House Show Goodness: Dreamgoatz, Shark Sandwich, and more!

Friday morning began as all of my mornings begin, with me swearing loudly at my alarm clock as it blasts me into consciousness with it’s shrill siren call. After 25 years of existence I have come to this conclusion: I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. Even on days that I have to get up early for school I still stay up until 2 in the morning, simply out of habit.

After I hit the snooze button 4 or 5 times I finally dragged myself out of bed and into the shower, and then off to my statistics class, which is a pain in the butt, but a necessary class to take so that way I can finally graduate college and then…… Do stuff.

I had a hop in my step after class because I knew that in a few short hours I would be doing what I do best: eating food and talking about movies with my friends. As I arrived home around 10 a.m. I waved hello to my neighbor Kelly, and we chatted a bit about health care reform. After that I went to the gym, and worked out while flipping through The New Yorker. Yes, I know that sounds pretentious, and it really was. I’ve never been one to enjoy flipping through muscle magazine while I work out, they make me feel weak and flabby. Why would I want to do that to myself?

When lunchtime rolled around I hopped into my freshly washed and much beloved Ford Focus (2006 model, so the breaks work just fine, haha!) and speed off to Rita’s in Eureka to feast with my friends Tom and Oren (of Dreamgoatz fame) and their friend who was both bearded and friendly, so we got along just fine. While at lunch Tom casually mentioned that “Dreamgoatz” was going to play a house show in Eureka that night, and that I was invited. I pondered this for a minute.

“I would like that,” I said, gazing into my enchilada thoughtfully.

“Chill,” he said, and grabbed his phone. “I just texted you the address.”

“Nice, I’ll see you there!”

After lunch I went back to my place and fell into a “food coma” for a few hours. It was lovely.

As the sun set I listened to the Icelandic band “Sigur Ros” play softly in the background. I checked my watched. It was 7:45 p.m. “Well, time to hit the road,” I said to nobody in particular, grabbing my comfy brown sweater and hoping into my car, gunning the engine wildly and scaring the birds that were perched on the telephone poll.

I found the house without much difficulty, which was nothing less than a miracle, since I’ve been cursed with my father’s total lack of a sense of direction. It’s pretty sad sometimes. When I drive around big cities (i.e. San Francisco), it’s all I can do not to have a panic attack while I drive around like an idiot, trying to find my destination. Pulling over to the side of the road to consult my maps, as if the city were the ocean and I was the brave sailor traversing it’s dangerous waters. Or that’s how I view myself. To everybody else I just look like a tourist who has never seen a city in his life. “Poor little fellow,” they say to themselves. “How hard it must be to be in the big city for the first time.”

But I digress. Back to the subject at hand: the house show.

As I walked into the house I immediately ran into Tom, who was dressed in what appeared to be pajamas from the 1960s (“Groovy!”), and he gave me a big hug.

“Glad you came out, man!”

“Me too,” I said with a grin. “Has anybody played yet?”

“Nah, man, they’re just getting set up. I’ll introduce you to the other band,” and he turned to his left and pointed to two guys, one short and one tall. “This is Shark Sandwich.”

“Shark Sandwich, eh? Wow! I feel like I’m meeting minor celebrities. How is it going, fellas?”

We shook hands and laughed and I learned that they named their band after a fictitious “Spinal Tap” album, by the name of “Shark Sandwich.”

“You named your band after a Christopher Guest film?” I said. “That’s awesome!”

“Yeah, man, we love that movie!”

“Me too,” I said, hopping across the kitchen to grab a beer from the counter, “it’s such a cult classic!”

Just then the lights flickered in the other room, so the masses migrated into the living room, where a young black kid by the name of “Danny Blues” (his real name is Daniel, I learned later) picked up the mic and told us that he was going to share some hip-hop with us. Sweet, I thought to myself. I’ve been getting into a lot more hip-hop lately. The “good stuff” (i.e. Mos Def, Aesop Rock, MF Doom, The Grouch, among others).

He plugged his iPod into the speaker system, cranked up the beat and immediately launched into a song that was part autobiography, part political commentary, and I was hooked.

“This kid’s got skills,” somebody next to me said, and I agreed with her, nodding my head enthusiastically while bobbing along to the beat.

