Monday, April 13, 2020

MILK MONEY


This band started in 2004, but didn't actually start playing until 2019.

Dan Fletcher joined Cherem in 2004, and one of our first tours was in August of that year. We did a lot of overnight driving back then, because we mostly toured in the summer and our van didn't have A/C. On the way to our first show in Sacramento, I was driving, Dan was riding shotgun and Bill was on the first bench. Everyone else was asleep. My main rule while I was driving was "no hardcore." It made me sleepy for some reason, so I always put on something upbeat—punk, hip-hop, whatever. Dan was looking through my CD case, and put in a mix of old grunge songs. I was happy, because I didn't think anyone else liked that stuff. I know Austin didn't. Clint was pretty indifferent. 

We listened to Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana all night, talking about how much we loved them, and how much fun it would be to play in a band like that. We decided to start one when we got back from tour. We never did.

Dan and I played in a bunch of bands together after that, but nothing like the one we planned on starting that night. 

Cut to 2017, when Dan and I started a group text with our friends Byron and Drew. We were all busy, and none of us had a practice space, but we all wanted to play music. We started trading riffs and ideas, and Dan compiled everything into a SoundCloud. Then we found Will. He wanted to sing for a band, so we told him to pick three songs from the dozen or so that Dan put together, and booked one day of studio time. We set up, ran through the songs together for the first time, and hit record. It was super fun and turned out really good. We put those songs on a 7" and played exactly one show. It was called Potential

Potential fizzled out after that, and we all went on with our lives. Dan was playing solo stuff. Drew and I started doing Tamerlane pretty regularly. But none of us were playing together. Then Byron resurrected the group text.

He wanted to get together for a contest that one his favorite bands was doing. Pup was releasing a new album, and as a promotional idea, they released the lyrics and chord progression to one of their new songs. They encouraged everyone with a band to use it as a template and record their own version. They wanted to post their favorites before unveiling what the song actually sounded like. It was a cool idea, so the four of us got together at Dan's practice space one night. 

Things went sideways almost immediately, and we scrapped the cover song before we even started it. Instead, we started playing around with riffs, and wrote a pretty cool song. Then we wrote another one.

"Did we just start a rock band?" asked Byron.
"Dan and I have been trying to start a 90's style grunge band since like 2004," I said.
"I guess this is it," said Dan.

Songs came together pretty quickly, and they were all really fun to play. We were only getting together about once every two weeks, but after a few months, we had 12 songs and no idea what to do with them. We tossed around the idea of releasing a couple of different EP's, but couldn't decide on anything.

"Fuck it," I said. "If this is a 90's style rock band, let's just come out the gate with a full length."

So we did.

We met up with our friend Wes Johnson for a few days last summer and recorded all twelve songs. It sat on a hard drive for a few months while we tried to come up with a marketing strategy, and figure out the best way to release an album in 2019. Then we got tired of waiting, and just put it up on Spotify in December.

Once January rolled around, we started playing shows, writing more songs, and shooting a video. It was all rolling along, and we were having tons of fun. Then Coronavirus hit and put everything on hold. That's where we are now.

The bright side is that we're still trying to keep busy. We made a quarantine video for the track "Human Spine" last month. We started recording interviews for a Milk Money podcast series. We're trying to figure out how to record some new songs while maintaining social distancing. And we started writing a weekly advice column.

The last one has been my favorite so far. It's hosted by our friends at Gold Blood Collective, and we're trying to get one up every week for the next little while. You should read it.

Here's a bunch of links. It's up on every streaming platform there is, so go to whichever one you use and add us. Listen to the album, tell me if you like it, then come see us play live—if that's ever a thing that people can do again.





Thursday, April 2, 2020

THE EPITAPH RECORDS PLAYLIST GAME


The only regular interaction I get with other people these days is through the Milk Money group text. Some days it's super active, other days not so much—but it's always fun. Lately, we've been making playlists based on record labels that we grew up listening to and posting them to the M$ Twitter account and Facebook page. The group gets pretty active when we do them, and brings back a whole bunch of great memories of when we were younger and music was literally all that mattered.

If you didn't grow up in the punk/hardcore scene—going to shows, buying records, and obsessing over bands—record labels probably have no bearing on your life. But to those that did, you know how crucial it was to have a label that you would basically go to war for.

Dischord started the obsession. SST followed suit. Sub Pop showed everyone how to be big and small at the same time. Fat Wreck Chords was a staple of early 90's punk rock, while Victory and Revelation were the mecca for anyone interested in hardcore. Thousands of discussions were based on what band should be on what label, how crazy it was that a particular band ditched one label for another, and what label's "sound" a smaller, unsigned band encompassed. I'll never forget when Sick of it All signed with Fat Wreck Chords. My friends and I were so confused, because it didn't seem like they fit in at all with the rest of the goofy, fun-loving bands on the label. Then again, we were 18 and didn't know anything anyway.

One of the most influential labels for me personally was Epitaph Records. The label was founded by Brett Gurewitz primarily as a vehicle for releasing albums for his own band—Bad Religion. There weren't a lot of punk rock labels in the early 80's, so DIY was the way to go. The first seven or eight years of the label were mostly Bad Religion albums, until he started signing other acts, most notably NOFX and Pennywise. After that, Epitaph became a huge deal—not just in the punk scene, but the world in general.

