*Punk Rock Girl

I’ve written here before about my love of documentary films. And if you are at all familiar with this blog, you also know that I am very fond of music and that I have a special affinity for the bands that populated college radio in the 1980s. In fact, one of my boards on Pinterest is primarily dedicated to artists from that time. So, I am sure you can understand the high level of giddiness I felt recently when I had the opportunity to marry these two passions.

First, I viewed the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. I had the pleasure of seeing Fishbone in concert during their heyday. The energy of the band and charisma of lead singer, Angelo Moore, was unlike anything I’d witnessed before or since. And did I mention that Fishbone has a horn section? I am an absolute sucker for a horn section.

As much as I love Fishbone’s music, that wasn’t what made this documentary for me. It was the story of the band’s origin, struggles, and determination to keep on keeping on that had me hooked. I came away feeling a bit sad, but was also inspired. And after watching the film, I couldn’t help but think that Norwood Fisher, Fishbone’s bass player and co-founder, would be a very interesting person to interview. I’d like to do that one day.

Here’s the trailer:

The second doc I watched was: The Other F Word, a film that explores fatherhood through the sometimes bleary eyes of aging punk rockers. I have to stop here and say that I don’t think all the musicians featured in this documentary fit that bill. Who issued Blink-182 a punk rock card? Because I would like to check that person’s credentials. I realized, however, after posting about this on Facebook, that my idea of what is punk might be different from those who came of age in the 1990s and later. I guess I can accept that. But no way I will ever see Mark Hoppus and John Lydon in the same light.

Despite my above quibble, I thought The Other F Word was entertaining and quite touching. I will admit to even shedding a few tears at one point. And I found it interesting, though not surprising, that most of the men in the film had strained or non-existent relationships with their own father.

Here’s the trailer:

If you only have time to watch one of these movies, I’d recommend going with Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Raised on the East Coast, I didn’t really have more than a passing understanding of what life was like in L.A. during the effort to desegregate public schools. I enjoyed and appreciated the way that Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, the filmmakers behind Everyday Sunshine, wove that information and other historical context into Fishbone’s story.

Now for my burning question: Which bands do you think best exemplify the spirit of punk rock?

And while you are thinking about your answer, here’s a photo for you to ponder. I feel almost certain that this guy, who I spotted recently in NYC, doesn’t listen to “pop-punk.”

*Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, anything close to what would be considered punk rock. Though, one Halloween when I was still in college, I combed my spiral perm over my eyes, donned a black leather jacket, black t-shirt and black skinny jeans and went out dressed as Jenny Ramone. That was fun. 

I’m (not) with the Band

I photographed my first concert this week. The headliner was Fitz and the Tantrums, a Los Angeles based band known for their hit single “MoneyGrabber.” Fitz and the Tantrums are quite animated on stage. Being animated is good. Except, as I learned on this particular night, when it leads to eyes being closed, tongues that appear (accidentally, and not Gene Simmons’ style) outside of the mouth, and excessive sweating. Other than that? Concert photography is a piece of cake.  A piece of cake with an ingredient list that includes: funky, and unpredictable, lighting; 700 music fans, who paid for their ticket and don’t really want someone poking them in the back of the head with a telephoto lens; and a bunch of mic stands and amplifiers that have a way of blocking crucial parts of the band’s anatomy.

This was not an easy assignment, yet, I had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and am looking forward to shooting another concert next month.

I don’t know about you, but I get bored pretty quickly when I look at concert photography that only includes photos of the band. Even if it is a band that love. I prefer shots that include, or feature, the audience. As I learned this week, it is not always easy to capture the crowd and band in the same photo. I was part of the audience for this show, and I took photos the entire time.  In the future, I’ll stand in a photo pit and will shoot only the first three songs of the band’s set, standard protocol when it comes to concert photography. It will be interesting to compare the two experiences.

You can see my photos and read a bit about the Fitz and the Tantrums show here.

As is always the case, some of the photos I took didn’t get posted. I try hard to tell a story with my images and as I shared in this post, editing is key. Here are a few of my favorites that did not (was trying to avoid redundancy) make the cut.

Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick is the lead singer for Fitz and the Tantrums. I wound up using a few other shots of Fitzpatrick in the photo essay I posted on Patch, but I really liked this one too. 

