The Smashing Pumpkins had an underrated “comeback” album, Zeitgeist, in 2007 that found Billy Corgan searching for the pulse of America while playing leaner and less extravagant rock than “Tonight, Tonight” from opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, for example. The results confused some of his alt-rock fan base but the darker work that dug deep thrilled me. One of the few overtly political songs of Corgan’s career was called “United States” and featured the lines “Let me embrace every single living thing/Let me be every moment I ever misunderstood.” That sentiment seemed apt for Thanksgiving. I’m not talking about a mass marketed version of the holiday (when in reality pilgrims pretty much just gave Native Americans smallpox), but a yearning for community.
I agree with President Obama’s rhetoric that Americans need to work together. As a progressive minded independent, it’s gross to me how cynics think Obama wants immigration reform to “get out the brown vote” after midterm election drubbing or when Joe Klein of Time magazine asserted recently that Democrats “don’t speak to a larger, unifying sense of America.” This is the most obstructionist Congress ever and Mitch McConnell, the Koch brothers and the National Republican Senate Committee have been drilling party members to scale down on gaffes and to trim the radical fat of polarizing ideas to sway back voters. Iowa has elected a senator, Joni Ernst, who ran on her ability to castrate hogs. Will that unify America?
Gore Vidal once said, “America is a unique society in which we have free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich.” Corporate tax breaks and backslap lobbying for the rich and Wall Street scams has created hell for common folk, which no one party can fix. Any illusions to the contrary are a Band-Aid on a deeper wound. Here in Kingston we have a lovely city of many stripes. We are all an important part of it.
“Everyday, there is always the trend of ‘what’s in,’” says Rick Schultz of ska band Los Thujones. “The Hudson Valley quite recently has become the place where ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s cool’ are slowly converging upon themselves. It’s an auspicious time.”
The New Paltz-based band is opening for Vic Ruggiero of ska legends The Slackers at BSP on Wednesday, December 3. “To me, the Slackers have always represented ‘what’s cool’ — gritty, soulful music, the original Brooklyn rocksteady beat.”
Catch The Blow
Also on the radar, the night before Los Thujones you can catch indie electro act The Blow, also at BSP. Started in 2001, the band released acclaimed minimal masterpiece Paper Television in 2006 on prestigious K Records. After taking a break the band’s founder Khaela Maricich returned with new bandmate Melissa Dyne.
“We lived in loft spaces across the hall from each other and we kind of ended up playing around together the way that kids would do,” says Maricich. “We were living in Portland, Oregon at the time so there was a not a ton of distractions there. Slowly, as we got involved with each other, Melissa began working with me on the live Blow shows, pretty much as an extension of all the other forms of collaboration we shared in our life. In the shows, I would be alone on the stage with no musical equipment whatsoever, and Melissa would control the samples from the back of the venue by the sound booth. We were into the fact that people seemed to feel intimidated by seeing me alone on the stage with no instruments and no other players.”
The new album, The Blow, was released last year on Brooklyn indie label Kanine Records.
“While we were making it I guess we did feel some intimidation, because once you’ve had the experience of people caring about something you’ve done you suddenly consider what those people will think of what you are doing next. But we kind of just plunged ahead and followed our weird impulses assuming that it was weird impulses that had made the thing people liked in the first place. We’ve had some lovely experiences in the Hudson Valley and we have a lot of friends scattered around the region at this point. Our favorite neighbors in our apartment building moved away to Kingston — we’re not really over it — and our manager lives in New Paltz, so it seems like the show is going to be a little bit of home way from home.”
Be safe on the roads
Ulster County Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum graciously took a few moments to speak with me. I had a DWI a few years ago after a gig and having since quit drinking, I’m more aware now of the work it takes to keep the roads safe on holidays.
“I’ve been here for years so I’ve worked a ton of holidays,” VanBlarcum said. “When you sign up for the job you know you’re taking on a lot of shifts. We give leeway on the holidays. If officers want to sit home with their families for dinner we allow them to do that but they can’t spend all day there. Holidays are pretty quiet until later on when everyone starts moving. In the holiday season there is a bigger push on DWI, so we warn everybody we are gonna be out there.”
I asked the sheriff how he likes to unwind in the Hudson Valley when off the clock. “I’m a golfer. I’m a boater,” said Paul, chuckling. “I’m in the office usually seven days a week. On weekends I spend all day there. You get a lot done when nobody is around!”
I’m a writer so I can relate!
Bearded warrior Pat Harrington of heavy band Geezer closes us out this week. The psychedelic blues/doom trio play Krampusnacht Kingston at BSP on Dec. 6 and just signed a deal with Ripple Music for the worldwide release of their new EP.
Comments Harrington, “Looking forward to soothing Krampus’ cold black leather heart with some mind-bending psych and boot-stompin’ heavy blues! Geezer hasn’t played BSP since February, so let’s make party!”
Be safe out there and stay awesome, Kingston.