Will somebody explain to me how this album can still be so Gotdamn good after 11 years???!?!? I must listen to Funcrusher Plus at least 3-4 times a month, even now after having listened to it all these years. El-P’s production is just pure genius, Mr. Len on the 1’s and 2’s? Out of this world understanding of how the turntable is used as an instrument. And the lyricism is unmatched. Simply masterful. I still catch lines, to this day, and go, “Uh! That shit is Ill!!!!” Not only are El and Bigg Jus insanely skilled on the mic, but they bring with them J-Treds, of the Juggaknots, and BMS, who somehow(in retrospect) sounds like the precursor to Vast Aire.
I can still recall my boy Jake-O turning me onto this shit in the “HellHouse” with skater shit all over the walls and a pet hedgehog in one room and the stink of dishes that hadn’t been touched in weeks. None of those environmentals could be a detriment to the listening experience. It was truly as if some aliens had gotten a hold of the hip-hop sound and re-interpreted it to fit their language, their cadence, their philosophy. It was a drug experience of its own…sure, I’d smoked myself silly many a times, including the first, listening to this record, but it took on its own form of psychedelia that remains to be defined. Somehow, when an artist puts themselves so deeply into their work, the work itself becomes an entity, though supposedly static, it changes and morphs as time moves and we change around it. It becomes a compatriot that we grow with and about. This is a truly rare thing in art, in general, and music, specifically. My only sadness is that these art entities don’t come along more often.
Ah, Sweet Memories!!! My first game ever at Fenway Park in Boston to see the Red Sox! I was out in Beantown for a week or more to see my sister and her family, but I also bought tickets to a June game in February!!! We got shitty seats in Right Field, “Obstructed View”, which is quite true and direct in Fenway, as opposed to any other ballpark I’ve been to. A huge steel post/stanchion stood between us and the path from the pitcher’s mound to home plate, but who the fuck cares when they’re witnessing their first ever game at Fenway and happen to be a rabid Sox fan?!?!?!?!!? My sister, Sabina(5 years my senior, but looks younger), has never been much of a baseball fan, but always enjoys going to a game with somebody who is into it. So, the Sox gave me a win in my only(so far) appearance at Fenway, 2-1 over the Texas Rangers, and Tim Wakefield was the starter, which means we were privileged to watch a slow-ass knuckleballer for a few innings. More than anything, for me, it was special just to be in one of baseball’s sacred churches. To see a place that I have seen many times before, but only on television. There was little drama in the game, but much to be had in the stands. First off, I have never felt more of a pressing urge to fight at a ball game than at this one in particular. As my sister and I were walking to our seats, we passed a dozen or so Navy sailors, in uniform, who immediately began cat-calling at my sis’. I’m normally a pretty mellow guy, but somehow this got to me for a second. She’s a Professor at a University(has a PhD and will kick your ass when it comes to Race/Politics/Society/Culture) and a mother of 5 children(not all by birth) and I just couldn’t let it go like a good boy should. I didn’t say anything, but gave many dirty looks and had daydreams of ripping them all a new one and lecturing them on respect for women. Anyways, overall we had a great time, including the walk home across the Charles, which freaked out a bunch of folks, because they couldn’t fathom why we would walk??? I remember looking back at the grandstand light fixtures hovering above Fenway like alien ships as we ambled our way back to Cambridge, feeling as though, knowing, I had just left a special place in baseball history and culture. I hope to go back and maybe even take my sister with me again, for it is a special place…the home of the Boston Red Sox.
Sometimes, there is a synchronous slice of razors. Sometimes, those are an act of subtle protest birthed in hushed collusion. And sometimes, just sometimes, people mistake your Chaplin for a Hitler all fucking day long!!! That’s me with the Hi…er…Chaplin, Blaise with a barely visible VanDyke and Chris with his Sexiest Boy at the Bike Shop ‘stache and burns. Honestly, a few of us were ready to fight over who would get to sleep with him first, at least cuddle. And we all generally dig girls.
Until last season, I had never been to Opening Day. I have now earned another badge validating my baseball fan/nut status by attending Opening Day at “the Safe”(I hate that…) where the M’s took on Division rival Oakland. It was a magical day, peeling the wrapper off of a new season like a birthday gift full of wonder. My buddy Officer John Baker(pictured above with myself) got a bunch of tickets in the upper deck, where we witnessed Felix Hernandez fireball his way through the A’s lineup for 8 innings of 3-hit shutout ball, striking out 12(!). Only Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez have struck out that many hitters on Opening Day. Unfortunately for Johnny, King Felix did all this against Baker’s beloved A’s(Baker is an Oakland native transplanted to the NW). I could also hear the cringing and moaning in disgust of my cousin Matt, who grew up loving the A’s, idolizing the Bash Brothers, while living just East of the Berkley Hills. It may seem that Opening Day is just another baseball game, to absolute morons, but it is a day to renew hope for your favorite teams and players and look for answers to questions(will Richie Sexson be able to hit 45 HRs whilst staying below the Mendoza Line???). I am forever grateful to Baker for inducting me into the gang of fans that are simply bloodthirsty for baseball and just have to go to Opening Day, like a junkie that cannot wait for the next hit.
Oh yeah, the rest of that day was pretty awesome, too. Baker, myself and friends got stoopid smashed wandering around downtown after the game; watching the NCAA Basketball Championship game on big screens at odd angles and arm wrestling loudly at the Owl ‘n Thistle. My solemn vow for this year is to maintain some sanity and sobriety after Opening Day so that I can remember it that much more clearly. Spring Training games are less than 5 days away and Opening Day feels to be just around the corner!!!!!
