Tony Ballz

Tony Ballz

Record Store Day

Tony Ballz

At last year’s Record Store Day I couldn’t get my lazy carcass out of bed at 10AM, so I missed most of the goodies. This year I set my alarm. While perusing the list of releases, I stumbled upon the news that Motown was putting out a limited edition (5000 copies worldwide) of “It’s My Time”/”Go on and Cry”, the unreleased 1966 single by The Mynah Birds, the legendary group containing unlikely bandmates Neil Young and Rick James Bitch. The record geek/Neil freak in me salivated. Must … have … aargh (drool runs down chin).

Record Store Day was launched in 2008 as a way to drum up business for mom-and-pop retail music outlets. Many record labels, indie and non, release limited edition discs that are snapped up quickly.

It’s kind of like Black Friday in reverse. Instead of the vast majority of shoppers out braving riot-like scenes at the mall, Record Store Day’s clientele is a slim minority who would blanch if you called them “shoppers”. Instead of fighting for the best bargains, they will swallow any price slapped on the product with minimal grumbling (don’t want to appear uncool now). And while Black Friday signals the official start of the Christmas season, Record Store Day is near to no holiday, so it’s unlikely most items purchased are given as presents. It’s the difference between buying stuff for your friends and family versus buying stuff for yourself.

We would be SOL here in Flag if not for the existence of the Rock-It Man, seeing as how it’s THE ONLY PLACE IN TOWN to buy new records. Unless you count Hastings, which I don’t (does Hot Topic still sell vinyl?).

Saturday morning, I hopped out of the sack and rode downtown. I hit the Rock-It Man at 10:00 on the nose and was dismayed to find a line around 30 deep. Patience, patience. I thumbed through the dollar albums on the sidewalk and struck paydirt: Tim Buckley’s Lorca (in near-perfect shape), Mose Allison, Eddie Harris, Nilsson, the insanely rare There Are but Four Small Faces LP on Immediate, and a couple for my broke-ass roommate (Dylan’s Desire and Dave Mason’s Alone Together on the marbled vinyl). Score!

Dirty Steve was about the 12th person in line, waiting for the Morrissey/Poison Idea split 7″ (he left the store empty-handed and pissed). I told him I hoped the scene outside didn’t end up like that Who concert, with people shoving and breaking glass and getting trampled and setting stuff on fire and screaming: “No, no, outta my way, I MUST have the pink vinyl 78rpm Norah Jones/Danzig split! They only printed up 20! Put it down, you bastard, it’s mine! (sound of shotgun being cocked) I SAID PUT IT DOWN!”

I needn’t have worried. The collector scum, excuse me, record nerds waiting outside were quite docile, blinking in the AM sunlight like rats finally let out of the basement, their skin all pasty and near-translucent from constant exposure to the computer monitor glow. These were my people.

Eventually, I stepped into the inner sanctum. Ben was happily ringing up customers, of which there were at least 20 lined up. Of course, the 7-inches were on the far wall, blocked by all the bodies. I skimmed past the first few LP offerings: the Empire Records soundtrack, Phish’s Junta, the Breakfast Club soundtrack … thank you, no. Kind of wish I was still into The Flaming Lips, every Record Store Day would be twice as fun.

I scanned the wall and then I spied it: The Mynah Birds single! Oh my God, THERE WAS ONLY ONE LEFT! I broke into a sweat, my heart pounding. Easy, easy now … breathe … it took every ounce of restraint to not dive over the CD racks and start clawing at the seven or eight people between me and the object of my desire. I waited patiently, eyes locked on the prize.

I spotted a friend halfway up the line and I calmly asked her to grab the record when she was near enough. Situation in hand, I reeled in some booty: an unreleased Gene Clark single from 1970, a double pocket “Diddy Wah Diddy”/”Moonchild” set by Captain Beefheart, a 40-minute “Dark Star” 12-inch from The Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 tour … and jumpin’ Jehosaphat, an import 7-inch of “Tin Soldier” by The Small Faces, one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever pressed up on wax. Seriously, it’s flawless. The way the arrangement stops in the middle so Ian MacLagan can pound out those electric piano chords and then Kenney Jones cracks his snare while Ronnie Lane’s bass goes ZOOP! into the bridge … Goddamn, it makes you glad you’re alive.

The guy in front of me started chatting. He was picking up a copy of the Phish LP, and he informed me that the original had a long psychedelic jam on side six that didn’t make the CD or the current issue. I said maybe there’s one of those cool etchings on that side instead and we both silently marveled at the possibilities.

The super ultra Phish reissue (limited edition of 6) had deluxe artwork, with the cover drawing inked in gold flecks mixed with the blood of a newborn bald eagle onto one of those sepia-toned daguerrotypes they used before film was invented. Each disc was as thick as a mountain bike tire, and the whole package weighed 175 pounds. It cost about two years’ rent and he had to bring in a co-signer and put up his house as collateral.

Amidst a cloud of incense smoke, the Rock-It Man staff brought the record out from a climate controlled vault on a velvet pillow, followed by a troupe of fire eaters, belly dancers playing finger cymbals, acrobats doing somersaults, and a nine-year-old Nubian boy who struck a small gong every 30 seconds. The procession followed the guy outside and chanted as he safety-belted the record firmly in the passenger seat of his VW van. He opened the side door and the fire eaters, belly dancers, acrobats, and the nine-year-old boy all crammed into the back of the van and it drove off. Man, Phish sure has some dedicated fans.

I looked at the wall. The Mynah Birds single was gone! My heart sank. I resigned myself to the knowledge that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and prepared my plan to wait around the corner and beat the living crap out of whoever the culprit was, grab the record out of his hands and run like hell. Luckily, my friend turned around, said “here you go”, and put the artifact in my sweaty palms. Whew! I had it! Number 3197! Sure hope I remembered to bring my wallet.

Back at the house, I cranked the Mynah Birds and it sounded fantastic. I daydreamed: what if Rick James hadn’t been arrested for draft evasion in 1966 and the record had come out and it was a smash hit? Would the world of music have been any different? “I’m Neil Young, bitch!” Hmm, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Only after arriving home did I realize I had purchased “Tin Soldier” twice: on an LP that cost a dollar and on a single that cost $15.99. Welcome to Bizarro World.