Epitaph released some of my favorite punk/hardcore albums of all time from bands like H20, The Bouncing Souls, Rancid, Descendents, and Refused. It's a murderer's row of great music. Brett Gurewitz unknowingly introduced me to bands I still listen to, admire, and play air drums to when I'm walking around my neighborhood in the midst of this global pandemic. He's long been one of my idols, and before the total collapse of the record industry, I wanted to try and follow in his footsteps. He's still someone I look up to, but starting a record label in this era of music is just a terrible idea that no one should do. I have several boxes of unopened, unsold CD's in a closet to back that up.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's on to the game that the title of this post alludes to. I know that was five paragraphs ago, but hopefully you're still reading. I mean, what else are you doing?

If you've suddenly found yourself with an abundance of time, and need a break from binge watching old episodes of The Office, or arguing about TIGER KING on Facebook, give this a shot. You can use pretty much any label, but Epitaph makes it easy because they have all their releases cataloged by year on their website.

Here are the only rules:

1) You can only pick one song for each year.
2) No artist can appear more than once.
*Additional Rule Edit*
3) I'm opening this up to include Epitaph's sister labels, ANTI and Hellcat. It's my game and I'll change the rules to suit my own needs if I want to.

With Epitaph, it got really, really difficult for me between 1996 and 2001. Would I love to have "Rather Be Dead" on this playlist? I sure would, but Everything Sucks by Descendents was released the same year. It's all about making the tough choices. I skipped a few years here and there (mostly between 2008-2015ish because I never listened to a lot of the bands they were releasing), so I'll be revisiting my playlist soon to add a few more.

No one is going to actually do this, because most of you are adults, quarantined with your family or a significant other. But on the off chance that you do find yourself with a little extra time, give it a shot and see what happens—especially if you do Epitaph. I would love to see where you and I differ on these songs.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

HUMAN SPINE

I'll tell you more about Milk Money another day, but I'll start with the video we made the day of the Great Utah Earthquake.

We started shooting a video for another song earlier this month. There's three locations that we wanted to use, but we only got through the first one. It was fun, and in the end, I think it's going to be really awesome. We're shooting with an old friend named John Raftery. He's a tattoo artist at Mercy here in Salt Lake, and has been making movies and short films on the side.

Now that we're all stuck at home, we were forced to abandon the rest of it for the time being. Understandable, but a bummer all at once. I was texting with a friend, who saw little snippets of the first shoot on our Instagram (@MilkMoneyRock), and she asked if everything was on hold. I said that it was, and then she came back with a great idea.
I stole it from her immediately, and hit up the band group text (which is a very comforting thing to have right now as I live alone in a small apartment and haven't seen anyone in days). They loved it, and over the next couple of days, we each filmed our part and sent them to Dan. He's been playing around with Final Cut Pro a lot over the past few months, and had a rough cut ready before I even recorded mine. I recorded mine in the afternoon—which gave me a good reason to change out of sweats for a bit—and Drew finished his later that night. Dan had it ready to go the next morning.

It's pretty rad what you can accomplish when you can't leave your house. Hope you like it. You can find the rest of our stuff on Spotify/Apple Music/Bandcamp/Soundcloud/whatever.

Milk Money


Saturday, March 21, 2020

ARE WE BACK?


Blogging is about to have a massive comeback—for about two months.

I'm on day four of this social distancing/isolated quarantine thing that we're all supposed* to be doing. If you live in Salt Lake City, you had the added bonus of waking up to an earthquake on Wednesday morning, which definitely helped everyone's anxiety. So for a few hours, we all had to worry about getting deathly ill from touching something, and also worry about our houses collapsing on us. It wasn't a great day.

Aside from that (How was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?), it's not bad. For me, it's not all that different from what I do during the winter when I'm on sabbatical from work—aka Funemployment. At least this time it's not freezing cold outside, and I can go stand on my porch for a few minutes every couple of hours to get some fresh air.

What I've learned in the past few days is that the internet is fucking boring now. Instagram killed blogging, Facebook is a dumpster fire of conspiracy theories and lies, and Twitter is just depression in real time. There's a lot of people thinking they're going to "beat the algorithm" on Instagram and Facebook by falling for the same old tricks that never work, which is both funny to see and sad at the same time. Those sites are smarter than all of us, and you either have to accept it or get the fuck off. Those are the only two choices, and the sooner you accept that, the easier it will be for all of us going forward. Anyway. Some of the sites I read regularly aren't posting any new content, I don't want to read about the President's incompetency, and sports are gone for a while.

This is why I think blogging is going to have a little bit of a resurgence. Everyone that had one back in 2012 is going to dust it off out of boredom (like me!), and we're going all going to have something to read for a few minutes a day to take our mind off of everything else.

None of them are going to be great, a few of them will be almost good, and most of them are going to be word vomit as a warm-up to whatever actual writing project they have to do that day (me again!).

I really have no idea what people are hoping to get out of these posts—if they get anything at all—but I'll (probably) be posting a couple of times a week for the foreseeable future. I'm still making Spotify playlists, I'll probably tell you about my new band, we can trade Isolation Rituals, and talk about what shows we're watching, and which books we're reading**.

So, I guess add this page to your bookmark bar? Check back every once in a while? It might be fun. I actually have no idea! None of us do! Welcome to 2020.

*I know my neighbor isn't doing any of this because his routine hasn't changed at all. He still leaves with his gym bag, and comes home with a plastic grocery store bag with like two items in it several times a day.
**Don't forget about books! They're great and fun and the perfect escape.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

YOU GET ME CLOSER TO GOD


Picking a favorite is hard for me. I don't have a favorite movie, I don't have a favorite restaurant, and I don't have a favorite song. Maybe that says more about me than I want it to, but it's true. I don't want to be pigeonholed into something forever.

