Good To Die Records Showcase: A Lecture in Rock and Roll
[Scene opens in dimly lit lecture hall at a generic university in Anywhere, USA. Students are already seated at their desks with their backs facing against invisible lens. Notebooks are placed in a subordinate position throughout the lecture hall. In some quarters the faint glow of personal computers and smart-phones shed light on youthful, impressionable faces while simultaneously casting shadows on the walls.]
[In walks a teacher bearing a striking resemblance to William Daniels ("Mr. Feeny" from Boy Meets World). He's carrying a briefcase and a cold cup of black drip coffee. All business on a Thursday morning.]
Professor: Good morning students. As you know your homework on Tuesday was to research Good To Die Records so that you would have something to contribute to this afternoon’s discussion. As you know they have a showcase happening tonight at the Highline (It’s been moved from Barbosa). First and foremost, what can you tell me about the origins of the name “Good To Die”? What does that mean exactly?
[About four students raise their hands. The professor doesn't like to create suspense so he calls on someone immediately.]
Random student #1: I believe the record label is named after a Red Fang song. Nik Christofferson made an adept choice in using this Portland band as inspiration for the moniker of his label.
Professor: That is indeed correct. It is also a significant indicator of what one should expect from the label. When you say the words “Good to Die,” you are uttering a three word manifesto that is not for the cardiac impaired. Look at the names of the bands that actively represent this label, Deadkill and Dog Shredder. Even the name Sandrider sounds a bit ominous and intimidating. What can you tell me about Sandrider’s self-titled album?
[I'm pretty sure you're aware of the student calling on teacher process by now....]
Random Student #2: I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek so I can tell you that there name is derived from Dune. Other than that, I can tell you that this band is often classified as “metal” or “stoner rock,” but I’m not sure what “stoner rock” means…
[The professor interrupts.]
Professor: Yes, I agree with you whole-heartedly. I don’t find Sandrider to be stereotypically “psychedelic” enough to be grouped into such a vague genre. Nobody is going to argue with you if you happen to suggest that the introductory bass line to “Paper” isn’t reminiscent of a Tad song. Does anyone in this room think Tad is psychedelic?
[Nobody raises their hand to propose otherwise.]
Professor: My point exactly. This is just straight up, quality rock and roll that reminds you of what the Pacific Northwest used to sound like during a time not too far removed from present day. If you listen to Sandrider’s self-titled release you will notice there are traditional “rock” guitar scales happening all over the album. When I say “guitar scale,” what is the first thing you think?
[Random student shouts out "Jimmy Page masturbation!" and the peanut gallery laughs.]
Professor: That’s pretty close. I’m going to assume you meant “the blues” by that unsatisfactory remark. Listen to the opening of minute or so of “The Judge” and the introductory hot guitar lick on “Children.” Both musical sequences are steeped in the great American tradition of the bluesman. You would be able to include the main riff to “Crysknife,” but the timing of and presentation of the guitar is way more Mudhoney than it is Black Sabbath.
[The professor pauses to take a sip of coffee and precedes to walk over to his white dry erase board. The professor writes the number "360" on the board.]
Professor: Does anyone know what that number means?
[The professor calls on a student.]
Random Student #3: Yes, that is a dunk in basketball or some sort of trick in a plethora of sports such as snowboarding, skateboarding, etc.
Professor: You’re right but we’re talking about Sandrider and not Tony Hawk or NBA Jam. Generously speaking, “360″ represents the approximate number of seconds that exist in a Sandrider song. Seven tracks, almost 41 minutes worth of music. I think it’s important to highlight this fact because with the way Sandrider writes songs, they never seem as long as your Itunes counter would indicate. I think that showcases the strength of the band to keep the listener actively engaged without an extreme amount of tempo changes or movements within any given composition. Have any of you witnessed this three piece live?
Random Student #4: Yes, I saw them at Black Lodge a few months back and they were spectacular. Weisnewski, Damm and Roberts perform quite effortlessly. On this given night, when “Scatter” broke into the lyric “Poison apples in the promise land,” cheap champagne was sprayed everywhere by their contemporaries. It was very decadent in a “rock and roll takes over the corner store” kind of way. It’s a live moment permanently etched in my brain.
[The professor strokes his chin and nods his head in agreement.]