After about 20 minutes or so he put down the mic, and told us “Well, that’s all I have so far” and thanked us for being a wonderful audience. I immediately ran over to him like a fan boy and said “Wow, man! That was amazing!” He thanked me and the two of us went outside to take in the air and hang out with all the smokers. I learned that he was only 16 years old and I was amazed. “You remind me of the young Mos Def, if you don’t mind me saying. The way you rapped about growing up was really well thought out for a person your age.”

“You think so?” He asked, laughing a bit.

“Yeah, man! Keep it up, you’re really talented!”

“Thanks! I appreciate that.”

The two of us then migrated indoors to the kitchen, grabbed another beer and chatted about the shirt that he was wearing, featuring Mork from Ork with the word balloon “Shazbot!”, from “Mork and Mindy.”

“I got this shirt for free actually. It was just lying on the side of the road and I picked it up, washed it, and found out it worked perfectly. I get a lot of compliments on it from older people who like the show.”

“Older people, eh?” I said with a laugh. “I can imagine.”

Music began seeping into the kitchen from the living room and I followed it like a moth to the flame. It was a girl named Kelly (not to be confused with my neighbor of the same name), who was a mutual friend of Tom and Oren’s. I think she’s really cute. Just putting that out there. Oh yes, and she has a beautiful voice, which caused me to swoon like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert in the early 1960s. Besides having a lovely voice she is also a talented artist, and while she sang Tom and Oren took turns moving her artwork around on a projector. It was pretty cool.

After Kelly’s performance the band “Shark Sandwich” set up their equipment, which consisted of a whole lot of drums, and a keyboard. I was intrigued.

When the band began to play (pictured above, at the beginning of my tale) everybody started dancing. You couldn’t help yourself, the band was immensely danceable. The drums filled the room with energy, and then the girl of the band whipped out her trumpet and blasted us, causing people to cheer and dance with abandon. It was awesome. I love to dance. There. I said it. Deal with it.

After “Shark Sandwich” ended their highly energetic set, everyone flooded outside, gasping for air mightily. Dancing in small rooms gets pretty hot pretty quick. But it’s all part of the experience, really, when you stop and think about it.

The minutes passed easily as I chatted with the other people about how awesome that band was.

“Alright everybody,” someone screamed from the living room, “Dreamgoatz is about to begin and they’re going to blow your fucking mind!”

I smiled at this and walked happily back inside. I love “Dreamgoatz.” And it’s not just because I’m friends with the band, as some have accused me of (this whole “unbiased journalism” thing is for the birds, in my opinion). I’m being completely sincere when I say that their music is so unique and wonderful that the fact that I know them personally only adds to the enjoyment, if that makes sense. Even if I had never met the guys, I would have been charmed by their music.

“Dreamgoatz” began and immediately everyone started dancing in time with the music. Kelly even projected some of her art on the walls behind them while they played, which only added to the automosphere. The fun thing for me, besides the great music, is seeing Tom and Oren transform from being “Tom and Oren, humble and thoughtful college students,” to “Tom and Oren, rock stars.” It’s really quite something, and it never ceases to make me smile.

The band played for 45 minutes or so (my sense of time always fails me in house show setting, for some reason) and I danced for 44 minutes, stopping only to catch my breath for 58 seconds (give or take).

After their set was over they thanked everyone for coming out and enjoying their music, which caused people to cheer. Slowly people wandered into the crisp night air and went their separate ways. I moseyed on over to Tom and Oren, congratulated them on a good show and said my goodbyes. Hopping once again into my trusty car and speeding off into the night.

It was a good night.

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Local Band Spotlight: Dreamgoatz

Dreamgoatz has a sound that is so unique they had to invent a new genre to describe it: folktronic-junk pop. With a sound that mixes a keyboard, guitars, accordions,  sound bites, a loop machine, and vocals and harmonies, it’s easy to see how one might find it difficult to classify them. The band strives for one thing above all else – uniqueness.

“They have a real original sound,” said Max Garcia, a studio art senior who saw them perform at the Arcata Theater Lounge over the summer. “They were making something that is truly unique.”