This is where you tell me that favorites can change, but come on. If it changes, was it ever really your favorite? That's way too heavy of a concept for a god damn blog that I post on twice a year, so let's just move on.

I do have a favorite band. That one is easy—even though it's a choice that only became clear over the past few years. It's Nine Inch Nails, and it's not particularly close.

I always *liked* them (as you can see here, here, here and various other posts), but I never fully appreciated the scope of the music that Trent Reznor and co. had been making. Hesitation Marks was what got me to start paying attention again, then they released three EP's over the course of about 16 months between December 2016 and early 2018, which got me even more invested. I went back and listened to the soundtrack work that Reznor—and now the only other full time member of Nine Inch Nails—Atticus Ross did on THE SOCIAL NETWORK and GONE GIRL and was all the way in. I saw them live twice last year (both times in Las Vegas) and was more impressed with them each time.

After I got home from the show last December, I sat down and made a playlist of my favorite (there's that word again) Nine Inch Nails songs. I throw it on while I'm working quite a bit, and it's probably my favorite thing to write to. That probably says a lot about how I work. Anyway.


Friday, July 5, 2019

CARELESS WITH A DELICATE MAN


It's sort of insane to me how many people think that Fiona Apple hasn't done anything other than the "Criminal" music video (which is still incredible). That song came out in 1996, and it's still just as good today as it was 23 years ago.

But also? Fiona Apple is just really, really talented.

None of her other stuff has been as massively well received as "Criminal" (which was actually the third single off her first album), but she's been making great songs ever since. She's eccentric, massively private, and doesn't  really seem to care that she's as famous as she is.

"Criminal" was such a commercial success, that everyone who heard that song first, just assumed that all of her stuff sounded like that. Then when they heard the weird Jon Brion orchestral arrangements behind her whispery vocals on her follow-up album When the Pawn..., they mostly checked out. Extraordinary Machine wasn't any more accessible, and the masses just kind of forgot about her.

Apple doesn't tour regularly, she doesn't perform very often, and she's mostly out of the spotlight. Every once in a while she pops up with something, but mostly she just keeps to herself. She has no social media of her own, and the only one she even acknowledges is a Tumblr site called Fiona Apple Rocks. While she doesn't use it herself, she regularly emails the person behind the site with pictures, and notes to post. She may be the last person regularly using Tumblr in 2019, which is a feat in and of itself.

A lot of her stuff can seem depressing, but there are even more songs that are bright and fun. This playlist is a mix of both, probably leaning more towards the latter. If you have a favorite that I left out, leave a comment (does anyone still leave blog comments?), so I can give it a closer listen.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

THEY DON'T LOVE YOU LIKE I LOVE YOU


I was late getting into Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The whole New York rock revival started right as I was getting into hardcore, and anything that wasn't on Trustkill, Ferret, Equal Vision, or HydraHead wasn't worth my time. I wanted breakdowns and screaming, not grimy garage rock played by a bunch of art school kids.

I paid almost no attention to Fever to Tell, but I knew about it. I had MTV at that point, but it was mostly to watch VIVA LA BAM, PUNK'D, and THE REAL WORLD (I still remember things about Tonya from the Chicago season, and Trishelle from Las Vegas). The videos for "Maps" and "Y Control" were on a lot, but just didn't do anything for me. When Show Your Bones came out a few years later, I started to come around. All the girls I knew worshipped Karen O, and listened to them all the time. Every time I went into visit one of them at work—whether it was at a coffee shop, second hand clothing store, or salon—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing. I still didn't own any of their albums, but I knew their songs, and started to appreciate what they were doing. When they played at the outdoor spring festival (whatever it was called) at the University of Utah in April of 2006, I started regretting never seeing them in a smaller venue. Their performance was awesome, and I could only imagine how fun they would be in a small club like DV8.

It's Blitz! came out in 2009 (it's the only album of theirs that I ever bought), and Karen O did the soundtrack to WHERE THE WILS THINGS ARE (a movie that I loved but will never watch again so as to keep it that way) for Spike Jonze that same year, and I was fully on board. A few years later, she teamed up with Nine Inch Nails to do "The Immigrant Song" and I thought my heart was going to explode. I finally embraced what everyone else saw in 2003.

The few years after that were a weird time for music. CD's were dying, streaming was just getting started, digital downloads with vinyl represses were the main selling point, and download blogs powered by MediaFire was mostly where everyone stole music from (half my hard drive is filled with pirated music from download blogs that I didn't actually want, but wanted to have). I lost track of a lot of bands during that time, and I mostly forgot about Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Then, last winter, Karen O teamed up with Danger Mouse for Lux Prima, which is a fine record, but it just made me want to listen to "Maps" and "Cheated Hearts" again. To make it easy on all of us, I made a playlist for them and the rest of my favorites ("Gold Lion" still annoys me, so it's not there). It's a good way to spend an hour.

I still don't care about most grimy garage rock played by art school kids, but I'd much rather listen to that than breakdowns and screaming.

Monday, March 11, 2019

JESUS CHRIST LOOKS LIKE ME


I don't think there's a middle ground when it comes to Type O Negative—you're either all in, or you're out.

I am 100% in.

Their dark, gothic, vampire metal just fills me with so much joy that I will listen to them for days on end, and not regret in the least.

