Though I’ve had this blog for nigh unto 5 years, there’s probably a story or two about myself I’ve somehow neglected to tell.

For three years in undergrad I worked at the 7-Eleven across the street from campus. I worked second shift, 4 to midnight or six to 2 am until I graduated. This job shaped my undergrad experience at Western (much as my job in the dining hall shaped my U-M college experience), imposing a discipline on my days and isolating me from my peers. I’m not sure why I stuck at it so long. It was fairly easy and fairly well-paid, but it was somewhat disheartening basically preying on people’s vices — peddling nicotine, alcohol, and sugar. I had a boss who was something of a wanker, too.

Nonetheless, there were a few really fascinating episodes in the day after day grind of the job. On two occasions my senior year we inadvertently helped fuel block parties that turned into nasty, violent riots in the neighborhood. The image above depicts one of those events, where police were called out and repelled by rocks and bottles, then were followed by a riot squad with full length shields, clubs, and tear gas.

Anyway, I used to get into bed after work and while I was winding down I would turn on Jazz with Bob Parlocha on the local NPR station. I really missed that and now I find you can stream his show over the web. Good times.

Hey Ya!

I was back in Kalamazoo in an MA program at Western when Hey Ya was a big hit. I didn’t have much exposure to pop music at that point so this song in particular stands out in my memory of the period. I loved it as the music seemed so joyful despite the contrast to the lyrics. I still like it.

Things I’ve Been Meaning to Blog

Getting a job. Preservation issues. Learning Italian. Being back in Ann Arbor. Defending my dissertation proposal. Drinking coffee. GLMS shows. Declining interest in the blogosphere. But I’ve been busy and don’t have internet where I’m living, so this will have to do.

Cat the Anchor, Jeb Minor’s Coming Home!

Great Lakes Myth Society
Originally uploaded by Ryan Mahoney

Great Lakes Myth Society. Chicago. Schuba’s. October 14th. I’ve missed nearly the last 1000 GLMS shows and I am not going to make the same mistake with this one. Family, friends: don’t get into any accidents or discover you have terminal illnesses, because I am not going to be able to comfort you that night.

Damn, I can’t wait for this show. Chicago: you’ve been notified. Just make sure I get in the door before you cram the place to the gills.

Another New Project

I Want to Go Back to Michigan
Originally uploaded by urbanoasis

In architecture, there is a movement called critical regionalism that seeks to balance the formal, material, and technological possibilities of modern architecture with the traditions and forms of a particular locale. The result will be more humane and meaningful than the placeless architecture of the International Style.

B-dog sent along a notice about an artist-in-residence program that I’ve got to pass up, but would love to apply for. My project would be to develop a counterpart theory of critical regionalism in popular music, particularly arguing the Great Lakes region is a cultural landscape with unending material not only to inspire artists, but to revive the issue of regionalism in the minds of audiences. As several people have noted, Sufjan Stevens and the Great Lakes Myth Society have found ample material for their work — clearly, there is something about the region that is artistically inspiring to the songwriters. What needs to be advanced is the notion that there is a musical genre that can be both artistically interesting — even groundbreaking — and be popularly pleasing in a world after the overproduced, saccharine pop of the new millennium has seared our palates, leaving pop audiences thirsting for a soothing balm. Not merely the lyrics of our popular music but the instrumentation itself can (and, I submit, should) respond to our history, our place. Hell, even the performance of this music. It makes me weepy to think to Jane Jacobs’ enthusiasm for music in the New Yorker article from a few years ago: “Our songs and cities are the best things about us. Songs and cities are so indispensable.”

Anyway, I can’t apply for this residence because I’m working on a dissertation and a conference paper, and a conference, and a class for the winter and I’ve got enough half-finished projects to work on. So click through and you can steal my idea and get published all around everywhere.

PS Check the Irving Berlin sheet music my FIL got my wife some time back. If any UO readers want to record a version of this (production values need not be unreasonably high), and send me an mp3, I’ll send you a b/w darkroom print of a shot of your choice from my Europe trip chosen off my flickr stream.

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Somebody Gets It

Fortunately, that somebody, talking about the Great Lakes Myth Society, writes for the Village Voice:

The sunny vantage of “Midwestern Main Street”—which recalls classic alt-pop like the La’s or even R.E.M. with its maddeningly catchy lilt—might as well be titled “Main Street, Anyplace.”

The same could be said for two of Bouquet’s other great tunes: the thundering “Nightfall at Electric Park” and hard-drinking “Queen of the Barley Fool.” Both evoke the historical bent of a band like the Decemberists—literate, highly postured, and influenced by immigrant folk traditions—but without a whiff of the unbearably fey indie-rocker-as-Bartleby preciousness.

I’ve been gone for six weeks so I haven’t bought the album or read all the reviews, but Cavalieri grazed the target in his brief review. GLMS has roots and is not Sufjan Stevens. More to come.

Playing Right Now

In an internet point in Nafplion, Greece: Hotel California by The Eagles. I’m flashing back to the scene in The Big Lebowski where The Dude is riding in the cab and rails “I hate the fucking Eagles!” The Italians and Greeks love their American 70s music. Ugh. Wish I could hear some GLMS or Decembrists. Nafplion is pretty cool, though, as well as Patras where I was yesterday. Good street life enabled by density and decent urban design.