I liked this shot of Noelle Scaggs, Fitz and the Tantrums vocalist and tambourine player, quite a bit. But, in the end, I decided to use a slightly different shot of her shaking her tambourine in my published story. 

Yup, I liked, but didn’t post, this shot too. 

What do you think makes concert photography interesting? Do you prefer shots that capture the energy of the crowd? Or images that show band members interacting with each other? Or, are you all about the instruments? I’d love to hear, even if your answer is that you don’t like, or have any interest in, this type of photography.

30 Years Ago: I Want My MTV

Regular readers of The World According to Jennifer are probably aware that I spent a lot of time watching MTV when I was a kid. If you are new to the blog, or somehow missed those posts, or forgot that I wrote them, or pretended to read them, but really didn’t… you can check them out here, here and here.

I was in front of my TV on August 1st, 1981 at the exact moment the moon man first appeared with the MTV emblazoned flag. When it came to Music Television, I was, as we like to say now, an early adopter.  So… is it any surprise that I would acknowledege the network’s 30th anniversary? Well, maybe a bit of a surprise since along with posts professing my love, I also wrote about how ticked I was to be kicked to the curb now that I am no longer a member of MTV’s desired demographic.

Admittedly, I wasn’t thinking about being shunned when I tweeted the following:

Which led to this:

and…

And… a Billy Squier reference! Unfortunately, I can’t share that tweet because the person who tweeted it has their Twitter account set to private.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking that I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could come up with one bit of #MTVturnsthirty trivia every day between now and August 1st.

I’ll probably tweet the trivia relatively early in the day– here. That is of course unless I am struggling to come up with something, in which case it could be midnight or… (not at all).

Manipulate Me, It’s Okay.

I have a favorite new song. Given that I tend to prefer tunes and bands from the mid-eighties, when I was a college radio DJ, this is kind of a big deal.

The song is Pumped Up Kicks by the California band, Foster the People. On first (maybe even second or third) listen, Pumped Up Kicks seems like a happy song.  There’s even whistling in it. Only it’s not a happy song.  And I think that’s part of what I love.

“…All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet…”

The song is about the Erfurt massacre, a horrible school shooting that took place in Germany in 2002.  Clearly not a pleasant or happy topic. But the song… makes me dance every time I hear it.

That’s kind of manipulative, no?  Taking a cringeworthy topic and making it shake-your-butt appealing?

Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas employed a similar technique with the song Out of the Blue from his 2009 album, Phrazes For The Young.

Somewhere along the way, my hopefulness turned to sadness 
Somewhere along the way , my sadness turned to bitterness 
Somewhere along the way, my bitterness turned to anger 
Somewhere along the way, my anger turned to vengeance…

As he sings about exacting revenge, I snap my fingers and smile brightly. And again, I am okay with being manipulated.

Can you think of any other songs that take horrible, or uncomfortable, subject matter and make it not only palatable, but extremely pleasant? Happy even?

Valentine’s Day Playlist

I am not really a fan of Valentine’s Day.  Call me old-fashioned, but I believe you should show affection and caring throughout the year, and not just because Hallmark needs to go into the black.  Having said that, I will admit to being a bit of a sap when it comes to songs about love, especially unrequited love.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Who can’t relate to the line: “…And this is for the tears that won’t dry. And this is for a bright blue sky…”

This isn’t the best version of Within Your Reach, but it’s practically impossible to celebrate Valentine’s Day without the Replacements, so this video will have to do.

I don’t care who is performing this song, Dire Straits, or the Killers, I bet you can’t listen without getting a lump in your throat.

*Updated* I can’t believe I hit publish without including a song by the ever so romantic–Morrissey.  I am ashamed.

And finally, ’cause it is kind of depressing around here now, how about some funk?

What’s on your turntable for Valentine’s Day? Do you enjoy the holiday, or like me, are you a Valentine’s Day Scrooge?

Freedom of Choice vs. Freedom from Choice

I was 18 and working at WUOG when the Parents Music Resource Center [PMRC] came into being. Legally an adult, but barely. And while I don’t remember when I first learned of the Tipper Gore led group, I am fairly certain that I joined in when my fellow music aficionados made fun of them. I don’t think my friends and I actually discussed what the PMRC wanted to accomplish, or even why they wanted to accomplish it. That is probably because we were too busy laughing at the PRMC’s belief that we would somehow be harmed because Prince was singing about what Darling Nikki was doing with a magazine.