Type O Negative was formed and fronted by a man named Peter Steele, in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1980's. Steele was 6' 8" tall, with long black hair, and looked like an actual vampire. He was very sarcastic, and had a strange sense of humor, which led to some great lyrics, but also got him in a lot of trouble with people who didn't quite understand what the hell he was doing. One of my favorite stories about him (aside from being a cat guy, and writing the song "Bloody Kisses" about his family cat that died after 17 years) is that didn't think the band was ever going to really go anywhere, so when they did eventually sign a record contract, he was reluctant to quit his day job as a garbageman for the New York City Parks Department.

Hot tip: Don't search Peter Steele if your safe search is off. He posed for Playgirl once, and once you've seen those photos, you'll never be able to unsee them.

I put together a playlist of my favorite Type O Negative tracks. So turn the lights down low, light some candles, and let the darkness wash over you.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

THE ANGST IS REAL



Does everyone go through phases of what they watch? I do, but I also make a real effort to switch things up as I go along. Everyone binge watches things now, we just don't talk about it because we're all terrified that someone else is ahead of us and could potentially spoil it for us.

The trick to that is to lay low for a few weeks (which isn't hard for me, because I'm home a lot), watch every single episode of something, then casually bring it up in conversation to see if anyone else is caught up, and wants to talk about it (me with BROOKLYN 99). Other times, we find a show that's so dumb, but so entertaining that we almost don't dare admit that we spent so many hours with it (also me, with BANSHEE and BELOW DECK).

When I binge TV shows, I have to switch it up between seasons. I like to think about what I just watched, what it means, and where things might go. To do that, I need something totally different. In between each season of BROOKLYN 99, I watched all the JASON BOURNE movies. During SUPERSTORE, I got really into stand-up comedy again, and finally got around to watching all three John Mulaney specials that are on Netflix. A little while after, while those jokes were still fresh in my head, I came across a Twitter thread called "Pop Punk Bands of the 2000's as John Mulaney Quotes."

It was a very niche thing, and right up my alley. I laughed at it for days. The girl who started it kept adding to it, and other people kept replying with their own suggestions. Some of the choices were spot on (Fall Out Boy still makes me laugh), and some of the replies just made me roll my eyes (get out of here with your Black Veil Brides and 21 Pilots bullshit—those bands aren't pop punk), which sums up Twitter pretty accurately.

But it made me think a lot about the bands included, some of whom I still listen to, and some that never appealed to me even back then. So I took cues from that thread and built a playlist. The first half of it is songs and bands that I actually like, and then it kind of drops off from there. Taking Back Sunday, Sum 41, Good Charlotte, and Panic! At the Disco all deserve to be on this playlist, but if I'm being honest, I'll skip those songs every time. Paramore was a band that I never got into, but they've been getting stuck in my head a lot lately, and this video has a lot to do with it. And I couldn't even bring myself to add Yellowcard or All Time Low. I tried, but it just wasn't happening.

Did I leave out anything that should be on here?


OH HELLO.

I'm at a loss with this thing.

Every time I think about writing something here, I change my mind. I have no idea if anyone still reads blogs, but my suspicions say that they do not. Everything is on Instagram or Pinterest, and both of those sites are pretty boring (in my opinion) now. I still look at IG every day, don't get me wrong, but it's not as much fun as it used to be. There's no rhyme or reason to any of the post orders, story viewers (the most fun part of that god damn function!) disappear after 24 hours, and no one really knows how to use it anymore. I barely even post on Twitter or Facebook anymore. I'm just bored with all of it.

Anyway.

I've still been writing, but it's mostly stuff that I doubt anyone will ever see. Maybe that will change one day, but most likely they'll just live in my Google Drive or on my desktop forever. Sorry you'll never see any of it, but that's okay.

One thing that I have been having a lot of fun with lately is Spotify. Making playlists is still really fun for me, and I've been doing a lot of that. My new plan is to use this blog to share those playlists and write a little about each of them. Sometimes the playlists are themed, and sometimes they're just random collections of what I listened to that month. Rather than spill my guts through words that no one wants to read, you can get a sense of my state of mind through music, which everyone loves!

It's also going to help me flex a muscle that I haven't used in a long time. Writing about music was a HUGE part of my life for a while, but then it just stopped. I wrote about local bands for the U of U newspaper, did touring band interviews and show previews for City Weekly, and waxed intellectual about hardcore and punk music for SLUG. I also ran a little SLCHC blog called Grudge City Activities (RIP, because we forgot to renew the domain and now they want $5,000 for it, but archived at http://gcactivities.blogspot.com) with my friend Dan Fletcher for a few years. Listening to songs and writing about them is fun, and I want to do more of it. So I'm going to.

You can find me on Spotify (trevorxhale) and listen to all of the playlists, or you can just check back here every once in a while and see what I've been up to.

Let's see how long this lasts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION (REDUX)

Has it been a thousand years since Donald Trump became President? Sure feels like it has. So much has happened (and continues to happen at a fairly rapid pace—especially over the past two weeks) since November of 2016 that it's hard to keep up with everything, but I've still been trying. I'm sure (some of, if not most of) you have, too.

And guess what? It's time to do it all over again!

But first, listen up. If you're already in the bag for Trump and/or fully support what the GOP is doing, just leave now. We already strongly disagree, and there's no point in you reading any further. Head back to your safe space in the Fox News comment section, and we'll all be happier.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on. I know you're tired of hearing about politics, but this shit is real. There is so much at stake these days that it's really important to vote—especially in your local elections. These mid-terms have enormous consequences for literally everyone.

