With all the tattooing I’ve been doing myself lately, it kind of makes sense that I’d do some work for an actual tattoo shop. (Or maybe not?) In any case, this commission came in two nights before my own tattoo career started. On my way to Minneapolis for Cleveland Bound Death Sentence, I stopped in Lexington. My buddy, Chris, works for Bleed Blue Tattoo and, while we were there, I met the shop’s owner, Tommy. Being the self-promoting little fuckshit that I am, I (of course!) told him about my artwork. He was cool enough to commission me to design a shirt for Bleed Blue right then and there. He was also cool enough to tell me I could do whatever I wanted – so I did, right down to the sort of overly-personal text that I put in virtually all of my pieces. The only real guideline I gave myself was a limited color palette since I knew that – when it comes to silkscreens – more colors means higher printing costs.
The text says: “I am an anxious mess of a human being but I’ve got high hopes once Mercury’s no longer in retrograde. Maybe I’ll start getting laid again.” I wrote that the night I started the piece in St. Louis. By the time I finished it a couple days later in Minneapolis, Mercury was no longer in retrograde and I had started getting laid again. Isn’t it nice when stories have a happy ending?
As if all that weren’t great enough, check out the week I just had, selling and making art at punk shows around the midwest:
June 29: Lexington, KY w/ Rational Anthem.
June 30: Cincinnati, OH w/ Masked Intruder, The Dopamines, Direct Hit!, and The Priceduifkes.
July 1: Bloomington, IN w/ Rational Anthem and The Razor Ramones.
July 2: St. Louis w/ Masked Intruder, The Humanoids, Direct Hit!, and The Priceduifkes.
July 3: Madison, WI w/ The Transgressions, Rational Anthem, Lipstick Homicide, and Spruce Bringsteen.
July 4: Minneapolis, MN w/ Dillinger Four, The Brokedowns, Masked Intruder, Direct Hit!, The Priceduifkes, and Canadian Rifle.
July 5: Minneapolis, w/ Dillinger Four and Night Birds.
Anyway, for now, I’m in Chicago (where I’ll probably remain for most of the summer). Then again, have I ever stuck with a plan? Either way, shit’s cool right now and I’m excited about everything I’ve got in the works. And I’ve got a bunch of new pieces that I’ll add to the site soon so… Cool.
Here are some tunes from some of the bands that have been rad enough to host me lately:
“25 to Life” by Masked Intruder
“Thinkin’ ‘Bout Ya” by Rational Anthem
“Snickers or Reese’s” by Direct Hit!
“Captain, We’re Drinking” by The Priceduifkes
Music video for “Wizard Symptoms” by The Brokedowns
“Like Sprewells on a Wheelchair” by Dillinger Four
“Moody’s Point” by Lipstick Homicide
“Wasteoid” (originally by The Transgressions but performed here) by Spruce Bringsteen (that’s a two in one)!
I’m so fucking sick of discussions about “punk’s problem with women” that make reference to the Warped Tour and its “ShiraGirl stage.’’ I don’t give a fuck about the Warped Tour and I don’t really see what the fuck it has to do with punk rock in the first place.
The last DIY show I went to was five days ago in Madison. Two of the bands playing were Lipstick Homicide and Rational Anthem, both fronted by women. The last band I bought a shirt from was The Turkletons, a band in which lead vocals are traded off between the guitarists – one male and one female. The last set of records I bought from a distro were three 7-inches – by Boys, Pity Party, and Skinny Genes. Only one of those doesn’t prominently feature women and that’s only because it’s a solo effort by one guy. But that one guy’s active band is Science Police, of which two of the members are women.
The gender of the performers wasn’t even a thought (until this morning when I read another of these articles and asked myself if there was any validity to its criticisms). I don’t support any of those bands because they have women in them; I support them because they’re great punk bands. When I interviewed Rational Anthem for Razorcake, I asked singer/guitarist Noelle Stolp about gender and punk rock. She said and I quote: “To me – I don’t really fucking care. I don’t feel any different. I just know that I can shred better than some dudes and it kills their self-esteem as well as their boners.” Beautifully fucking articulated.
Punk rock is whatever the fuck we want it to be. If you don’t like the shows being booked at 924 Gilman or Charm City Art Space, become a member and book your own shows (one of the only rules to do so is “no sexism”). If you don’t like the coverage in zines like Maximumrocknroll or Razorcake, write your own articles, conduct your own interviews, and they’ll printthem! And if you feel like whatever group you identify with is underrepresented in punk, then start a band, put out records, and go out on tour.
Are there sexist attitudes in the punk scene? ABSOLUTELY! (Kind of like how there are sexist attitudes – oh, I don’t know – EVERYWHERE). Is that a bummer? Of course. But I think we do a way better job (in the punk scene) at being inclusive and open to people of all genders, races, ideologies, etc than 99% of the rest of this planet (and we’ll continue striving to be even better). Punk rock is important to me so I’m sorry if I’m getting defensive but I don’t appreciate all the shit you’ve been talking on this scene that I love and that so many of us (male and female) work so hard for.