Twenty-five years later, I have no problem with the fact that the PMRC was successful in forcing the recording industry to come up with a rating and labeling system for lyrical content. I don’t remember buying (or not buying) a record or CD based on this system, but if it helps other parents make informed decisions I am all for it.

It is clear to me, however, that labeling content as explicit or offensive doesn’t stop it from existing. It is great to shine a spotlight on misogynistic, violent and sexually explicit lyrics, but unless you do something to eliminate the root cause of misogyny, violence and oversexualization–nothing will change.

The recent call for a boycott by the Parents Television Council [PTC] against advertisers of MTV’s new and highly controversial series, Skins, reminds me a bit of Tipper and company. In case you aren’t aware, MTV’s programming has raised the ire of not only the PTC, but also of many parents. You can read about it in detail: here. I understand why the content of Skins has parents outraged and concerned. I am just not convinced that getting the show canceled or that boycotting the network (or those who advertise on the network) is the answer.

Censorship doesn’t stop disagreeable behavior. Parents have to parent and society has to change if we want things to be different.

If you want to block MTV, then block MTV. If you don’t want to support advertisers who buy time on the network–then don’t. But, if I want to watch a show with my 17-year-old child and then discuss it, I should be able to do that.

There are people who don’t want The Catcher in the Rye to be read. Do I think Skins is in the same league with The Catcher in the Rye? Heck no. But I do believe that once you support censorship–you support censorship. Hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

Interestingly, many of the participants on both sides of the PMRC argument have now softened or revised their original stand. You can read what they have to say in this article from New York Magazine.

What do you think?

Lobotomy, Lobotomy

Joey Ramone Place is number one. Number one in stolen New York City street signs that is. And that’s saying a lot because there are 250,900 such signs in the city, and among those are the very theft worthy Broadway, Wall St., and Love Lane. Joey Ramone Place, which is located at Bowery and East 2nd, has been lifted four times since it was first installed in 2003. But have no fear, New York City’s Department of Transportation has come up with a plan to thwart future thieves. They’ve raised the sign 20 feet above the street—-eight feet higher than the norm. How very un-punk rock of them.


Photo credit: William Lopez NY Post

I have few alternative suggestions:

~Encase the sign in cage made of barbed wire. Sure someone might still be able to take it, but they will have to work just a bit harder, and, they might wind up with a gash or two in the process.

~Real punks liked to spit and hock loogies, neither of which a sign can do. But a pigeon could be trained to hover over Joey Ramone Place and poop on anyone who tries to steal it. Birds delivered messages during the war, certainly they can be taught to poo on command.

~Give anyone who dares touch the sign a little jolt of electricity. The Ramones song Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment could play while the electronic waves are released.

This street sign is NYC’s official tip of the hat to one of, if not the, father of the punk rock movement. And now no one can really see it. Joey deserves better, don’t you think?

My Time on the Desert Island…

Last Thursday FM94.9 played my desert island discs. It was very cool to hear tracks from some of my favorite albums played over the airwaves. It was no easy task picking those albums, though. The rules stipulate that you can only take three pieces of vinyl (the FM94.9 website says CDs but if I am trapped on an island, I am going old school), so I had to choose wisely. I figured that each selection had to do something for me–emotionally, spiritually, or maybe, if it made me want to move, physically. Putting together my list was quite the mental exercise. Don’t know about you, but my brain needs all the stimulation it can get, so that aspect was definitely a plus.

Hilary, FM94.9’s midday DJ extraordinaire, picked great songs from each of my albums. I thought I’d share which cuts she chose, and why I selected the album in the first place.

The ClashLondon Calling.

Song played: Guns of Brixton.

It almost felt like cheating to pick this album. First, it contains 19 songs which by today’s standards is a lot. Second, there is enough variety in the style and sound of the songs to make it practically impossible to tire of. And third, the lyrical content is supreme. No, really, it is. The topics explored aren’t necessarily those that make you want to jump up and dance, but, if you are really listening, these lyrics will make you think. The subject matter is as relevant today as it was back in 1979, when the album was first released. I chose London Calling to keep my brain active while I am on the island.

The WaterboysThis is the Sea.