I understand why you think voting in a presidential election in Utah is a waste of time. I don't disagree with you, given the make-up of Utah's population, but I would still never miss a chance to vote for someone or something that inspires me (or against someone that I find truly reprehensible). I would encourage you approach it the same way, even if the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion.

The mid-terms are different though. They're largely about what happens in your neighborhood, in your life, and specifically how things will go in Utah over the next few years. That's why this is almost more important on a slightly smaller scale.

On a larger scale, sure if Republicans lose control of either (or both!) the House or the Senate, DJT might actually be held accountable for some of his garbage decisions, and someone will be able to take power away from genuinely terrible people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan (who's retiring, but will just be replaced in the House by a different cowardly—and possibly worse—white guy who only cares about cutting taxes for the rich—which doesn't help me—and taking away healthcare for millions of people—which does affect me).

So let's get to it!

Last time, I went through all the local elections and did my best to present each candidate without bias. It did not work. I will always lean—scratch that, I will always stand firmly on the Democratic side of the bill. After the last two years of watching every elected Republican official just shrug and go along with, or firmly embrace groups like the Proud Boys, or treat women and minorities like second-class citizens, I will never be able to support any of them in good conscience.

So rather than try to pretend that I have an impartial opinion on some of these candidates, I'll just tell you what I think quickly, then we'll move on to the Judges and Ballot Measures.

First of all, check Vote.org to make sure that you're registered and find your polling place if you don't have time for a mail-in ballot.  Second of all, make a plan. Polling locations in Utah are open from 7am to 8pm on November 6. As long as you are in line by 8pm you can vote.

October 30 is the last day to register online, but you CAN register to vote at the polls on election day. All you have to bring is a valid ID and proof of residence (i.e. a utility bill), and you'll be able to register and then vote. It will take a little time to do, so be patient, but if you missed your chance to register online, this is the way to go.

There are a couple of great resources out there for you to look through and make decisions, and they're the ones I've used a lot over the past few weeks.

Also, in Utah you're totally allowed to take selfies with your ballot, which means you're able to use your phone the whole time you're voting. If you don't have a mail-in ballot (which needs to be postmarked by November 5! As an added bonus, you don't even need a stamp! If you miss that, you can drop it off at the County Clerk's Office), a polling location, or a ballot drop box) and end up at a polling location, you can check all of these things while you're there. Take your time and do it right.

Utah Voter Information - This is put together by the state of Utah, and the Lieutenant Governor's office.

Vote Save America - Created by the Crooked Media team (Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeiffer, and a few others), it's a step-by-step guide for what's going on in your local election. It's a great resource, though I'm sure a lot of people dismiss it outright because it was created by a bunch of former Obama staffers. Look past that, because it's really well done.

Ballotpedia - A digital encyclopedia committed to neutrality. I got a lot of information about the ballot initiatives from this site.

Here we go...

U.S. Senate
I'm voting for Jenny Wilson because Mitt Romney has become a walking punchline who will be no different than Orrin Hatch. He stood in front of television cameras and called Trump a con man and a fake, then tried to get a job in his administration. That meeting resulted in this picture. The only way I can describe that photo is like in GAME OF THRONES when Theon Greyjoy finally succumbs, and starts calling himself "Reek" much to the delight of Ramsay Bolton. Romney says he'll stand up to Trump, but until that actually happens (spoiler: it won't), I have no faith in this guy whatsoever. Also, I would vote for an inanimate carbon rod before Romney. His spinelessness and "47 percent" comments alone cemented my opinion of him long ago.

U.S. House of Representatives
I'm with Shireen Ghorbani all the way because I like what she's about, what she stands for, and because Chris Stewart is her opponent. Chris Stewart is awful, and used to sneak under the radar because he was outshined by much bigger local idiots like Jason Chaffetz. Now that Chaffetz is safely in his Fox News bubble and out of local politics (for a minute, anyway. He's probably running for Governor in 2020, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it), Stewart is getting a bit more attention. The site Politics that Work summarizes Stewart's voting record this way: Representative Stewart opposes taxing businesses, consumer protection, funding education, environmental protection, financial sector regulation, gun control, public health, humane immigration policy, labor rights and wages, lgbt rights, avoiding default, poverty amelioration, racial equality, increasing revenues, taxing the wealthy, countering Russian interference, a robust safety net, women's rights. He supports big business, hawkish foreign policy, taxing the middle class, military spending, domestic surveillance.
The italics are my own emphasis, by the way. If you need more persuasion, here's the Salt Lake Tribune listing more of Stewart's political history. Again, he's just awful.

District Attorney
I don't have a great case for or against either Sim Gill (D), who is seeking a third term, or Nathan Evershed (R). This is one where you're going to have to do a little research and come to your own conclusions (which you should be doing anyway, I'm just here to nudge you towards that).

There are other localized races, but I'm not really going to go through all of them because depending on what part of SLC you live in, they'll all be different. Do your research and, go from there.

Judges
You're kind of on your own here. There are a lot of judges and a lot of research to do. I have a friend who votes against every judge all the time because he feels like they get too comfortable and need to be changed as often as possible. I don't subscribe to that completely, but I can't say I disagree with it outright. Luckily, there is a resource for you to use. Again, it's totally okay to check these judges from the voting booth if you can't remember all of it.

https://judges.utah.gov/

Constandino Himonas
Mark Kate A. Toomey
Heather Brereton
Laura S. Scott
Richard D. McKelvie
L. Douglas Hogan
Royal I. Hanson
James D. Gardner
William K. Kendall
Kara L. Pettit
Elizabeth A. Lindsley
Tupakk AG Renteria
Elizabeth M. Knight

Now the big ones—ballot measures.