LSD, Wilco, and the Monte V: A Cautionary Tale

Tony Ballz

“I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”

 —Mitch Hedberg

We couldn’t believe our luck. It was as if the heavens opened and the gods of good music rained down upon us their gifts and favors. My little vacation looked like this: on Wednesday, Jayme & Pete were coming down from the Canyon to Flag, where we were going to see Wilco at the Orpheum. On Thursday, we were driving down to Tucson to see Wilco AGAIN at the Rialto. And on Friday, I was trekking way the hell into the godforsaken California desert for the two-day Coachella Music and Arts Festival, where I was to see Wilco AAGGAAIINN on Saturday.

Fuck. The two AZ shows in two days was filling enough, but three felt gluttonous. By the end of their Saturday set, I’d be waddling full-bellied around that big manicured polo field, burping aloud with a toothpick hanging from my greasy lips:

“More Wilco?”

“No thanks (earrrp), believe I’ve had enough. Alka-Seltzer, please.”

We had tickets bought and everything. Goddamned if I wasn’t going to pull THIS one off, hell yeah. This was some heavy shit, some major music nerdity. Not as much as Blaine cashing in all his frequent-flyer miles and half his vacation time in order to see Tool in San Diego, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and TWICE in L.A. within an 8-day span (he didn’t have a girlfriend at the time), but not too shabby. And Blaine tends to raise the bar pretty high, so to speak.

It felt too good to be true, and it was. Less than a week before the festivities were to begin, I happened to be cruising by and the whole damn thing came crashing down with the news that singer Jeff Tweedy had checked himself into rehab and the first leg of their tour was cancelled.

It was a bummer of epic proportions. Jayme and Pete were so depressed they didn’t leave their house for days. I moped out to Coachella, hungry for Wilco, and had to settle for consuming lots of acid with Blaine and seeing Radiohead, The Pixies, Kraftwerk, Broken Social Scene, Flaming Lips, Beck, The Evens, Basement Jaxx, Atmosphere, Perry Farrell DJing, Belle and Sebastian, Erase Errata, and The Cure in one weekend. What a drag.

Flash forward 12 months. Wilco has FINALLY rescheduled Flagstaff, and we’re traipsing down Aspen Avenue on cloud nine, lalala, oh not much, just WALKING SIX BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE TO SEE WILCO, nothing special.

The cast of characters for our little drama is: the band, myself, Jayme & Pete, my Flag friend Jessica, and four hits of righteous liquid LSD, which we have just partaken of prior to the show. Mmmmm. We’ve already caught the band in Phoenix to whet the appetite, but we can just feel tonight is going to be special (little did we know …).

The Orpheum staff gape at our year-old tickets, wrinkled but still intact. They call over other employees to see. Yeah, that’s right bitches, we take this shit SERIOUSLY. Step aside.

The acid kicks in right as opening band Calexico, just for the record nerds and dopers in the house, kicks into “Alone Again Or”, song #1 off Love’s Forever Changes LP from 1967, reportedly a great year for music and drugs. Perfect.

During Wilco’s set, I stand in front of lead guitarist Nels Cline and watch his right hand become some sort of high-speed power tool, hacking and gouging huge chunks of wood and metal out from the body of his Fender Jazzmaster, while each finger of his left hand is representing a different color of the rainbow shooting out like a laser across the packed house. Sweet.

My most vivid non-hallucination of the evening is glancing randomly through the crowd and spying Jayme repeatedly making a junkie-stabbing-in-the-needle motion during “A Shot In The Arm”. Classy.

After the show, we regroup outside and decide to get refreshments up the street at the Monte V, a local hole

However, Jayme spies the band’s big shiny tour vehicle and her eyes light up.

“Let’s get Wilco to have a drink with us!”

“Uhh … what?”

“Sure, why not? Tweedy probably won’t come, but I bet some of the other guys will!”

We looked at the quietly imposing black bus.

“You mean, you’re just going to waltz in there and say: ‘Yo Wilco, c’mon down to the V and have some PBR with the natives?'”

“What the hell, it’s worth a try. And I’d definitely buy them something better than that swill. Come on, what do we have to lose?”

I felt the acid still dancing in my system. I glanced at the bus again and was pretty sure it was shooting out rainbows this time. I looked at our dates, then at Pete’s dopey perma-grin. I felt my jaw aching and knew he and I were in the same place. Just waiting for the aliens to land. I pictured Pete and myself aboard the bus:

“Huhhuhhuh … hey Wilco, that wuz cool. You guys rock.”

“Yeah! Yeah! Rock! Rock! Heeheeheeheehee!”

I assessed our situation.

“How ’bout you gals talk to the band while me and Beavis here go on ahead to the bar?”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I bet two pretty unaccompanied ladies can get on board easier than all four of us.”

They couldn’t argue with that logic.

“Just don’t leave town with them.”

We split up. Pete and I strolled toward the bar.

“Do you think it’ll work?”

“Don’t know, but if anyone can pull this off, Jayme can.”

“Man, that’s one intense chick. Sure hate to be married to her!”

“You are married to her, Pete.”


“I’m feelin’ your pain, bro.”

“Have the aliens landed yet?”

“Soon, Pete. Soon.”

The V was busy. We made our way upstairs and got drinks. Less than ten minutes later Jayme approaches, wearing what can only be described as a shit-eating grin.

“We got two of ’em.”

 “Two of what?”

 “Wilco. They’re over by the door.”

We looked across the bar and there was John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of the rock band Wilco sitting at a table in the freakin’ Monte V jabbering with Jessica. Pete went slack-jawed. My mind short-circuited.

“Yeah, c’mon down. Maybe if you guys are real nice to me I’ll introduce ya.”

Jayme led us to their table like the High-Priestess-and-Gatekeeper-of-Everything-Hip-and-Groovy-on-this-Planet that she was. We sat down. Jessica skipped off to the ladies’ room and Jayme went to get drinks for the boys. The four of us looked at each other. We made our introductions.





We stared at them, and they at us. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I took a sip of my drink. I glanced at Pete. He looked like a deer in the headlights and was engrossed in gulping down his beer. I turned my gaze back at two of the men we had just seen onstage less than an hour before. I kicked my LSD-soaked brain in the ass. SAY SOMETHING, IDIOT!

“You guys rock.”



“Yeah, good show.”

“Hey, thanks.”

 LONG silence…

 “So … Flagstaff. What’s it like living here?”

  “It’s OK, the weather’s nice … not a lot to do …”

  More silence…

“Beavis, I mean Pete here works up at the Grand Canyon.”