Dreamgoatz began in the Bay Area in 2006 when Oren Beckman and Tom Vidosh first met through a mutual friend. Both were in high school at the time and bonded instantly over their love of music. Their love of musical experimentation eventually blossomed into the band Dreamgoatz.

Beckman, a College of the Redwoods English student, provides vocals, drum machine and guitar. Vidosh, a journalism senior, provides vocals, loops, keyboards and occasionally the accordion. Erika Bojnowski, a friend who still lives in the Bay Area, sings on the tracks thanks to the trusty postal service. “We all add stuff to each other’s songs,“ said Beckman.

The songwriting process is a team effort. The important thing to the band is how the track turns out, not who gets the credit.

The band is currently working on their fourth album. The band self-releases all of its albums under their own label, Gotohawaii Recordings. The albums themselves showcase Dreamgoatz experimental sound, with a heavy emphasis on mood.

The band’s influences range from Brian Eno’s experimental recording of the 70s, to the Talking Heads. The lyrics are few and far between and are almost childlike in their innocence. Some of the tracks are only 20 seconds long, because the albums are meant to be listened to as a whole, with each song bleeding into the next.

The music is the easy part, the band insists. The most difficult thing for the band is drawing a crowd, not an easy feat when your band is relatively unknown, as many local bands can attest.

“We have not been blessed by the Audience Gods,” joked Beckman. “Most of our shows collect a pretty small audience. It usually ends up being just our roommates and random people who come and go.”

Their last gig at Blondies on Sunday night was no exception. Michelle Morales, a Blondies employee who worked that night felt bad that people did not show up. “I like it when bands come and play here,” Morales said. “It’s better than the radio.”

Regardless of the size of the audience, Dreamgoatz soldiers on. The band has played a variety of venues around town, including Arcata Theater Lounge, The Little Red Lion Tavern, the Green House, and some scattered house shows as far as the Bay Area, Oakland, and even Seattle.

Last Halloween the band drove to Seattle to play a house party. The band that played before them was a metal band whose lead singer, while trying to “get his hardcore on” kicked Beckman in the chest trying to get people riled up for the show. The first band didn’t stop playing until midnight, and then the cops showed up and most of the party-goers left, leaving Dreamgoatz to play to a mostly empty room.

It was a very tense and silent drive back to Humboldt for the band. “We were feeling shitty,” said Beckman. “We drove all the way to fucking Seattle and didn’t even get to play, really.”
Dreamgoatz made an effort to not let this get them down for long, and played house shows again soon after arriving back in Humboldt. “Every performance where people are digging the music makes it all worth it,” said Beckman.

Next on the agenda of the lads behind Dreamgoatz is a forthcoming hip-hop project “Popol Dullbeer.” It is an album/comic book that contains elements of film noir, Charles Bukowski, Mayan cosmology and a loosely interpreted biography of John Dolbeer, a Humboldt inventor who created the “steam donkey” back in 1881, which was used as a logging engine.

The band believes that it is our duty as human beings to create something that will live on past our deaths. For Beckman and Vidosh, this is Dreamgoatz.

(Previously published in The Lumberjack Newspaper on Dec 2nd, 2009. Photo by Cassandra Hoisington. Band website: http://www.myspace.com/dreamgoatz)

“The Batcave” Playlist for 3/24/10!

My show of epic proportions went like this on Wednesday night (podcasting from the basement of KRFH.net from 11 p.m.-midnight):

“Batman theme song” by The Flaming Lips
“24 Hour Karate School” by Mos Def (we’re best of friends, Mos and I)
“Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
“All The Old Showstoppers” by the New Pornographers (a fun band name to say on the air, as always)
“Carry the Zero” by Built to Spill
“The Hardest Button to Button” by The White Stripes (for Sean, who always sounds like a pervert on the phone for some reason)
“Use Me” by Bill Withers (“baby makin’ music,” says Max, who was my co-host in tonight’s shenanigans)
“Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye
“Bigmouth Strikes Again(!)” by The Smiths (for Robot Brian)
“Simple Man” by The Grouch (my “other” hip-hop best bud)
“I Zimbra” by Talking Heads

Drinking Music: The Smashed Glass

Drinking music is a beautiful thing to behold. You stand there, rocking back and forth in time to the music, sipping on your drink of choice (for me, Guinness). Perhaps you pump your fist into the air if you’re feeling frisky. It’s up to you, really. Different music inspires different reactions. Folk music inspires contemplation (and plaid clothing, apparently). Doom metal inspires a whole lot of headbanging. And Irish folk-punk inspires, well…. Drinking.