I remember in 2008, somebody asked me, “Are you really still gonna care about bands like Drunken Boat and Ringers five years from now?” I stated confidently that I would. And I do! In his review of the Frozen Teens LP, Todd Taylor compares the band to The Replacements, Bent Outta Shape, and Drunken Boat. Obviously, The Replacements get their due every day and Bent Outta Shape still get nods pretty often too. But it’s nice to see that someone else out there picked up on the little something-specials going on in the music of Drunken Boat, remembers them, and still cares as much as I do.
I don’t know Bianca, but in her review of the Peeple Watchin’ cassette, she writes, “If I were in a pit of despair, this would be the soundtrack to my triumphant escape from it.” And that is exactly how I felt about Peeple Watchin’s “I’m Still Here, Asshole” in the darkest moments of this last July.
Marty Ploy’s top five list concludes with “Having Rational Anthem in southern California for a week.” I love those kids too, Marty!
Another reviewer I don’t know (Rick Ecker) writes of The Turkletons (in his review of their split with Lipstick Homicide) that they’re “every bit the equal on this split single.” Like my first little note, I think Lipstick Homicide are a band that have been getting the recognition they deserve but it makes me happy to see that The Turkletons are too. If Lipstick Homicide’s “Not That Easy” is my favorite song on the record, then The Turkletons’ “Geography” is only the slightest scratch behind it. And the lead in that song is definitely the highlight of the record.
A few weeks back, Jesse (Slow Death) wrote something online about all of the records he had in the works and Chris (Turkletons) said something like, “You’re boring everyone.” His response: “What if I told you they were all based around puns and clever wordplay?” Chris: “Sold!” I think I laughed out loud reading that.
Ten thousand years ago, I was supposed to release The Humanoids’ debut full-length on Traffic Street. Those plans took a backseat to my heroin problem but the LP has finally seen the light of day thanks to Darren’s new(ish) label, Throwing Things Records. He gave me a copy when Rational played with The Haddonfields in St. Louis last month, it just happens to be spinning on my turntable as I type all of this, and – like everything else that I just mentioned – it’s one more little thing that makes me happy, one more little thing that puts a smile on my face.
Did you know that there are people in the world who care about shit other than pop punk?
In 2011, I was still turning up to shows and fests but, each time, it would be more obvious that I was deteriorating into heroin shit. At that year’s Fest in Gainesville, I remember standing with a big crowd of friends outside Durty Nelly’s. I forget the context, but I declared myself to be “the coolest kid in the world.” Servo corrected me: “No. You used to be.”
While in rehab for the first time, he sent me an email and reminded me of that moment. “What I forgot to add,” he wrote, “is that you will be again.”
A few months back, I was asked to help out with some stuff for Rational Anthem’s new record. One of my tasks was to get the high-res logos for each record label and forward them to Bill Pinkel, who was doing the album art. One of the labels was Servo’s. When I asked for his logo, he asked me if I’d draw him a new one.
Here’s one of many great songs (“So Happy For You” by Lipstick Homicide) off of one of Bloated Kat’s many great releases (LH’s new full-length, “Out Utero.”)
After the show in Valdosta (which was just Rational Anthem and Johnathan Coody of Ninja Gun), I drove the van back to my place in Jacksonville, where we spent the night. The rest of the crew left around noon and I’ve spent the day kind of catching up around here. Did some yardwork, started to replace the blurry images (in all of my posts made from the road) with high-res ones. I should have that done by tomorrow, at which point I’ll also add them all to the Gallery page.
I don’t take a lot of photos, but here’s what I got.
I guess that’s it for now. But speaking of Mike…
And if you’re tired of my nonsense, those links in the photo captions will take you to Brett and Evan’s websites, which both have a bunch of their art online.
Things got a little hectic yesterday morning. I’m going to try to tell this story, which involves other people, while keeping the focus mostly on myself. I’ve never stated so explicitly but there’s a reason I do that and it’s not because I think I’m such a fascinating character. Letting my focus shift to other people would make for better storytelling but less effective mental health exercise. When it comes to my well-being, the things that other people think, say, and do are irrelevant. Really, they have nothing to do with me and are none of my business (or at least none of my concern).
The Lipstick Homicide and Bloated Kat houses are about a block apart, so our crew was split between them for the night. It was about time for us to get on the road from Iowa City to Carbondale when Noelle called me and said she needed my help. “It’s nothing bad or serious, is it?”
“Andrea broke up with me and is driving back to Florida without Jessica.”
Since 2008, Rational Anthem has had an incredibly sensible rule: no girlfriends on tour. Relationship problems are bad enough on their own, but when they come up on tour, they become the whole band’s problem. This trip though wasn’t quite a tour and an exception was made. Noelle’s girlfriend rented a car to drive up to Dave Strait Fest, but also to stop along the way up and back for two of the shows Rational was playing between Florida and Minneapolis. In the car with her was a friend of Noelle’s (and – at one point – possibly of Andrea’s as well).