 “Oh yeah? What’s that like?”

“Oh yeah? What’s that like?”

“It’s OK, not a lot to do … the weather’s nice …”

It got no better. The ladies managed to jump-start the conversation upon their return, but Pete and I sat there like two goobers through the whole thing. Every time one of the girls tried to hand the ball to one of us, we’d just go “uh-huh” and grin like monkeys.

John and Pat were friendly, but they had to go after another round, being hard-working professional musicians and all. As we said goodbye and watched them leave, I grew tired of kicking my brain’s ass and thought: I should have a list ready for situations like this. I mean, hell, I was close to being obsessed with this band. I probably knew more about their discography than THEY did! And I’ve been playing guitar and buying records most of my life! Rumor has it I’ve got a pretty good sense of humor too! I can converse like a motherfucker! Especially on LSD! As soon as they walked out that door, dozens of conversation starters ran through my head:

“Yeah, this is the Monte V. What a shithole, huh? Supposed to be haunted, though …”

“Cool keyboard setup, Pat. Is that one thing a Mini-Moog?”

“How’s the Autumn Defense going? Are you going to make another album?”

“John, you’re from New Orleans; ever see Huey Smith play? Or Professor Longhair? Guess what? WE’RE TRIPPING RIGHT NOW!”

“Did you guys put that long noise track on the new record just to piss people off?”

“Saw Nels Cline play right here with Mike Watt a couple years ago. Slipped Watt a joint before the show, heh heh. Touched the econo-van for good luck, too …”

“OK, which side ya on, Bushmill’s or Jameson’s?”

“I was living in Lincoln Park when Lounge Ax opened. Saw a bunch of shows there. I sorta knew Jeff’s wife Susan before they were married, don’t suppose she’ll remember me …”

“Wow, Neu! sure is bitchin’, aren’t they? Ever heard Amon Duul? Or Faust?”

“Jim O’Rourke was in a few of my music classes at DePaul. Nice guy. I still have a cassette of his old band The Elvis Messiahs …”

“How does Nels do that thing with the rainbow lasers shooting from his fingers? That was cool.”

“I’m in a band too, maybe we can open for Wilco sometime, hahaha! Seriously, here’s a demo …”

“Watch out behind you there, fellas; I think the aliens just walked in.”

“Any plans to collect Wilco’s B-sides? There’s this one song called Student Loan Stereo …”

“Did I mention we were tripping? Hell yeah, it’s good. Want some?”

“Tell us about the time Warren Zevon was a total dick to you guys.”

Etc. Etc. Et-fucking-cetera.

I still can’t believe we sat in the V for an hour with two members of Wilco, yet not one person recognized them, despite the fact that most of the patrons were probably at the show. We were right by the door too. Of course, no one WE knew came in, either:

“Hey, you guys … oh not much, just HANGIN’ WITH WILCO, nothing special …”

The Worst Song Ever Written

Tony Ballz

I won’t whack near any shrubbery here: the worst song ever written, in my fleeting egotistical opinion, is “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart. Why this tune? Why not any selections from the Michael Bolton or Bon Jovi catalogues? Why pick on Rod?

“Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely. Once the most compassionate presence in music, he has become a bilious self-parody … and sells more records than ever.”

— Greil Marcus

Yes, unlike Mikey or Jon-Jon, his Rodness once possessed that magical quality known as “integrity”, and “Tonight’s the Night” represents the almost complete disappearance of it.

Between the years 1968-1973, Rod Stewart participated in nearly a dozen of the loosest, swingingest, sloppiest, drunkest, good time rock and roll albums ever made. Two with the Jeff Beck Group (Truth and Beck-Ola), five with the Faces (First Step, Long Player, A Nod is as Good as a Wink, Ooh La La, and a live one) and four solo (The Rod Stewart Album, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells a Story, and Never a Dull Moment). Pick up a few, you won’t be sorry.

These records are just bursting with heart and soul and booze and humor and dirt and tears and friendship and love and honesty and spine. Rod and his mates are clearly having a blast, you can hear it in the grooves. And what mates! Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Nicky Hopkins, Mick Waller, Tony Newman, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, Ian MacLagan, Martin Quittenton … and Rod. All equals. Comrades.

Like many of his peers, Rod Stewart began his career as an interpreter of others’ works, then grew into a fine songsmith himself. Rod wrote or co-wrote a slew of stone classics during this period, including “Gasoline Alley”, “Mandolin Wind”, “Stay With Me”, “True Blue”, “You Wear it Well”, “Bad ‘n’ Ruin”, “That’s all You Need”, “Every Picture Tells a Story”, “Too Bad”, and “Maggie May”, his first #1.

The Faces in concert were like five best buds down at the corner pub playing all your faves on a Saturday night (there’s at least three full live sets posted on They punted soccer balls into the audience. Every song was a sing-a-long. Guitar solos got botched, background vocals went out of tune, strings broke, drumsticks flew, the bassist had a few too many and fell off the stage … they were the greatest. Everyone, band and fans, was there to have a jolly good inebriated bash and that’s what they got.

Then it ended. Superstardom beckoned for Rod but not his friends. He broke up the Faces. He began dating models and jetting with the cocaine set. His mockery of the jaded playboy personality became the real thing, much like Bryan Ferry’s did. Coincidentally, Mick Jagger succumbed to this lifestyle around the same time and, not so coincidentally, the Rolling Stones’ music also took a dive in quality. Not as far as Rod’s, though. His next two albums, Smiler and Atlantic Crossing, were okay but nowhere near the high standards he had set for himself. Still, they contained nothing truly horrible.

That would come in 1976. A Night on the Town was partially recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Studios by R&B producer Tom Dowd. Due to the talent involved, the record has a few highlights but is bogged down by the sugary glop of its leadoff track, “Tonight’s the Night”. Rod had sold his soul to that skanky whore fame and had stooped to writing songs for housewives and dilettantes. He was rewarded with another #1 single.

Other superstars such as Paul McCartney had done similar, but while Paul’s granny music was mostly innocuous, Rod’s was downright sleazy, the soundtrack to a date rape. Stewart was only 31 when he recorded “Tonight’s the Night”, but he already has the creepy old guy vibe rolled out.