I discovered the Eureka-based band The Smashed Glass by accident, really. I was at a show over the summer at my favorite bar in Arcata, The Alibi, seeing local melodic metal band Fall The Giants play. I was about 5 beers and 2 shots deep when The Smashed Glass took the stage and quickly broke into a rapid fire rendition of one of my favorite Irish folk songs, “Nancy Whiskey.” Even in my ever so slightly inebriated state I was impressed. As I stumbled home (I love living within walking distance of the bars!) I hummed that song happily to myself.

The next day I awoke around 11 a.m. and dragged myself out of bed, wrote the name of the band, The Smashed Glass, on a cocktail napkin and went back to sleep until noon. Then I took a shower, grabbed my skim board and a book and hopped into my car and headed off to the beach. It was my day off and I decided that it would be in my best interest to get a sunburn in the name of freedom and summertime revelry.

But enough about the past, with all it’s comings and goings, it’s the present I want to talk about. The present I say!

Let’s talk about this last Monday, shall we? The Jambalaya on H St. in Arcata has been featuring local bands as part of their “Monday Night Budget Rock” nights, which only costs $2 to attend and features $2 PBR and $3 Guinness and $4 shots. As part of my “get out there and experience life and all that it has to offer” mentality, coupled with the fact that I don’t have class until noon on Tuesday and I live alone, this works out perfectly for me! Living alone has it’s perks, such as time to study without noisy roommates, and it allows me the pleasure of being able to walk around my apartment in my underwear whenever I the mood strikes me, but on the downside, life can get a little lonely sometimes, so any excuse to leave my apartment sounds enticing. I do enjoy my evenings alone on nights that I’m not working, watching movies wrapped in my comfy Batman blanket, drinking hot cider, but the occasional night of drunken debauchery does the body good. Or so I tell myself.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Monday night. The show was advertised to start at 10 p.m., and so at 10 p.m. on the dote I show up with an eager smile on my face.

“The featured band tonight is The Smashed Glass,” the bearded fellow at the door tells me. I nod enthusiastically. “But they’re not going to go on for another hour.”

Dang it! I decided to make the best use of my time by jogging home, hopping into my car and driving to Safeway for some much needed grocery shopping. I like to use my time wisely, if I can help it.

When I show up at 11:05 p.m. the band is just about to start so I order myself a can of PBR and a shot of Jim Bean while I wait. I chat a bit with the girl sitting next to me and learn that she too goes to HSU, with an major in Biology.

“Biology, eh? Well good luck with THAT. Science was never my strong suit, to tell you the truth. I fancy myself a writer, but lately all I’ve been writing is rubbish, not gonna lie. It’s frustrating.”

The girl sips her drink and ponders my situation. “Well the important thing is that you don’t give up,” she tells me after a moment of contemplation. “If writing makes you happy then go for it! Follow your dreams, I say.”

“Follow my dreams? Wow, you should write inspirational greeting cards.” She laughs because I am very witty. I buy her a drink and then the band begins to play.

There is a kind of special feeling you get when a band that you enjoy is playing songs at such a loud volume that you feel like the room that you are in is the only place that matters in the world. Everything else fades away. It’s just you, the band, and a room full of people who you’ve more than likely seen before. The rock crowd sticks together, so it seems.

Songs about drinking, love, working dead end jobs, and fighting for your honor fill my ears and I am happy. These moments are where it’s at, I think to myself.

The band plays for more than an hour, joking around with the audience and each other.

“This next song is about drinking,” the lead singer announces, causing the crowd to cheer. That’s another thing I’ve noticed, people love to cheer at shows. It doesn’t really matter the reason. The lead singer could have said “I’ve always been afraid of Gumby” and I think the audience would have cheered just the same. I really need to be in a band. If you know of any bands that are looking for a charismatic and dashing lead singer with very little musical talent let me know, okay?

The next song was indeed about drinking, and the hardships of love. A deadly combo, really.

