Friday, May 19, 2017

One dozen years and counting with Chicagoist: or, watch me get all kinds of mushy.

From an actual 2009 Chicagoist post. No kidding.
Twelve years ago today I started writing for Chicagoist.

Twelve years.

I can still remember sending Scott Smith my first email answering the call for a music writer. And his invitation to do so,  including the ask that I keep writing under the name Tankboy. At the time the new wave of online journalism was still young and the idea of working a "brand" that was already established through years of writing under that name elsewhere still seemed valuable. And the funny thing is I don't regret it, no matter how many times I meet people and say, "My name is Jim Kopeny [blank stare] ... I also write under the name Tankboy for Chicagoist."

"OOOOOH! I know who you are! I've been reading you forever!"

Yeah.

So now I'm creeping on turning 45 and more people than not call me Tankboy.

Thanks Scott.*

ANYWAY.

Chicagoist was one of the first truly original—strike that. THE FIRST truly original-voiced Chicago blog** that—amazingly—maintained some sort of focus despite channeling a dizzying number of truly talented yet insane voices at the time. There were no rules. And we broke them all.

And we still do.

Things are obviously different. Twelve years in most eras would be a long time but in today's media environment that's like saying my genesis with Chicagoist was started sometime in the 1880s. (And that was true even before our current hyper news cycle that's launched into overdrive over the last 6 months!)

One weirdo and one guy that hired the weirdo. Circa 2006.
But Chicagoist is still it's own thing. And it's a thing I'm still proud of. It has managed to not turn into a carbon copy of every other media site trend despite watching countless others do just that over the years. How amazing is that? I  am still deeply proud of the site and amazed at how lucky I am to write for it.

Thank you Jen. Thank you Jake. Thank you to every other editor and writer I've worked alongside over the last twelve years.*** Especially the folks that sent in their initial emails wanting to write for the site, worked with me,  and then gave me the pure joy of seeing you go on to incredible other opportunities after your Chicagoist tenure.

Thank you.

And thank YOU for reading the site all this time. I write because I have to—because if I didn't I would explode—but I get the most enjoyment when YOU walk up to me and let me know something I posted on the site mattered to YOU, and got YOU out to a show or event, or helped YOU become a new band's biggest fan. Or got YOU to an event or to care about something, or change a friend's mind about something.

Thank YOU.

Oh yeah, and I met my wife because of Chicagoist.

I am such a lucky dude.

THANK YOU.


*I actually mean that. Thank you, Scott.
**Chicago Metblogs and Gapers Block were great, but I'm biased. Chicagoist just had it.
***The list is a mind-boggling list of talents. Oh my gosh, SO MANY AMAZING WRITERS.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell.

I shit you not, stomping around a friend's kitchen in 1991, long hair flailing, un-ironic flannels, boys and girls blending together, me DJing with cassette tape and blasting "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" and feeling invincible and like the world was fucking ours. OURS.

1992 at Tinley Park with even longer hair screaming "OUTSHINED OUTSHINED OUTSHINED" into I don't even know whose face.

Then—lost the plot. What the fuck? "Black Hole Sun" puts me to sleep.

Years later. Just moved back into Chicago. Run into the band at Danny's and dance-offs and long, drawn out discussions of Barry White bootlegs ensue and everything is right again.

And then, just no.

Then, conflicted. (And my take NOT well received by fans.)

Then the last time I saw him just fuck yes, again. I could feel my hair creep down my neck as those flannel sleeves cinched my waist. One of the last remaining old school primal rock forces.

These are the things I'll remember.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Seriously, this has gotta stop.

Remember when the news cycle at least started to slow down after 5 p.m. most days?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Do the kids even understand the weirdness?


Did you used to gather in a friends dorm room to watch each new episode of Twin Peaks in college? I did. It is, of just about any TV show, is impossible to convey just what a true aberration this show was at the time.

There was nothing like it that had ever made it through to the mainstream before.

It was nightmarish yet darkly funny. Surreal and hypnotic. A madman's fever dream on network TV. Truly a WHAT THE FUCK phenomenon. I know nowadays a series opening on a pan over a dead body feels cliché but when Twin Peaks started it was genuinely horrifying and confusing. So it's hard to get across just how wild Twin Peaks was. Hell, now "Lynchian" is practically an accepted adjective to define a now accepted aesthetic but back then? Lynchian simply meant THIS IS FUCKED UP AND WHAT IS HAPPENING.

I stumbled across this Flying Lotus remix yesterday. It's everything that Twin Peaks was not; a predictable rehash that breaks no new ground. But hey, it's groovy and will help you kill 3 minutes while you eagerly await the premiere of season 3 of Twin Peaks this weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hall And Oates ... a band I've seen a bunch I never thought I'd see a bunch.


Tonight's Hall And Oates show was pretty great. It flagged a little in the middle—definitely the longest set I've seen them turn in the numerous times I've caught them live—but I was impressed by their fearlessness to mess with their own "classics." My personal highlight? They turned "I Can't Go For That" into a 15+ minute Philly soul funk epic.