Examining the lyrics of pop songs like they were poetry is a pointless endeavor 99% of the time, but Rod richly deserves this one. So here we go:

Stay away from my window

Stay away from my back door, too

Not a bad opening. Go away babe, I still love you but can’t bear to see your face. It’s got potential. But then comes:

Disconnect the telephone line

Relax baby, and draw that blind

The girl is already in Rod’s house and he’s telling her not to go near the windows or doors. Oh yeah, the phone is unplugged too. All her means of escape are pretty much cut off. And pull them curtains while you’re up, honey. No witnesses. Now RELAX.

Let me pour ya a good long drink

How about a Roofie Colada? Rod then proceeds to rhyme “drink” with “hesitate”. Seriously, he’s not even trying.

Many critics of “Tonight’s the Night” point to this droolingly obvious double entendre as a perfect example of its wretchedness:

Spread your wings and let me come inside

Even a prominent feminist like Ted Nugent might blush at that. For me, the song bottoms out right after the supremely slimy “sexy” sax solo (even the MUSIC of “Tonight’s the Night” is leering) when Rod the Scrod delivers this timeless gem:

 Don’t say a word, my virgin child

 Just let your inhibitions run wild

Ewww. Was this considered seductive in the 1970s? I know rock and roll has always been about sexing up the young ladies, but how can that couplet NOT make your skin crawl? “Don’t say a word, my virgin child” sounds like a line Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs might use on the girl in the pit. It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose.

The secret is about to unfold

Upstairs before the night’s too old

And that secret is … Rod’s rod. So get your butt in the bedroom bitch, because it’s about to unfold.

To cap this mess off, over the sleazed-out harmony guitar riff that closes the song (and God damn you Rod for making harmony guitar riffs suck), we hear a female voice cooing in a foreign language, possibly Española.


Rod has a skinny fourteen year old Mexican waif trapped in his palatial estate house. She probably thinks she’s there to wash his laundry or cook his dinner. To her horror, this nasty old dude with the fucked-up hair is intent on getting into her drawers. He’s plying her with alcohol and telling her to stay away from the doors and windows and not to speak. The phone doesn’t work either. She doesn’t understand much of what he’s saying, but she’s no idiot. She just came to this country and already Rod is the creepiest guy she has ever met. Her brothers are going to stomp this pendejo when they hear about this shit. Goddamn temp agency. Merry Maids my ass!

Can someone contact the authorities and see if there’s any street urchins on their missing persons list?

Tonight’s the night

It’s gonna be alright

‘cause I love you girl

Aint nobody gonna stop us now

Not even your parents or the cops.

For any die-hard Rodheads or fans of runny 1970s cheese out there, I will concede that “Tonight’s the Night” is catchy, just like herpes. If the rest of you hate me because that horrid song is now stuck in your head, imagine what I had to go through to research and write this article.

In 1975, one year before Rod’s masterpiece, a different tune called “Tonight’s the Night” was released in which Neil Young delivers a riveting, tequila-soaked elegy for two of his buddies who overdosed on heroin. There’s no sex in it, but this “Tonight’s the Night”, howling and bleak, full of ghosts and foreboding, is great art, essential rock and roll and very nearly the polar opposite of Rod’s song.

It was not a #1 single. 


Tony Ballz

As I walked into the place, I felt like Frodo Baggins far from the Shire. It was a large hall full of people and every man there (as well as some of the women) towered over me. My height is on the short side of average (5’7 when I’m not slouching), but this was ridiculous. I estimated 15% of them to be past 6’2 as well. What the heck? I then realized where I was and relaxed. Of course. These were kind giants, stoned and peaceful. I was at a Karl Denson concert in the Orpheum Theatre, a natural gathering place for the 21st century hippiejock. I was among friends.

The hippiejock (or “brah”, to use the colloquial) is the modern ubermensch, carrier of only the top shelf genes and DNA. The splicing together of two seemingly opposed lifestyles and personalities, the jock and the hippie, and the attempt to focus and amplify the positive traits of each while dampening the negative has worked and I’m proud to number several as close pals.

In contrast to the traditional hippie, the hippiejock is well-scrubbed with neatly trimmed facial hair. They are children of suburbia and have a pretty good grasp on pop culture. If not still in college (the hippiejock’s petri dish) they usually have degrees and well-paying jobs, allowing them to purchase nice new clothes of the outdoor variety and expensive camping/sports gear.

They are physically fit despite the gallons of Fat Tire consumed. They rarely drink PBR and other schwag beer, unless it’s the only thing available. They are able to afford some pretty killer weed and are always willing to smoke you out. They possess very little of the hippiehippie’s natural laziness, with a constant need for physical activity such as hiking, snowboarding, rock climbing, rappelling, softball, jogging, frisbee golf, hacky-sack, mountain biking, skiing, one-on-one, etc.

In comparison to the traditional jock, the hippiejock is way mellower and more in touch with his feelings, allowing for less misplaced what-are-YOU-looking-at pent up anger leading to random bar brawls and spousal abuse. They are politically to the left of the jockjock, with a broader tolerance and understanding of women, gays, and non-Caucasians. They have thankfully little of the jocks’ need to constantly touch other men, outside of the standard brah hug or the occasional shoulder clap. Apparently they have been cured of the repulsive jock habit of parading around the house in their skivvies when loaded (more research may be needed).

Their musical tastes lean far to the hippie side, with barely any of the jocks’ love for heavy metal and Van Hagary “jock rock”, though isolated incidents have been observed. They will have some soul/R&B music, but not enough. And a little too much country. They usually date girls with 90% identical CD collections.

They will participate in spring break and other collegiate functions, but will end up getting laid while you’re covered in vomit and passed out in the surf. They are reliable designated drivers and always make sure the ladies get home safely. They are sometimes involved in weird mind game/athletic prowess competitions with older brothers. By the time you crawl out of bed at noon on your day off, they will have already made coffee, eaten breakfast, showered, visited the library and the post office, gone on a run, and had a beer at Pay-n-Take.

They are comfortable in nearly any social situation and won’t embarrass you in front of new people. They will listen to your drunken blubbering and offer comfort when your girl unexpectedly dumps you. They’ll eventually sleep with her, but not until you’re hooked up with someone else. They will feed you hallucinogenic mushrooms and get you high as a coon-dog on hydroponic bud and then want to go on a 10 mile uphill bike ride. They ALL know how to play “Wish You Were Here” on the acoustic guitar.

