back. A real shame.

Our Waffle House waitress apparently was involved in a freak accident that left her incapable of delivering any facial expression, but the chocolate chip waffles tasted damn good. If it's not obvious by now, I will forgive anything so long as pancakes, waffles, and french toast are nearby. That's just how I roll.

After the Waffle House, Drew and I entertained ourselves by reciting lines from "Adventures in Babysitting" (if "nobody leaves this stage without singing the blues" and "I don't have a weiner" mean nothing to you, your life has been poorly lived). So, in one day (or one twenty-four-hour span, to be precise), you had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, actual rock and roll, good doughnuts, a visit to the Waffle House, and talk of "Adventures in Babysitting."

Helluva day.