You can find good info on all of them at Ballotpedia. Read through them and make sure you understand what you're voting for or against.

Nonbinding Opinion Question #1 - I'm for it. Ten cents is annoying, but whatever.

Constitutional Amendment A - Yes - If someone is going to volunteer to join the military and be away from their family for 200 days a year, give them a break. It's fine.

Constitutional Amendment B - Nah - The theory here is that landlords will give other people a break if they get one. If you believe that's true, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell you.

Constitutional Amendment C - NOPE! - Right now, the Governor is only one who can call a special session and determine what's on the docket. This amendment would give a bunch of politicians that power, which they could use to pass laws before anyone actually finds out what they're doing or what any of it means. No thank you.

Proposition 2 - YES! - Marijuana is fine. It's not a gateway drug, and it helps a lot of people. Don't let idiots like these, who have no comprehension beyond "ALL DRUGS ARE EVIL" sway you. Medical marijuana will be fine. You'll be fine.

Proposition 3 - YES! - A 0.15 percent sales tax increase to help more people with expenses and spare everyone from feeling bad about scrolling past all those GoFundMe links for medical bills? Let's do it.

Proposition 4 - YES! - Utah's electoral is gerrymandering at its worst. Literally anything that can be done to change that is a good thing. This is a good thing.

There you go! I hope you had fun, and we'll do this again in 2020. Probably.

Go vote. Please.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

FOR CONOR


When Tommy moved to California, one of the last things he said to me was "Keep an eye on my little brother for me."

Tommy and I had been friends since we were 15, and he's the one who taught me about veganism and straight edge. He introduced me to Coalesce and Earth Crisis. He invited me to join Cherem even though all I had was a knock-off Stratocaster and had never played anything heavier than Blink 182 covers. I felt like owed it to him. It also felt like a pretty simple task.

It was not.

Conor didn't do anything unless he could fully commit to it. He was always up for anything—whether it was a great idea or a terrible one. And he had a lot of terrible ideas.

At one point in the mid-2000's, almost all of my friends lived in an apartment building downtown with a vegan coffee shop and a tattoo shop on the bottom floor, and music venue just down the street. It was across from the Gateway Mall, and right next to the homeless shelter. We called it "The Block" and hung out there all the time. If you were ever bored, you just showed up at The Block, and you'd find someone to have lunch with, a game of 31 to kill time with, or a game of Cee-lo to lose real money on. Every week, we did Sunday movie night at the theater across the street, and everyone went. As long as there was something playing, we saw a movie.

One Sunday night, Conor and I walked over to the mall to check what movies were playing, and what time they started (pre-smart phones was a weird time). There was something playing that he really wanted to see, lobbied hard for it, and convinced me. We checked the time, and started walking back to round up everyone else. I don't remember what we chose, but that wasn't the important part. As we crossed the street, a guy walked past us going the opposite direction. He made eye contact with Conor, said "Nice jacket, man." and kept walking.

I looked over, and Conor had this look like someone had just spit right in his face. We got to the other side of the street, and he stopped walking, looked at me, and pointed back across the street to the guy we'd passed. He was a ways away from us by then, cutting through the vacant lot, on his way to wherever he was going.

"What did that guy say?" asked Conor. I was a few steps ahead, and Conor was standing on the corner, staring back at him. He was at least 500 feet away, still walking, not looking back, and just continuing on with his life. I was so confused.

"The guy we passed crossing the street?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Conor. "He said something."
"He liked your jacket," I said. "I think 'Nice jacket, man' were his exact words. Even I heard that."
"Yeah, but what did he mean?" he asked.
"Probably meant that he likes the jacket you're wearing," I said. "It's a nice jacket."
There was a long pause.
"I think he was talking shit," said Conor.
"He absolutely was not," I replied.
"No he was," said Conor. "I don't like the way he said it, dude."
"Conor, he just said he liked your jacket. That's it. That's all it was."
"He was talking shit."
"I promise you that he was not."
There was another long, silent pause, like we were in the dumbest standoff of all time. Suddenly, Conor took his hands out of his (what truly was a nice jacket) pockets, pulled up his pants, threw his hood up over his head, and started to cross the street.
"Fuck that," he said. "He was talking shit."
I grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Even then he was taller and bigger than I was. If he really wanted to, he could have kept going, but he turned back around.
"Nope!" I said. "We're not doing this."
"Oh I'm doing it!"
"Conor, I'm not going to let you fight a guy for telling you he likes your jacket."
"He was—"
"No. He wasn't. He just wasn't. Let's go inside."

Conor took a few deep breaths, and stormed off towards the back door of The Block that was always broken. We walked inside, and headed up the stairs. I opened the door to the second floor, where most of our friend's apartments were, but Conor kept going. "I'm going up to Sias's," he said. He started skipping steps to get up to the fourth floor. I yelled the movie time after him, so he wouldn't forget. He didn't respond, and I went to find everyone else.

An hour later, we were in the lobby of the movie theater, and Sias walked in. Alone. Conor wasn't with him, so I asked where he was.

"Oh he went home," said Sias.
"Went home?" I said. "He chose the movie."
"Said he didn't feel like seeing it anymore and left."
"Was he still mad that I wouldn't let him fight that guy?"
Sias chuckled a little bit, "He mentioned something about that. He said the guy was talking shit."
I opened my mouth to say something, but just took a deep breath and went into the theater, Sias laughing behind me.