Song played: This is the Sea

If I were only allowed to bring one album, this would be it. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that This is the Sea is full of material that fills, and feeds, my soul. And, each time I listen to it, I get to visit with my dad, which alone makes it desert island worthy. Like London Calling, there isn’t a bad track on This is the Sea. Mike Scott, in my opinion, is a musical genius. A highly underrated and under appreciated one, but a genius nonetheless.

My third choice?

R.E.M.Murmur.

Song played: Sitting Still

I could go on and on about the artistic merits of Murmur. It is after all included in RollingStone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums list, but I won’t bother getting into all of that. If I am on the island, by myself, what do I need to survive? Water (duh), but other than that, I need something to live for. Something that will keep me emotionally strong. I have to be reminded of home. Listening to R.E.M. always takes me back to Georgia. Always reminds me of people and places I love. People and places, that as corny as it might sound, are an integral part of who I am. So, heck yes, Murmur has a spot right next to the sunblock.

Which three albums are you bringing to the desert island? Or, if music isn’t your thing, what would you take?

Flashback~Forget About it-Friday

The 2010 VMAs will air live on MTV this Sunday. As noted numerous times, I grew up watching MTV and basically have the first two years of programming committed to memory. So, in the spirit of what the network once was, and how much I used to enjoyed tuning in, today I am adding to my guilty pleasures list.

Flashback~Forget About it-Guilty pleasure songs-the teen years.

Billy Squier:

No way you didn’t sing along. I know you did. And, like me, you knew all the words.

The Producers:

I feel like I just took a bath in 1984. All I need are the big bangs and dark red lipstick. Love it!

I saw this next band in concert, twice, but barely remember either show, so think I probably should feel guilty.

The Romantics:

And lest you think I only listened to new wave:

Midnight Star:

Beep! Beep! I will be singing this one all day! Soooo good!

That’s my guilty pleasure list, what’s on yours? Teen years please.

Not So Unusual

I don’t get the appeal of Lady Gaga. I’ve tried (a tiny effort, but an effort nonetheless) but I feel like I’ve seen her shtick before, only dressed in a wedding gown and writhing on the floor. My almost 17-year-old daughter loves Gaga. She loves her voice, her song writing ability and most of all, she loves her f-you attitude. I get why Gaga’s ‘tude is attractive, especially to a teenage girl who is into fashion and art. I am just not sure that Gaga really doesn’t give a f. Quite the contrary, I think she cares a lot.

For example, she recently returned to her high school to attend her younger sister’s graduation. Apparently, Gaga, still reeling from the abuse she suffered at the hands of classmates and teachers, decided she needed to make a statement by dressing for the occasion. I realize that it is part of Lady Gaga’s persona to dress in provocative outfits. Just not sure it was Lady Gaga who needed to show up at the graduation–seems like it would have been fine for Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to have attended in her place, after all it was Stefani’s sister who was graduating and the spotlight should have been on her, right?


Gaga’s graduation attire

This is but one example of Lady Gaga caring what people think perhaps more than she lets on. Her recent outbursts at both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, are two more that have done nothing but reinforce my opinion. I have no problem with the idea that what other people think of you matters. Most people care, even if just a bit. I just find it interesting that sometimes those who protest the loudest, proclaim they don’t care, actually care the most and are sadly, among the most insecure.

Madonna, who is clearly a role model for Lady Gaga, went down the same path–over and over again. Some people marveled at how often she reinvented herself, I saw her as someone who, while clearly talented, wasn’t yet comfortable in her skin. Yet, she too insisted that she was. Screamed that she was. I was never really into Madonna, and she is barely a blip on my daughter’s radar, so to be honest, I don’t care what she has done or will do in the future.

When I was in high school, Cyndi Lauper was a huge star. I remember believing that she was a free-spirit. That she was so unusual. I admired her for that. Cyndi Lauper, unlike Madonna (who was becoming famous at the same time), and Lady Gaga, appeared to really march to the beat of her own drummer. Maybe I am wrong (always a possibility) but Cyndi Lauper didn’t seem to care as much what other people thought of her. She didn’t seem to crave attention and acceptance the way Lady Gaga and Madonna do. I tried to explain this distinction to my daughter, and while I am fairly certain she was listening, I am not sure I was heard. Oh well, such is life with a teenager.

What do you think? Here’s some classic Cyndi to help you mull things over.