It was pretty amazing. Thanks to their and the Tears For Fears people for setting me up pretty last minute. It was definitely worth the drive to the suburbs to catch a show on a Monday night!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Took a sick day.

Threw in the towel. Took the day off work. And while I still worked half a day—time waits for no one—I still managed to also sleep for the other half of the day. And it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Now, I'm not going to push my luck, and am heading straight back to bed. But man, do I feel so much better now.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Falling behind.

Do you ever look at your unlistened-to podcast feed and feel filled with anxiety?

Oh, that's just me being a weirdo?

Never mind, Carry on.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I tried to listen to the new Black Lips ALL day today...

But I never got more than 30 seconds into a song. Not because they weren't good, but because I was so busy.

THAT SAID the snippets I heard were weird, wild, and not what I expected. So, tomorrow.

Wow, that's some inside baseball dorkiness, huh?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I feel like a wreck.

I feel like this building looks. Another sad demolition in Bucktown. 
I should have called in sick to work yesterday.

I definitely should have called into work today.

But I couldn’t.

There’s too much going on. I’ve never understood people that call in sick when there’s a deadline (or in this case, deadlines). I don’t judge them negatively. In fact I think I actually envy them a little since the rational response to being sick is staying home and 90% or the time I don’t respond rationally. Actually, those people are clearly smarter than I am.

I guess if I don’t think I’m contagious then I reckon I’m no threat to others’ health, so why should I take the day off?

Whatever, I’m just griping because I feel so cruddy. Maybe tonight I’ll get a good night’s sleep, finally burn through this things and wake up feeling 100 times better.

We’ll see.

Monday, May 08, 2017

'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' is a total nerd flick.

Is it as instant winning as the first Guardians Of The Galaxy? I don’t think it could be. But it’s still wildly entertaining, and unafraid to pick in plenty of ephemera to please the fans of comic book deep cuts. There are a ridiculous number of Easter eggs, and I’m sure I only caught a fraction of them.

Oh and I’m not gonna lie—I got teary-eyed at points. Because I am a big softy.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today. I’ve been under the weather since yesterday and it’s only getting worse so yippee yay me!

Friday, May 05, 2017

White Reaper!



It's no secret that White Reaper's The World's Best America Band is one of my favorite records this year. And tonight I will have a chance to finally catch them live. I am so excited! I feel like a frickin' teenager. It's ridic.

Here is their newest video. It may be the slowest song they've written, not that I'm holding that against them. It's still pretty great.

UPDATE: When they played this Beat Kitchen went bonkers and it carries an unexpected power in a live setting. Just an FYI.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Date night!

Since I was out of town earlier this week, and Mich is out of town this weekend, tonight is date night!

We really need to schedule more of these ahead of time. It’s funny how much less often we go out nowadays. And it’s not like you have to go out of the house for a date, but it sure helps to do just that if you actually want to carve out time to do something more exciting than deciding which movie to stream or what series to catch up with.

Not that I don’t think both of those things can be awfully romantic. They can be!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Whirlwind.


We were in and out of New Orleans in just about 24 hours. It's pretty impressive how much business you can get done in such a brief window of time.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Sixty minute tour.


I'm in New Orleans for a client meeting and had a lucky chance to get out and show a co-worker a brief glimpse of the city outside our hotel. We ate beignets, drank chicory coffee and took in some of the architecture.

I really love New Orleans. We used to come down here at least once a year—usually off season—because we just love the town's vibe. I think Mich and I need to book a longer stay down here again so I can gain 10 pounds eating good food and doing nothing much else aside from walking around and maybe taking a tour or two.

Monday, May 01, 2017

How much new music did I listen to in April 2017? Let's find out!

Looks like April was a little slower as far as plowing through the new music queue. I was on vacation for part of the month, and spent most of that time reading instead of listening. I’ve also made that new pact with myself to slow down the firehose, so maybe this is an effect stemming from that as well?

I mean, this is still more music than the average fan, or even critic, listens to in a month, so I’m not exactly beating myself up. I do admit I’m beginning to question my practice of listening to every album all the way through instead of skipping the ones that are obviously not going to hit home with me. It’s the same problem I have with books; I can’t just bail a few pages in, and end up feeling like I’m required to fight through t the bitter end.

Part of the reason I listen to things all the way through is in hopes of discovering a single gem of a song on an otherwise lackluster album. I may have to refine this practice, but for now it stays in place!

Anyway, here are the April stats!

The guide to understanding my rating system is here, if you're interested.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in March 2017: 57

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 5

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 38

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 14

Highest rated album: Gorillaz - Humanz (Shocker! Not.)

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: What Gives - Feel Good. I'll write more about this Chicago band later, but RIYL: all things Weezer, pop-punk, emo-pop, power pop, big crunchy guitars—but all those things inclusively and not all of those things exclusively.