Moms love them. Dads too. Your younger siblings will have more fun with them than they ever had with you. Watch your girlfriend, for they are catnip to most women (muscles AND money AND sensitivity? Forget it, Jim). Deep down they are sincerely kind brahs, if a little obsessed with buying stuff. Do not mistake them for hippies, for the jock lieth within. Get them drunk and they’ll soon have each other in wrestling headlocks on the floor while discussing the six Widespread Panic shows they saw last summer.

The first attempt at melding these two disparate cultures was nearly disastrous. In 1987, after a 7-year hibernation between studio albums, the Grateful Dead hit the top ten with the In The Dark LP and the “Touch Of Grey” single and video. Their popularity on college campuses soared, as well as attendance at their live shows.

These were my college years as well. Around this time my friend Paul, an old school Deadhead, took me into his new housemate’s room and said look at this shit: on one wall was a Grateful Dead poster, and on the other a George Bush For President poster. It didn’t make sense, we couldn’t process the absurdity.

By the late ’80s, the Dead had been touring for close to 20 years with a traveling parking lot sideshow of vendors, diehard Deadheads, and assorted weirdos. Most outdoor venues would allow these people to camp out on the premises or in adjacent fields, legally or not. The college kids discovered this peaceful freak scene, declared it party central, and ruined it forever.

Drunken frat-boy mayhem ensued: fistfights, property destruction, and general obnoxious ungroovy behavior. A kid got killed in Florida after a show and Rolling Stone ran a big article. The police, who never once had to patrol these gatherings in 20 years, swooped down and broke them up. Deadhead-friendly places such as Alpine Valley in Wisconsin banned on-site camping. Farmers and land owners began worrying about liability and refused camping requests. The scene died.

The Dead kept plugging away until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995, but most long-time Deadheads said all the fun was gone from what was left of their scene. But seeds had been planted. Some of these collegiates were enlightened by their experience and became hip to the Dead’s trip. For better or worse, kids were getting on the bus, as they always had. Bands started forming, and strange little pockets of hippiedom were popping up in college towns all over America.

These weren’t Haight-Ashbury street freaks, but the sons and daughters of the well-to-do, on the fast track to a career in marketing or computer programming, until drugs and the lure of this unknown lifestyle permanently derailed it. These kids had never been homeless, never slept without a tent in the freezing cold, never hopped a train, never subsisted on just rice for days, never went without bathing for a week or more, never had head lice or the clap, never been arrested for vagrancy, never been laughed at or beaten up or had a shotgun pointed at them by rednecks, never had a good friend who “just disappeared”, never left home to go on tour with ten bucks in their pocket, never had to take their girlfriend to the free clinic for an abortion, never dropped acid every day for a month, never had to hitchhike or panhandle or go to bed hungry. They were used to having money around.

They absorbed the hippie ethos and transformed it into something new, something their own. The Dead were already old, old, old, and soon they weren’t around anymore. The kids turned to the younger bands: Phish, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, etc., and adopted them as the new prophets.

The rest is history.


Beer And Bloating In Camp Verde

Tony Ballz

“WILLIE!” The sound jolted me awake from my catnap. I was momentarily disoriented: Where the hell was I? Apparently I had been seatbelted into the passenger side of an automobile traveling at a great speed … and here it came again: “FUCKIN’ WILLIE! YEEE-HAAA!”

It was of course my editor. He was a large man, hairy and volatile, emotionally unstable and easily distracted. At the moment he was trying to light a bowl, change the CD, and navigate his way down I-17 at close to 100 miles an hour, all at the same time.

The reality of our situation hit me. We were on assignment, he and I, headed down to the verdant Verde Valley to see the one and only Willie Nelson at the one and only Cliff Castle Casino. Our personal mission was to weasel our way backstage and get high with the red-headed stranger himself.

The back of the van looked like a decent Memorial Day weekend haul for the Arizona Highway Patrol, or the contents of any east Flagstaff motel room on any given Saturday night. We had five kinds of hydroponic bud, two ounces of psilocybin mushrooms, seventeen hits of ecstasy, enough crystal meth to keep half of Coconino County grinding their teeth all weekend, a vial of PCP, a rainbow cornucopia of pills (diazepam, lorazipam, adderall, valium, pure morphine straight from the Guidance Center, and a mystery grab bag I had gotten a screamin’ deal on), a fifth of tequila (top shelf), a fifth of whiskey (bottom shelf), a case and a half of Oak Creek Nut Brown, and a Ziploc bag containing a lone matzoh cracker upon which rested twenty heroic doses of Li’l Owsley Junior liquid LSD (of which my dealer had warned me: “Just break off a little corner and eat it, unless you really want to see Jesus dancing naked with Lester Bangs and E.T. on the set of Family Feud”). We couldn’t find anywhere in Flag that sold ether, so we had to settle for a half tank of nitrous oxide stolen by my dental hygenist ex from her boss’ office.

I was just about to strap the mask on when I saw them coming at me again. Flying kokopellis, dozens of ’em. I flailed at them with my flyswatter.

“You rotten sons-a-bitches, leave me alone!”

My driver was nonplussed at the sight.

“Chill out, will ya? We’re almost there. As your editor, I recommend you listen to this Andrew Jackson Jihad CD and load another bowl. What kind of weed was that?”

“Grape Ape. This one’s Chrysler Exhaust.”

“Solid. What else did we end up with?”

“Let’s see … an ounce of Zombie Jackoff and a halfer of Holly Hobbie. No wait, they were out of the Holly. I think it’s Aunt Jemima. Or Papa Smurf.”

“Which one you saving for Willie?”

“Brain Broom.”

“Outstanding. Pass me that mask.”

“Not around an open flame, dimwit. Finish the bowl first.”

“But I wanted to do a big ol’ nitrous hit and then a big ol’ Chrysler hit and watch them battle for supremacy in my lungs.”

“Hmm, that does sound like fun. Alright, but pull over, I have to take a leak. My money’s on the Chrysler.”

“Did we bring any food or just drugs? I’m starving.”

“There’s plenty of beer and fry bread where we’re headed, pal.”

“Mmm, fry bread.”

“Don’t blow your shit up. I paid for half these drugs and Goddamnit, I plan on doing ’em.”

The kokopellis renewed their attack while I was relieving myself and I had left my flyswatter in the car. I waved them off with one hand.

“Come on, you guys! Let a man pee!”

They followed me all the way back to the van. I got in and slammed the door.

“I said git! What the hell ARE you, anyway?”