I didn't see Conor for almost a week. When I finally ran into him later that weekend, he walked straight up to me, with his huge goofy smile that you could always see from across the room. He shook my hand and led off with his signature, "Oh hey."
"You missed the movie," I said.
"Yeah..." he said. "Hey, I'm really glad you didn't let me fight that guy."
"Just trying to keep you out of trouble," I said, sort of laughing.
"I was so mad at you though. For like three days. I didn't even go to The Block. I was just at home being like, 'man, fuck Trevor.' I was so mad."
"I know."
"Then someone else said they liked my jacket. And I was like 'wait maybe that guy really did just like my jacket!' And then I felt way bad."
"God damn it, Conor."
Then we both started laughing.

That wasn't an isolated incident. It happened more times than I can count, and I don't think it was an experience unique to me (everyone was really good at getting into trouble back then) because everyone else treated him like a little brother, too. Every one of us was almost more invested in Conor's well being than our own, so we all tried to keep him close.

Conor was always passionate about anything and everything. He made up his mind in a split second, and there was almost no way to get him to change it. Sometimes it got him into trouble, but other times—especially when he got older—it turned into a story that made everyone laugh because of how ridiculous it was. That was one of the things I loved about him. If he wanted to, he could turn any situation into a positive one, and he often did. It was one of his best qualities, and one that made everyone become his best friend in an instant.

-------------

The last few years, I never saw you on purpose, but I always saw you. I never knew where you were or what you were doing, but I always knew I might see you at any given moment. It was kind of a running joke that if we just started talking about you, your ears would start burning, and you'd show up. It was always about fifteen minutes after everything had ended and we were all trying to go home, but you would always just show up, two-stepping across the street trying to make us laugh, and extend the party for a little bit longer.

Every single time I saw you it made me happy. Even if it had been six months, we picked up right where we left off. Sometimes you'd just appear, crouched next to me on the side of the stage at a show, waiting for the perfect opportunity for a stage dive, promising me that you wouldn't hit any pedals, but always hitting at least one of them. Other times, I'd see you at a random restaurant, or walking through the streets on a summer night. You were always traveling, always saving money for the next thing. I was always a little jealous of your adventures, but I loved hearing about them, and always told you that I was coming along on the next one. I knew I was always in for a good story whenever we crossed paths, and I looked forward to seeing you every time.

I still look forward to seeing you again. Rest in power, Conor. Every adventure I go on from here on out is in your honor, and I promise to go on a lot of them. Just for you.

Bangarang.




Saturday, May 20, 2017

POTENTIAL

My friends and I started a new band. It's called Potential, and we recorded some songs last month. It's not a full-time band, or even a part-time band, really. It only existed in group text until we met up at the studio, and finished almost everything in a single session that day. No practices beforehand or anything. The five of us literally showed up at the studio around noon, played through the songs a few times, then hit record.

It was really easy and super fun. We also thought it would be cool to do something different for a release, so we ordered 23 lathe cut records. Of course, you can listen to it online if you want, too. The records are for anyone that still wants a physical copy of something, which is increasingly rare.

Anyway, here's a video that Dan shot while we were recording, and go to the band website if you want to hear the other 3 minutes of music we have.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

APRIL 1, 2004 - SALT LAKE CITY, UT

Before the internet ruined it—as it does with most great things—I used to love April Fool's Day. When I was in bands, I tried to do a prank every year, but I never wanted to do the "we're breaking up" thing, because while people fell for it, every band did it. Having a band MySpace account was the perfect outlet for jokes, and I abused it more than I should have.

One year I posted a bulletin that no one in the band was straight edge anymore, and that veganism was far more important so we were definitely continuing as a band. That got a lot of angry messages.

Another year, after MySpace started allowing music players to be embedded in personal profiles, I got in and changed the band names and all the song titles. I changed our band name to "The Dick Holsters" and made an awful pink and purple logo, that made a lot of people very upset.

The best, worst prank I ever used Cherem for though was one I wrote about for the Until My Heart Stops blog I used to do. I've been going back to that a lot lately (which is the writing I was doing while I was on fun-employment last winter, instead of blogging on here) and ran across it earlier tonight. It's so dumb that I felt like I had to share it.

APRIL 1, 2004 - KILBY COURT


If I had to guess, I’d say that Cherem played somewhere between 75-100 shows in Salt Lake City alone. After a while they all start to blend together, and the more time passes, the harder it is to distinguish between any of them. This one sticks out and is still memorable only because of how much planning we did and how badly we failed at its execution.

Someone named Danny—a guy that none of us had ever met—sent Clint an email and invited Cherem to play a benefit show for a local animal rights group. He was setting it up at Kilby Court, which intrigued us. Kilby Court was a small venue mostly reserved for indie/punk bands. They had done hardcore shows in the past, but there were too many fights and they stopped allowing them. We hadn’t played a local show in a while, and saw it as an opportunity to bridge the gap and get back in the good graces of Kilby. Salt Lake was always in need of a venue, and we felt that we could use this show as a platform to prove that things had kind of turned around and fights at shows were a thing of the past.

The show was also on April 1st, which meant that we also had to come up with a really good prank to go along with our diplomacy.

I came up with an idea, pitched it to the rest of the guys, and we put the plan in motion.