Most surprising discovery: I knew Sweet Spirit's St. Mojo held promise, but I admit that it kinda gave me a left hook. I listened to it when I first got it and was, like, meh this is good and fine. Then gave it another while writing a preview of their Chicago show and something just clicked. Goes to show why if something shows promise you should always give another listen.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gorillaz and 'Humanz' and me and you and...

Gorillaz in Chicago in 2010, photo by me.
My review of the first new Gorillaz album in 7 years is on Chicagoist! Read it!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sound of a generation, sound of the millennium?

Ryan Leas’ 33 1/3 tome examining LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver ended up being a  really satisfying read.

I won't delve deeply into the generational disassociation I initially felt since Leas begins from the vantage point of a high school LCD fan and I'm closer to Murphy's age, because the book swiftly moved past that and uncovers a deeply thoughtful investigation into the album and its deserves cultural significance.

The final chapter is worth the purchase price alone. It's a tour de force—greatly expanded from a 2013 essay—that does a terrific job of capturing the seismic changes we've undergone when it comes to experiencing art (or anything, really) and why that's both troublesome and totally O.K.

And the timing of me hitting that final chapter couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Constant velocity?

Perhaps I should adopt the mantra, "Be like the Pickle."
I’ve been seriously considering if I need to change my relationship to how I listen to music. I’ve grown so used to searching out the new and exciting to share that I’ve lost the ability to just sit with the albums that I like for extended periods of time. This isn’t a hard rule—for instance I’ve given the new Gorillas album Humanz a ton of spins over the last few weeks so I can write something meaningful on it to publish on Friday—but since I write fewer longform reviews I don’t always have that “forced” luxury.

This isn’t unique to me. We’ve all changed how we consume all media. We choose at which rate and how much and what pieces we want to chew on more than others. And amidst the non-stop flow of the new I don’t even think most of us even consider the idea of sitting on one thing or another beyond the amount of time it takes to initially experience it.

As I type that, though, I also realize I am an extreme outlier. Many people do wait for their favorite album to come out and then listen to nothing but that for extended periods of time. Of course that still happens. But outlier though I may be I do believe my own questions are those everyone faces, even if at slightly less at tidal wave of content levels.

The digital world is seeping into my real world!
The view of our place through the Gorillaz AR app. 
And so that has led me to ponder why exactly I do this. It’s not new to me. One of the weird things about me is that I’m old enough to remember pre-internet  as my primary way of life. But I’m also a weirdo that leapt into digital way early and has just always kept up while I’ve seen other around me dip in and out at various points, while I’ve always ben in the middle of things. It’s gifted me with a perspective firmly rooted in both history and innovation, and I speak a rounded language I honestly think few possess. It makes me a valuable commodity in a number of ways, and I like that.

But.

It can be exhausting.

I know this started as a question about how I experience music but it’s obvious there is a deeper question here: do I need to reconsider how plugged in I am in general? Most people my age are happy to step back, slow down on all their media consumption, and chill the fuck out.

So the bigger question is: can I even reconsider how plugged in I am? And do I need to? It’s so hardwired into how I function I’m not sure I could or should.

Here’s what I’ve decided (in the time it’s taken me to write this I realize the decision was already there, I just hadn’t surfaced it yet) and that is to start to slow down. I’m starting to devote time to reading books in the morning before work, instead of catching up on all my feeds and networks. I’m starting to focus more on mindfulness and meditation* in order to at least slow the non-stop whir that is my brain down a titch; I can’t stop it but the gears can stand a break from their usual high velocity. Maybe not listening to every single episode of every single podcast I’m subscribed to. Going for walks and leaving the headphones at home.

Little things like that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


*Who IS this guy?!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cheap Trick live in their own universe.

Photo from the Cheap Trick website by Ethan Gillikin
Think about it.

Cheap Trick's first three albums are nigh perfect yet if it wasn't for a fluke live album of a Japanese concert they might never have become famous. Their most popular song is one that sounds the least like them from the '80s. When they got dropped by their major label in the '90s they went in the studio with Steve Albini, and while those sessions haven't surfaced they started down the DIY route and basically never looked back. Decades into their career the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame could no longer ignore them and while that roster surrounds them with many acts who sound like they're treading water—if they're treading at all—the year the band was inducted Cheap Trick went and released an album full of teenage fire.

Robin Zander's voice is still a marvel.

Rick Nielsen's guitars still pound out chords that make the earth shake.

Tom Petersson's bass still rumbles while nimbly punching out rhythms that dance around Daxx Nielsen's drumming. (And all props to the legacy of Bun E. Carlos and his own inventive drumming style that built much of the band's foundation.)

None of this should be happening, yet it does and still is. The band has never stopped.

And may they never stop.

[h/t to this morning's Dig Me Out Podcast for spurring these thoughts today.]

Monday, April 24, 2017

The proper way to plot a graph.



Stumbled across this and it felt like a lovely Monday morning eye-opener.