My editor maneuvered us back onto the highway while picking crumbs out of his beard and eating them.

“The deity of fertility and music. In some cultures, those featherlike things on the head are replaced by a huge penis.”

“That’s comforting.”

“The Hopi believe they deliver babies, like the stork.”

“So … are they trying to get in my pants, or just hitching a ride to Willie?”

“Hard to tell.”

“Well, you’re just a fountain of info today.”

“Wikipedia, bro. As your editor, I strongly suggest you put on this Silver Jews CD and load another bowl.”

“Did you find any food?”

“Yeah. Here, I made you a little snack.”

I ate the morsel.

“It’s crunchy. What is it?”

“I left a jar of peanut butter in back a while ago. I put some on a matzoh cracker and broke it in two.”

“Umm … the cracker that was in a Ziploc bag?”

“Uh-huh. Was it yours?”

“Yeah, but no worries. You OK to drive?”

“Sure. Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Sorry, just a little distracted. Who won the contest?”

“Chrysler. The nitrous put up a good fight, though.”

The acid was coming on strong as we took the Cliff Castle exit. My editor looked a bit pale.

“I feel funny.”

“That’s because Willie’s near. We will soon be in the presence of greatness, mon frere. It’s only …”

And then I saw it. I broke out in a cold sweat. I let out a screech, wormed my way onto the floor and tried to hide under my seat.

“Oh good Lord, there she is! The queen bee! The animal mother! Spiderman, help us!”

“World’s largest kokopelli, brah. The residents of Camp Verde must be awful proud. Why, that goshdarn thing’s over 20 feet high.”

I raised my eyes above the dashboard and peeked at it.

“Hey, at least there’s not a giant dick on its head.”

“Thanks, dude.”

We were ushered into a dirt parking lot like so much cattle driving automobiles. As the cars piled up around us, reality sunk in: We were about to take the plunge into the land of old people. Not my silly “Hey, I can remember the ’70s” old, OLD old. Like older than my mom old.

We also realized that leaving the car meant leaving the drugs. We had no way of knowing what kind of security was at the venue or whether or not we would be treated like the VIPs we obviously were.

“But we’re going to have PRESS PASSES, man!”

“Are you sure about that?”


We HAD to get the drugs to Willie. But how? We decided to sample the Zombie bud while we pondered the question.

Sometime later, I regained consciousness. The air was so thick with smoke, I couldn’t see the lower half of my body. We appeared to be sitting in some sort of vehicle.



“We should go.”




“Because Willie’s out there.”

“Who’s Willie?”


“Willie Nelson’s in Flagstaff?”

“No, Camp Verde.”

“Well hell, man … let’s go! I’ll drive the van, we can get a whole crapload of drugs and …”

“We did that part already. I think we’re here.”

“In Camp Verde?”


“Wow. That was quick.”

We exited the fuming car.

“Save that smoke for later. Keep the windows rolled up.”

“Which way do we go?”

“THAT way.”

My editor pointed up. I lifted my head and saw a great and holy altar nestled atop a hill in front of us. I knew we had to get there somehow. It took us several weeks. We trudged through the sedimentary layers of the earth, through limestone and red rock, and had many adventures along the way.

When we hit the summit, I was disappointed that it wasn’t an altar at all, just a half-assed casino with gaudy flashing lights and legions of geriatrics in tacky JC Penney double-knits hobbling along and (to lift a phrase from Tom Wolfe) tweezing their undershorts out of the aging waxy folds of their scrota.

We stood in the front doorway gazing at all the pulsing brilliance. The Zombie Jackoff bud was living up to its name. I felt like a zombie and we sure looked like a couple of jackoffs.

“Are we dead?”

“Nope, we’re just in the Verde Valley. Hey, is that Lester Bangs?”

“Why are we here again?”

“I thought you knew.”

“Weren’t we supposed to bring something to someone?”

“Yeah, but who?”

I looked around and my eyes fell on a giant poster of Willie Nelson’s smiling face. I pointed to it.

“THAT guy.”


Several yeee-haas responded from somewhere deep in the maze of slot machines. As we entered, I noticed a series of large ornately framed pictures of the casino management.

“Hey, get a photo of me with the Yavapai Nation Wall of Shame.”

“That’s mean. How are we going to find Willie? He blends in so easily with this crowd.”

I spied a casino employee behind a desk.

“You just leave that to me.”

I strode up to her.

“Waal, howdy there ma’am! Ah’m Rear Admiral Antoine De Bolles and this is mah editor. Would yew kindly deerect us to Mr. Willie Nelson’s room, poor favoor? Ah believe he’s expecting us.”

“Sir, I’m just the cashier. You need to talk to the concierge, they’re right over …”

“Now just hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute! Me and mah editor, we’ve been …”

I turned. He was gone.

“Excuse me.”

I scanned the crowd and spied his fuzzy head bobbing toward the blackjack tables. I caught up with him.

“Dude, I think we’re in a casino.”

“That’s what the sign said. I need beer.”

“I need blackjack.”

“OK, but make it quick. We have a mission.”

“You should have told the drugs to just meet us backstage. It would have saved a lot of time.”

I sat him down at a table, then retired to the bar and ordered up a frosty one. I tried to play the poker machine in front of me but the slot kept moving and my quarter had turned into Silly Putty. Five minutes later he was back at my side.

“How’d it go?”

“I won 35 bucks. Then the dealer kicked me off the table.”

“For winning 35 bucks?”

“No, because I made a comment about his vest. I think I asked if his mother breast-fed him, too.”

“Did she?”

“He couldn’t remember. As your editor, I recommend we listen to a Richard Hell CD and smoke another bowl.”

“I don’t think we’re in the car anymore.”

“Damn. Is it me or is the rug on fire?”

“Hey, this is just like that book.”

“What book?”

“You know, the one where the two guys are wandering around casinos all whacked out on drugs?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Never mind.”

“I miss the drugs. Can we go visit them?”

“Soon. We have to find Willie first.”

“Who’s Willie?”

“Your mom.”

“That’s mean. Oh wait, she does look a little like him.”

We exited the casino and took in our surroundings. The crowd seemed to be moving to the left, so we followed. Pretty soon we were in a mass exodus of retirees trudging ever so slowly toward the place where Willie was. I’m only about 5’7, but I felt like Gulliver among this bunch. I kept hoping we were in one of those movies where all the old folks magically throw their canes and walkers away and start playing baseball and tag and stuff.