On our website I wrote a post about how we were going through tough times as a band. Bill had recently been contacted by the police and was under investigation as a terrorist threat. The police had claimed that he was the mastermind behind a string of animal liberation-related crimes around the state of Utah, the events were being investigated and a case was being built against him. While Bill hadn’t been arrested yet, his lawyer had advised him to lay low, and avoid any and all contact with people that may be associated with that kind of thing, and thus, would be taking a little break from singing for Cherem.

Since we didn’t want to cancel the show and we still felt strongly about the subject, we’d still be playing the benefit on April 1st, only our good friend and surrogate band member, Brook, would be filling in on vocals. We thanked everyone for sticking with us and asked that everyone come to the show for additional support.

It worked way better than any of us had anticipated. I didn’t really think anyone ever looked at the Cherem site, but I was very wrong. Someone had seen it and reposted it as a MySpace bulletin and things spread like wildfire. We started getting emails and messages every day, and people were calling Bill to make sure he was okay.

Keeping half a dozen people committed to a two-week long joke is a lot to ask, and for the most part it worked. There were a few people that called bullshit as soon as they saw the April 1 day of the show, but we all kept up a pretty unified front, and just avoided the question whenever we could with lines like, “I don’t know. Bill’s lawyer doesn’t want us to really say anything.”

The lineup for the show was a little awkward and we had no idea where we’d fall in the order. There were two indie bands, a gutter punk band and us, but things kept changing all the way until the last minute. Clint, Nick, Chris and I all showed up and loaded our gear in through the back and Brook arrived not too much later. Bill showed up with his girlfriend, Misty, as soon as I found out when we were playing, but hung around outside by his car while we set up.

The way it was supposed to work was that we’d get everything set up, sneak Bill in through the back door and have him hide behind all the extra equipment that was off to the side of the stage. We’d start playing, Brook would be at the front of the stage jumping around and pretending to sing into a microphone that wasn’t turned on, while Bill actually sang from the side. It would look like a terrible lip-sync, and everyone in the crowd would be confused. After the first song, Bill would come up on stage, say “April Fools!” and we’d all laugh before finishing the set.

But getting that many people on board for a joke was a lot harder than it should have been. The main problem was the sound guy at Kilby Court. He had absolutely no idea why I wanted two microphones, but only wanted one of them to be turned on. I tried my best to explain it to him without ruining the joke, but he still didn’t get it. I explained to him what was going to happen, but he didn’t know why, and the more I told him the less he understood. He eventually gave us two microphones, shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

When we were all set up and ready, he asked for a soundcheck. He did all the instruments, and got ready to start. I was facing Clint and he was gearing up to count us off, when we heard the sound guy’s voice come through the speakers.

“Okay, uh, microphone one. The one on the stage, I guess.” he said.

Clint just started smiling and broke into a giant laugh. I turned around, looked at Nick and said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” He and Chris were both laughing. I just shook my head.

Brook shrugged, started laughing and spoke into the microphone. After he had finished, we waited for him to check the second mic, the one that no one could see and further ruin the surprise, but he didn’t. After Brook checked his, the sound guy’s voice came through the speakers again.

“You’re good to go,” he said.

I looked off to the side of the stage, and Bill was tapping the microphone with his fingers. No sound was coming out. He shook his head, and Clint counted off. We started playing the first song, and Brook tried to lip sync, but there were no vocals. Every few seconds Brook would make a noise and it could be heard over the PA. He stuck with it for about a minute until Bill walked up on stage, took the mic from him and we finished the set.

A few people appreciated what we tried to do, a few people were angry that we’d joke about that kind of situation, and a couple were just relieved that Bill was okay.

Bill, Clint and I spent the rest of the year explaining to people in every city that we drove through that we’d made the whole thing up, and that’s why we weren’t accepting donations towards Bill’s legal troubles.

I learned two things from that whole ordeal. One is that it takes a lot of hard work to get good practical joke to land, and two, a lot of animal rights activists have a terrible sense of humor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

YES, YOUR VOTE COUNTS

We're going to dip our toes back into politics here for a quick minute, because I want to say something.

If you—or someone you know—ever says that their vote doesn't matter, and asks why they even bother, point them in the direction of this years Utah House of Representatives race.

LaVar Christensen won by five votes. Five.

You definitely know five people who spout that "My vote doesn't even matter!" bullshit, so do the rest of us a favor, look them straight in the eye and say "Yes it fucking does."

Listen, I get being disenchanted by the political system, but important races are being determined by as few as five votes. You can affect change—especially in your local races—but you have to vote, you have to vote on time, and you have to take it seriously.

LeVar Christensen was the sponsor of the bill banning same-sex marriage and he's one of the most conservative voices in Utah politics. And, guess what? He will be for the considerable future. If you want to complain about politics, that fine. If you want to bitch about policies that you don't like or don't agree with, I'm all for that. But to yell and scream about all of that while refusing to take an hour or two out of your day to vote? That drives me absolutely nuts.

Your voice does matter. You just have to actually use it properly.


RECOUNT CONFIRMS CHRISTENSEN'S WIN, STRETCHES MARGIN FROM THREE VOTES TO FIVE

A recount of election results in the hotly contested House District 32 race has not changed the outcome, as Republican Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, increased his margin of victory over Democrat Suzanne Harrison from three votes to five votes.

Attorneys for both candidates hovered over the count, monitoring the process closely as elections officials spent Monday re-tabulating more than 17,000 votes, feeding ballots through counting machines and scrutinizing dozens of ballots that had been disqualified or damaged.

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