Tag Archives: Royal Oak

Rock-n-Rollers, now with strollers

23 Mar

Lord knows parents have plenty to worry about. Here’s one fear that seems to be on a lot of our Gen X and Y minds: how can we ensure our children will share our exceptionally good taste in rock music without them swearing like teeny-tiny Osbournes or whining about getting them full-sleeve tattoos for the first day of kindergarten?

Rockabye-Baby-NINClearly, manufacturers are happy to help ease our troubled minds. There are hundreds of baby items with rock flair: onesies with AC/DC logos silkscreened on their tiny chests; “Born to Rock” bibs; booties decorated with Fender Stratocasters in pastel colors. Then there is Rockabye Baby!, a CD series transforming rock songs from everyone from Coldplay to the Ramones into tinkling lullabies. I can only imagine when the babies grow up to be old enough to listen to unfiltered rock-and-roll, and they wonder who the hell is doing that noisy cover of that nice nursery rhyme, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

But angst over balancing rock’s musical legacy with parenthood goes the other direction as well for many rock musicians as they ask themselves, how can they raise kids and stay true to the music they love?

A few weeks ago I got around to seeing the 2011 documentary, The Other F Word, featuring interviews with kings of the West Coast punk rock  scene, from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, about their unique and optically bizarre position as role models for their fans as well as their children. It is much more than helping their daughters pick the prettiest skulls-and-hearts skirt to wear to daycare before rehearsal. The vast majority of these guys are driven by a desire to being the fathers they never had: attentive, affectionate and present. They have to tour regularly, taking them away from their families for weeks at a time so they scream about anarchy and adolescence at their concerts. Plus, they are still trying to make a living in a genre that is defined by teenage male anger and rebellion, now that their own youth is decades in the past and their personal priorities have done a 180. If you haven’t seen this film, find it; it’s worth it just to see Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen, facial tattoos and leopard-spot hair and all, playing with his toddler at a San Francisco playground.

Bestest Concert EverThis weekend, I got another glimpse of how punk parents are helping us all raise the next generation of headbangers. My younger daughter and I met our cousins and their four-year-old girl in Royal Oak for the 3rd annual Bestest Concert Ever!, a fundraiser for the local high school band program. Playing for the playdate crowd was Candy Band, made up of four punk musicians who didn’t want to give up their guitars or give over to the Wiggles when they became moms. They turned their considerable talents to nursery rhymes and kid-friendly scream-alongs. (My favorite was a mash-up of Green Day’s “Brain Stew” with “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.”)

Headlining the gig was Amy Gore and Her Valentines, who my cousins knew from her days leading the Detroit garage band Gore Gore Girls. In her current outfit she has scored kudos from Little Steven himself, who named their song “Send Me A Postcard” his COOLEST SONG IN THE WORLD on an episode of his Sirius radio show.

I’m guessing this was not her typical gig. Rocking a leather catsuit and a gorgeous white guitar, Ms. Gore looked out to the kids at the lip of the stage and said, “This is the cutest crowd I’ve ever played for. You’re killing me with cute here.” Were they ever. A pair of identical twin boys with Spider-Man face paint were enjoying their own mosh pit of two, throwing fake punches and wrestling each other to the beat. A young couple – probably the pride of the second grade – were attempting to ballroom dance to the strains of “Good Girls Don’t.” And there was our little cousin, with purple temporary hair dye and Ziggy Stardust face paint, grooving to the music.

As the punks of a previous generation once said, “The Kids Are Alright.”

See you on the flip side …

P.S. Thanks to the many of you who have found a spot for my novel, Love and Other B-Sides, on your e-readers. If you have a sec, how about adding your review? And if you haven’t gotten your copy, drop on by Amazon and download it today!

Losing My Edge

23 Jul

James Murphy facing the day following his final concert as LCD Soundsystem

In February 2011, the popular and critically acclaimed electronica dance band LCD Soundsystem made it known via its website that they would play their last show ever at Madison Square Garden that April. There were no creative differences. There was no drug-fueled tailspin. Bandleader James Murphy simply wanted out, even as the band was still going strong and picking up fame and fans. And so it was coming to an end.

Documentarians had the presence of mind to follow Murphy around a few days before and after the “funeral.” The result was Shut Up and Play the Hits, which played for one night only (!) in theaters across America on July 18 following a successful screening at Sundance.

James Murphy looks nothing like a rock star. He looks like a guy who’d wake up at two in the afternoon, eat some Trix and not realize they’re Cheetos until he’s drained the milk from the bowl. In the film he slept in the tuxedo he performed in then wore it the entire next day (okay, that was typical rock star) as he tooled around the house and ran errands with his French bulldog, Petunia, in tow.

In a way, his schlubbiness makes his decision to quit without a next project in mind even more shocking. One would think that if you had had the good fortune to look like that and get famous anyway through sheer talent, you’d keep it going as long as possible.

He gets that. His song, “Losing My Edge,” is a huge hipster joke (“I was there in 1968” sings a guy who was born in 1970). It’s also an acknowledgement of the hipster’s dread fear that all of that carefully curated superiority has an expiration date.

Our days of relevance are numbered. We need a Plan B.

In his interview with Chuck Klosterman, recorded a week before the final concert and used as narration throughout the film, Murphy says that he was 38 then he “blinked” and was 41. He didn’t want to blink again and find that he’s 50 and still in the band without having lived the life he wanted: having kids, for example. Shortly thereafter, he bursts into tears when he goes to the warehouse where his equipment is being stored until it can be sold off.  He’s worried he made the biggest mistake of his life, leaving it all behind.

Murphy’s Plan B is to be more like us parents sitting in the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, grateful that we could get away to see a movie on a Wednesday night … while our Plan B is to sell out Madison Square Garden, looking as we do and saying what we want, being the artists we all dream we are destined to be just given the chance.

I wish us all luck.

See you on the flip side …

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