No such luck. As we neared the front gate, we came upon a ridiculously long line of people waiting to get in. Hundreds of them, not a one under the age of 90. We stopped in our tracks.

“Uhh … I don’t know if I can handle this, dude. I’m not half the man I used to be.”

“Let’s at least see if our press passes are here.”

We walked up to the ticket booth.

“Hello, can I help you?”

I was suddenly at a loss for words.

“I … I need to see Willie.”

“Do you have a ticket?”


“Are you here to pick up a ticket?”

“I think so.”

“What is your name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you OK, sir?”

“Hell yeah, I feel fuckin’ great.”

“All right, let’s start again …”

“Over here, bro!”

My editor waved at me from a small tent. The ticket lady smiled.

“Ah yes, media. Now I understand. Right over there, sir.”

I approached the tent right as a smiling man was handing something to my editor.

“Here you go. And one for you, too!”

He hung it around my neck.

“Have fun, guys! Enjoy the show.”

I held it in my hand. It was a shiny laminated card with a picture of Willie playing his guitar. Across the top it said:


And on the bottom it said:


My mind almost blew itself sober. Year after year of mocking these people, and finally I was one of them.

Media scum.

I couldn’t believe it. The monthly we worked for was a fly-by-night rag, a real shoestring operation. Seat of their pants. The blind leading the blind. No one had updated the website since 2008 because no one cared, readers or publishers. Every time a new issue appeared, we were shocked the company hadn’t folded yet.

And they had actually pulled this one off.

My editor and I gaped at our passes.

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

“Dude, Willie’s face … it … it’s glowing.”

“I see it too, man.”

We smiled at each other and high-fived.

“Wow, this writing gig is really starting to pay off.”


“Wait, what about the line?”

The guy at the media tent heard us and said:

“Y’all don’t need to stand in no line. Hell, you can even bypass security. Just go right in.”

I looked at my editor, then at the media tent guy.

“We’ll be back in a minute.”

We calmly walked away from the gate until we were out of his field of vision. Then we broke into a crazy scrambling run towards the car. I tripped and fell and rolled halfway down the hill, giggling like a lunatic. We got to the van and yanked open the back hatch. Stale pot smoke billowed out as we stuffed our pockets and clothes full of drugs.

“I think those little flying bastards got into the speed.”

My editor was trying to strap the nitrous canister onto his back.

“You think they’ll let me in with this if I say it’s a gift for Willie?”

“Just tell ’em it’s camera equipment.”

“Hey wait, the tank’s empty!”

“Goddamn kokopellis.”

We chugged about six beers apiece in celebration of our reunion with the drugs. By the time we returned to the venue, nature was calling long distance. We lurched through the front gate, past the old folks and security, holding our media passes in front of us like talismen. Once inside we made a beeline for the port-o-potties and grabbed the furthest two.

“Hey, these things aren’t so bad before people use them. They’re kind of nice.”

“Damn, I forgot the ecstasy.”

“I have it. Want one?”

“Better give me a couple, it may be a long night.”

I passed him two through the air vent.

“Well I don’t know about you, but I’m hotboxing this sucker.”

“I’m down, brah. Got a lighter?”

“Oh, shit.”


“Just kidding, here you go.”

“That’s not funny. That’s not funny at all.”

Once fortified, we emerged and staggered stageward. I glanced back at the port-o-potties and it looked like the furthest two had bonfires inside.

After claiming our seats, we decided splitting up was our best option to get backstage. I took the left-hand side, my editor the right. I strolled leisurely down the lawn, displaying my Willie talisman all casual like.

To my horror, the backstage area was guarded by a muscular seven foot kokopelli with a SECURITY pass around his neck. I did a 180 and high-tailed it back to our spot. My editor was already there, digging into deluxe fry bread with a plastic fork and drinking Budweiser from a can.

“No luck?”

“Nope. I told the guy who I was, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.”

“Damn it. The mission, man, the mission!”

“As your editor, I strongly advise you to forget about the mission and grab a cold one and some of this fry bread. It’s delicious.”

“OK, but I’m not giving up yet.”

“Don’t stop believin’, brah. Hey, aren’t you glad we’re here to see Willie and not Journey?”

“Good Lord, yes.”

“Oh man, I ate that too fast. I’m feeling bloated.”

I went to the fry bread stand and ordered a deluxe. While they were making it, a guy ran up and breathlessly told the owner:

“I just talked to Willie and he said, ‘You go get me some of that fry bread now.'”

The owner took it coolly in stride.

“Does he want onions?”

“OH, yeah!”

As he handed over my order, the guy gave me a look that said: “Yep, that’s right. Willie Nelson wants some of my fry bread.”

I gave him a look that said: “You the man.”

I started back to my seat and then came to a halt. Through my drug-addled confusion an idea arose, lucid and clear. It was almost too simple. I reversed direction and went behind the fry bread stand. I took out every drug I had in my pockets, crumbled them up and sprinkled them all over my food. I waited for Willie’s toady to come around the corner and then ran smack into him. I managed to knock the fry bread out of his hands and onto the ground.

“Aw man, that was Willie’s fry bread!”

“Gosh, I’m sorry. Here, take mine.”

“Well, that’s mighty nice of you.”

“No sweat. Tell him it’s from a fan.”

“I will.”

I bought another fry bread and a beer and went back to my seat on cloud nine.

“Mission accomplished.”

“No kidding?”

“Nope. And it’s all thanks to the wonder of fry bread.”

“Is there anything it can’t do?”

“Well, I think our man Willie is about to discover something he never thought fry bread could do. Like get him high.”

“You’re a bleedin’ genius.”

“I have my moments.”

We toasted our beverages and then I turned to dinner. Unfortunately, my fry bread had mutated into a giant blinking eyeball with lettuce for lashes. I tore into it anyway.

It was the best damn eyeball I had ever eaten.

**** for Hunter S. ****

Zombienomics or Night of the Living Prez

Tony Ballz

Washington, DC—Last night, the rotting corpses of several deceased U.S. presidents reanimated themselves in an attempt to stabilize the economy from beyond the grave and “to put an end to this Pirate Bay thing.”