In anticipation of the upcoming Spring Training and subsequent season, I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts in honor of last season(in no particular order of chronology). Not all of these memories will be Red Sox related, so fear not ye weaklings who sneer at my geographically dislocated fanhood.
The above photo comes from a game at Fenway Park between the Red Sox and Yankees on April 22nd, 2007. In the 3rd inning, the Sox were down 3-0 and the Yanks had a rookie, Chase Wright, on the mound. I was bartending that night at Shultzy’s in the U-District. About 5 Sox fans had bellied up to the bar for some brew and eats, most of whom are graduate students at the Univdersity of Washington. When the count went to 2-1 on Manny Ramirez, one of the guys called his shot and, sure enough with all Fenway/Sox mystique, Manny blasted one over the Monster. Cheers rang loud and looks of synchronous amazement zipped back and forth between us. A silent magic seemed to have crept into the room, but only for those of us at and behind the bar(I do believe we were slightly annoying that night to all other patrons and servers). Next up was J.D. Drew. Another one of the guys called out, “Homer, right here!” The crack of the bat was reassuring and as the ball flew into the bullpen, we cried out some amalgamation of yeah! holy shit! and right on! Are collective feeling now must have been something akin to a dugout when the starter is in the 5th inning of a no-hitter. Do not speak a word of that which we all know; and the magic surged light a light bulb in an electrical storm. Not a second after Mike Lowell stepped into the batters box, another one of the guys, going forward on his elbows as if to fly over the bar at the TV, hollered, “How ’bout back-to-back-to-back?!!!?” More of a command than a question. When that command was heeded with a massive shot onto Lansdowne Street past the Monster, our increasing cheers took on the tenor of a god, pleased by the willingness of its subjects to do its bidding(from afar and without direct contact…divine intervention through collective faith).
Upon Lowell’s home run trot, I, the bartender, called out for a celebratory round of shots. As I began to pour them(one for me as well, of course!), Jason Varitek, the Captain, stepped to the plate. In mid-pour, I uttered, “Well, the Dodgers did it last season, let’s just go for 4 straight, back-to-back-to-back-to-back!”
Tekky sent the first pitch he saw into the stratosphere and us into madness. We were even so loud that one of the servers came up to me and said some bullshit about how we should quiet down.
That is one of those moments where/when you feel directly connected to the game, not just for our cosmic ability to call 4 straight home runs by four different people, but for the sheer joyful pandemonium and awe. That realm of emotional connection and elation that may forever remain impossible to verbalize; it is a psychic communication.
The Sox went on to win the game(and later the whole shebang-a-bang) and I continued to blabber about my brush with the magic of the ether for two weeks straight. The only thing that would have been any better? Take a guess…
So, first of all, I need to apologize for the delay in getting this post up; another busy week, another bullshit excuse. On Wednesday morning I woke up before I had to be at work with an excitement, because it was the first day of Pitchers & Catchers reporting to Spring Training!! Before I even got up for a shower, I flipped on ESPN to get a look at, maybe, some Buster Olney reporting with images of players stretching and warming up. How disappointed was I? It was like waking up on Christmas morning to find that the house had broken into and all the presents stolen, because there was Clemens and McNamee giving testimony to the Congressional Oversight Committee. And Clemens looked awful!!! I’ve never been a fan of his, but it was gut-wrenching to watch; the way he was squirming and double-talking his way through a corn maze of lies and how completely retarded and despicable his lawyers are(constantly interrupting when they were clearly instructed that lawyers were not to contribute). I couldn’t give two shits if The Rocket goes to jail for perjury, eventually, or if he just ends up living in infamy and seclusion like McGwire. What really bothered me was that I woke up ready for the first tosses of a new season and got nothing in return for my love and devotion. Show me some fuckin baseball now!! Please?!? Hopefully, this crap will all quiet down and the Spring Training can get underway on igniting our passions and hopes for another Summer.
First off, any of you(do I have 4 readers now?) who still have the opportunity to see DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist perform The Hard Sell should bust ass to get to this show. Oh, and do me one solid as well…get there in time to see Kid Koala open for them, he is simply a turntable wizard. Bench and I showed up at 9.20 for the show, which had door time of 8, and Koala had already finished his set. Damn!! I’ve seen him once and was completely floored; it was possibly the same emotional-musical experience as seeing Jimi Hendrix in London before he blew up. Or, at least, that’s what I imagine, seeing as that I wasn’t even close to a sparkle in either parents’ eye at that time. Mostly, I was bummed that Bench didn’t get to see Koala and also a little bummed that I missed him, but that is just how shit goes down. Unpredictable show scheduling on a Sunday night in Seattle, the most uptight latenight town on the West Coast.
Anyhow, the set that Shadow & Cut throw down is a marvelous hour and a half session in music education. I’d call it Hip-Hop Roots & Culture 255 if we’re starting my dream university. I particularly loved the litle De La Soul tribute section(Prince Paul, we salute you). The crowd was extra hype for a Seattle hip-hop crowd, rockin so hard up front that 45’s were skipping occasionally.
The thing that more than made up for missing Koala do his thang? Chattin his ass up while he worked the gear table. One of the least pretentious people in music that I’ve encountered(still wish he’d of hung out at my house back in 2000!!!)
Goodnight for now and look forward to the Mouth of the Architect show!!