What happened isn’t important. There was now bad blood and Andrea didn’t want to drive back to Florida with the other girl.
Rational Anthem has three members. Their van has four seats. I was along for the whole trip and Zack’s summer in Minneapolis was over, so he was hitching a ride with us back home to Florida.
I walked over to the house and sat down with Andrea. I offered a couple different ideas/options that might make her more receptive to driving back with Jessica in tow, as planned. She wasn’t having it.
There was a point in my life where I was so desperate to be perceived as a “winner” – as someone capable of pulling any trick or fixing any problem – that I would have pulled whatever emotionally manipulative bullshit was necessary to get those two girls in the car together and back on the road to Florida. But that’s not me anymore. Andrea was hurting and I felt for her. Whatever happened to spark the conflict didn’t really matter to me. Two (or three) people can have radically different versions of a story and neither’s is wrong. Perception *is* reality. If Noelle or Jessica were mean to Andrea, if it was all in Andrea’s head – it didn’t make any difference. Emotions are more powerful than facts. I didn’t care about the problem, only the solution.
The rental car was in Andrea’s name. On paper, the call was hers. Could she have been coaxed into taking Jessica and making life easier for the other people involved? Probably. But I consider Andrea a friend and – it’s a little strange but – my empathy was stronger than my need to be the clever problem-solver. It’s strange because I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I wasn’t willing to do anything to keep her from doing what she felt she needed to in order to feel okay.
I gave Andrea a hug and told Jessica she’d have to take a bus from Iowa to Florida. Not because she did something wrong (I don’t know or care whether or not she did) but because that was simply the situation we were in. Unfortunate but… things are as they are.
Jessica said she didn’t know what she had done wrong. I said that I didn’t either, but that it didn’t matter. She was upset (and reasonably enough so). Not being the type of itinerant punk rock fuck-up that so many of us are, a bus trip from Iowa to Florida was going to be a new kind of experience for her. I did my best to remain calm, compassionate, and supportive, and to alleviate any fears, but it didn’t go over much better than my initial proposals to Andrea. Jessica asked if she could go in the van with Rational Anthem and someone else could take a bus or ride back with Andrea.
Chris, Noelle, and I walked back to the other house. Chris wanted to keep the group intact as it was. Noelle said she felt bad about the situation Jessica was in so she was okay with Zack or I heading back with Andrea – so long as we were. I didn’t like that option, but was willing to do whatever seemed to make the most sense. Zack was too. I saw Andrea’s hurt, but there was hurt all over the place and I’d do just about anything for Noelle at this point. She’s my friend and – besides – I owe it to her. For all the times when I haven’t been a good friend to her. For all the times when the only thing she could really count on me doing was making trouble myself.
As it turned out, Andrea returned
the car in Iowa and made other plans. The five of us decided to hit the road as initially planned.
This was finished later that afternoon but drawn mostly the night before, on the way to (and at) the show in Des Moines (which was The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Rational Anthem, Tight Bros, and a few others). The text is basically journaling about the situation and some other stuff that was on my mind at one point or another.
The text that stands out most to me says, “What’s to come is what matters. We roll with the punches. We’ll do whatever it is that we have to do.” It’s kind of about what is as well as what should be. Or maybe just what is when we’re at our best. Human beings, I mean.
I’m really grateful for the fact that – even when I thought it might mean that I’d have to go home early – the thought never occurred to me that I should go back and try to talk Andrea into taking Jessica after all.
And I’m grateful that I’m still here with four of my friends. And grateful that I’m finally able to treat my friends the way a friend should.
Says: “I don’t accept what you consider fact, truth, or reality. But I do believe in freedom right now. And I’m gonna do my best to try to be happy. I’ll let you know how it works out.”
It was in response to being told that – what I’m doing / how I’m living – is okay for now but will have to end really soon. That I’ll need to get a real job or learn to draw boardwalk caricatures.
I drew this “for” the insert for (Rational Anthem’s) Whatevermind LP, but decided that it didn’t fit and – beyond that – almost seemed antithetical to it.
Actually, I just remembered: this didn’t start out as an expressive piece, I had something in mind, but I made a mistake (and since I was using ink, I couldn’t correct it) so I just worked around it and it turned into this.
We’re en route to Des Moines. Show tonight should be good. Rational, Copyrights, Tight Bros, and Lipstick Homicide. Kind of strange though: doors at 4, show at 5, and it’s 21+.
Found out The Heat Tape got added to the show tomorrow in Carbondale. Their album was my favorite thing on the planet that first week in Sarasota to make “No Real Than You Are.” It was actually when one of those songs came up in my headphones and I didn’t immediately feel great that I knew something was wrong. I wanted the feeling back – the one that I had gotten, riding around town listening to that album just a few days earlier. Raccoon Valley Recordings (and my response to it) were literally my mental health gauge.