After all the songs were sung and all the drinks were finished the crowd dispersed into the chill night, shoving their hands deep into their pockets and heading off to their cars, or in my case, staggering home like a maniac, humming Irish folk tunes.

You should see these guys sometime. You won’t regret it. First round is on me!

“Mad Men” Barbie dolls? Are you serious?

Like many Americans in their 20s I have quite a few things that remind me of childhood… G. I. Joes. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Jump ropes. Pop Rocks. The Chronicles of Narnia. Yo-Yos. The list goes on and on.

This is why I was shocked when I heard the news that my beloved Mattel toy company was releasing “limited edition” collectible dolls inspired by the hit show “Mad Men.” Yeah, you read that right. Betty Draper is a Barbie doll now. Are you serious, Mattel? Have you even SEEN the show? Or did you simply say to yourself, “Hey, Mad Men is a very popular and mature television show, but it seems to be missing something. Hmmmmm….. I’ve got it! We should make Barbie dolls of all the characters! How very meta and wonderfully ironic that would be!”

It is my humble opinion that “Mad Men” is one of the best shows on TV these days. It is thoughtful, beautifully written, and fantastically acted. Oh yes, and it’s meant for adults. Lying, cheating, adultery, existential angst, and mental breakdowns are common occurrences on the show. Or did Mattel forget that?

Do you really want your kids playing with characters like this? It’s not like you would give your kid a Hannibal Lector action figure and say “Here ya go kid! This guy is an insane murderer, AND he’s got karate chop action! Just press the button on the back of his straight jacket.”

Think about it.

Mattel is a fine company that brings back a lot of great memories from my childhood, and “Mad Men” is one of my favorite shows, but I never thought I would live to see the day that the two would ever meet.

I don’t meant to be such a cantankerous curmudgeon about this.

“You kids today and your indie rock music and your iPods and your Twitter and your Mad Men-inspired Barbie dolls!” Haha! It’s not like my childhood is the golden standard on which all should be based. I’m glad we outgrew some of the stuff from the 80s, honestly. I just find the idea of Mad Men Barbie dolls to be a bit much, I suppose. Maybe I’m not “meta” enough, if that makes sense. I guess this brings us to our next question:

How much irony is too much?

“The Batcave” Playlist for 3/10/10!

Wednesday night from 11 p.m.-midnight (podcasting from krfh.net)! Good show as per usual 🙂 This is what I played tonight:

“Pistol Grip” by The Blakes

“24 Hour Karate School” by Mos Def

“California Stars” by Wilco and Billy Bragg

“Adventures in Solitude” by The New Pornographers (for Brian, a good fellow once you get to know him)

“Here Comes My Baby” by Cat Stevens (for Arial!)

“Artsy” by The Grouch

“Gemini (Birthday Song” by Why? (for David! Loved this song, btw!)

“Of The Heavens and The Earth” by The Lighthouse and the Whaler (for Ellie!)

“Fashion is Danger” by Flight of the Conchords

“The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” by The Flaming Lips

“I And Love And You” by The Avett Brothers (for Mason, my latest Twitter homie!)

“VCR” by The xx (for Darlene!)

Dear Kathryn Bigelow: A Love Letter

Dear Kathryn Bigelow,

My heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first woman EVER to win the Oscar for Best Director! Your film, The Hurt Locker, was nothing less than a triumph of film making, with more heart and soul than Michael Bay could ever dream of.

It warms my heart to think that tonight I witnessed history in the making. The fact that, until tonight, no woman or African-American had won the Oscar for Best Director saddened me and filled me with shame. We claim to be so modern and highly evolved, and yet sexism and racism still exists, it’s just well hidden. Thank you for doing your part to show to the world that women are just as skilled at making movies as men.

When I first watched The Hurt Locker the fact that the film was directed by a woman didn’t even cross my mind. I watched that film and just went “Holy shit, that was amazing!” I was highly impressed. It was one of the most delicately and beautifully crafted tales of war that I have seen in the last decade. It was a character study, in the highest regard, and done so with such kinetic energy that I felt emotionally and physically exhausted by the time the credits rolled. Well done!

Take a bow, Kathryn Bigelow, you deserved it!

Respectfully yours,

Nathaniel Ochoa