Professor: Fascinating. You don’t really see that kind of spontaneous, rowdy behavior at rock shows anymore these days. It saddens me greatly. I would urge the rest of you students to check Sandrider out live. No matter how much you like their self-titled release they are so much better live. That can basically be said for all the Good to Die bands I have personally witnessed. Would anyone care to share their thoughts on Brokaw?
[A few eager hands shoot up.]
Random Student #5: They remind me of a modern version of Killdozer with flashes of the Jesus Lizard thrown in for good measure. You can even throw a little Pave the Rocket in there, although Brokaw lives and dies with distorted stomp boxes.
Professor: Exactly. They are very “Chicago” in their approach. In fact their album Interiors was recorded in Chicago at Electric Audio by Greg Norman (Not to be confused with the golfer Greg Norman). Thick bass lines, frantic drums, noisy, angular guitar work, Brokaw sounds like a band that marauds rather than performs. Not only do they confront the listener with the abrasive sounds they churn out, Brokaw isn’t afraid to make outrageous claims while in the process. What if I told you that, “You Didn’t Invent Sex.” Would you agree or disagree, why?
Random Student #6: I would have to disagree strictly in philosophical terms. How can you tell me what I have not invented sexually, when we have never been together?
Professor: Are you propositioning me in a public, classroom setting?
Random Student #6: It’s possible.
[The professor strokes his chin and nods his head in agreement.]
Professor: Fascinating. What do you think the highlights of the album Interiors are? What are you favorite songs?
Random Student #6: It’s a close call between “Berlin Heart” and “Politicians By The Pool.” I like the former because at first impression, the guitar is like an abrasive, abrupt, de-tuned take on Led Zep’s “Kashmir” (For the first two chords anyway) and then it becomes a David Yow inspired scream-fest after a brief bass interlude. Where blast beats might normally go, snare rolls appear instead. An unexpected, hair-raising bridge for sure. Not to be outdone by the former, “Politicians By The Pool” takes a threatening, walking bass line and just goes with it. Anyone remember that awful MXPX song “Chick Magnet”?
[No students say anything.]
Random Student #6: Damnit, you lucky motherfuckers. Well, imagine if that song was about school shootings instead of courting women. That’s what the walking bass line sounds like. The guitar lead during the chorus literally sounds like an affluent policy maker ordering a beverage while vacationing on taxpayer’s dime….
Professor: “Actors, buy your leaders.” Is this assertion material or strictly fictional?
[Teachers love to ask rhetorical questions. It only heightens their self-perceived genius.]
Professor: It’s both. When you think about it more, Hollywood isn’t the only entity to have an impact when it comes to fundraising and potentially whispering into the ears of powerful “Beltway Insiders.” If you’re to take the word “actor” in the literal sense, a lobbyist, head of a powerful union or a foreign leader are all “actors” who “buy” the influence of our political leaders. Very insightful lyrical content.
[A student quickly interrupts the professor before he can begin to wax poetic about his ability to understand literary devices.]
Professor: I think that’s an appropriate cover by this noisy trio. I would not be opposed if they decided to dabble in more Shellac cover songs. Who doesn’t want to hear Shellac? I secretly want them to cover Henry Rollins Band’s “Ghostrider,” because I want to see Kennedy Carda come dangerously close to having an embolism. He’s one of the best front-men in Seattle.
Random Student #7: If they don’t play “Hard Feelings” at the Good to Die Records showcase, I might start a riot.
Random Student #8: They have a couple songs not available on the Pus City EP that I want to hear. I might riot with you!
Professor: Whoa. It looks like we have a legitimate middle-class uprising on our hands. I’ll be sure to alert the correct authorities if need be.
[The professor stops addressing the students for a moment and walks over to his briefcase. He pulls out a copy Dog Shredder's latest release Brass Tactics.]
Professor: Students, class is going to end in a matter of seconds. I didn’t mention it in the opening but tonight is also the celebratory release show for this tremendous collection of three songs. If you weren’t present for last week’s lecture then I suggest you borrow the notes from one of your classmates.
[Time waits for no (wo)man and students begin to lousily file out. The professor begins shouting at the top of his lungs.]
Professor: DON’T FORGET DOORS OPEN AT THE HIGHLINE AT 8PM. THE SHOWCASE WILL START PROMPTLY AT 9PM. TICKETS ARE ONLY $8 IN ADVANCE AND YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!