However, what was intended as a unified front quickly broke down into chaos as the undead ran amok through the Capitol. The only one present at this morning’s press conference was zombie Richard Nixon, who had this to say:

“So once again, I’m the only schmuck with any God damned sense of responsibility around here, eh? Jesus Christ, this was a bad idea. What a bunch of slugs … huh? Where are they? Let’s see, zombie Gerald Ford almost made it, but he knocked out half his teeth attacking the Lincoln Memorial statue, then the Eternal Flame caught his pants on fire and he fell into the Potomac. They’re trolling for the dumb bastard right now. He may still show up.

“Zombie Ronnie only wants to feed on prepubescent boys … I have no idea, ask him. Apparently they’re quite tasty. I didn’t think it was possible, but that old cocksucker’s even more senile dead than alive. He was last spotted at a schoolyard in Baltimore, sitting on the ground slurping up some little kid’s brains with a spoon and yelling: “ME LIKEE NUM NUMS! MORE KETCHUP, MOMMY!” No worse than Reaganomics, I suppose.

“Who else? Well, zombie LBJ refuses to leave Texas, so maybe we can set up a remote broadcast … how the God damn hell should I know? What do I look like, his agent? I swear, you press bozos get worse every year. It’s like a loser’s convention in here … hey, same to you buddy, alright? My flesh is falling off in clumps and I’m going to worry about bad publicity? PPPPHT. Blow it out your ass, Nancy boy. I’m dead, what the fuck do I care?

“Anyway, zombie Ike … whoa doggie, guy should have stayed underground, know what I mean? Whee-oo! I swabbed out latrines in the Navy that smelled better than that poor son of a bitch. Don’t worry, the old coot’s harmless. And anything that moves slow enough for him to catch deserves to perish.

“Where’s zombie JFK? He has a headache … hey, don’t ‘Boo’ me, you assholes! That’s no joke, he actually … what? He was seen where? Are you sure it was him? OK, you got me. He doesn’t really have a headache, he’s out on a pussy hunt. I don’t know how he does it. Motherfucker has a third of his skull missing and he still gets more ass than a toilet seat. Sorry Jacko, I tried to cover for you, bud.

“See, the plan was for us to eat only the brains of smart people and then put our heads together, so to speak. Buuuut, it looks like we really screwed the pooch this time. Down the ol’ crapperoo. I guess the next stage is to start reanimating vice-presidents. Lord help us all.”

When asked to comment, zombie Jimmy Carter said, “Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute, what the hell am I doin’ here? I ain’t even dead yet! Am I? Roslynn, get the thermometer!”

It’s The Water!

Tony Ballz

If I were to sit down and calculate the actual fluid ounceage of Olympia beer willingly dumped into my system during my 20s, it would surely make me barf. I would probably have to pee real bad as well. It’s the water, honest. Olympia was originally manufactured by an independent brewery in Tumwater, Washington, founded before the turn of the century…

It came back strong after prohibition and was a favorite of those residing in the northwest. In the 1980s, the owner was involved in a sex scandal with a young boy and Olympia was sold to the Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee, makers of horrible pig-swill-like Schlitz, Old Style, and Frank Booth’s favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The recipe was thrown out and today Olympia, like its cousin PBR, is made from the leftover dregs of other beers and sold to cheapskates who can’t tell a good brew from a pitcher of warm spit and don’t really give a hoot after two or three of ’em and can live with the associated daily diarrhea.

Back in the day, we consumed so much Olympia that it may have irreparably altered our DNA. For the better, let’s hope. I tried to keep up with everyone, but after about five cans my body would be crying for mercy: “Please. Stop. No more.” It was all we could afford though, so the next night…

The mystique of Olympia grew around us like moss or kudzu. Its aura was nearly sacred. We stared at the can label for hours looking for symbology and numeric patterns, like those orthodox Jews in the movie Pi studying the Torah. There was a waterfall in the middle ringed by a lucky horseshoe with flowing longhand prose underneath describing the wonderfulness within.

“It’s the water!” the can proclaimed.

Within the raging river stood a single cryptic word: Tumwater.

Tumwater? We puzzled over this one day after day, week after week. What the heck was Tumwater? It wasn’t any kind of water we had ever heard of. My roommate postulated that since Olympia made you feel so awesome, perhaps it was brewed with water that was good for your tum. Kind of like Pepto-Bismol, but better. It was sound reasoning.

A weird macho pride and herd mentality develops around the consumption of these bargain basement beverages, as if swallowing this corporate pisswater makes you more punk rock or something: “Yeah, I bought the schwaggiest crap they had at the store, so what? Here, drink one. I SAID DRINK ONE, FAGGOT!”

Many of my “healthy” vegetarian friends won’t let a molecule of meat or dairy pass their lips, yet they chug down PBR like it’s going out of old style. Health-conscious, they are.

I have a bud, about my age, who plays in a local band. He and his girlfriend have degrees and semi-lucrative careers. They are well-dressed, attractive, funny and smart people. They have expensive mountain bikes and take frequent vacations. They own a house in a good neighborhood with nice furniture and stereo equipment. He drives a 2011 Jeep Cherokee, purchased new. I’ve never looked in his fridge, but I assume he eats well. He’s basically a man in the prime of his life, making money and having a ball.

What beer does he drink exclusively? Pabst Blue Ribbon. This is a guy who can easily afford the extra few dollars for a 12-pack of Four Peaks or Newcastle, but he opts for the shit that costs less by the ounce than Keystone Light or St. Ides. Anyone else find this odd? If price was no object, which would you rather have, a filet mignon or a 99 center from Wendy’s (insert vegan parallel here)? I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can’t tell them apart.

It’s like a fart in a can. It’s the reason the term “schwag beer” was invented. It’s like toxic sludge with a pop-top. It makes Budweiser taste like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Next to it, Miller High Life really IS the champagne of beers. It makes ordering a Coors Light seem like a good option. It makes going home and sleeping for twelve hours seem like a good option. Or sobriety. If there’s a line for the restrooms, you can just empty your bladder right in the can and keep drinking and it makes no difference. If you’re under 25, there will probably be a keg of it at the next house party you attend. It’s the brew of choice for college freshmen everywhere. High school freshmen too. It’s ALWAYS on sale.

It’s the water!

Beyond Irony or Rickrolling in A Pink Unicorn T-shirt

Beyond Irony or Rickrolling in A Pink Unicorn T-shirt
Tony Ballz

A man must possess standards. I never had a big brother growing up, but my buddies and I knew older guys in school that were concerned enough with our upbringing to pass along whatever nuggets of knowledge they could. To these men I am ever grateful. Without their help, I never would have known truths like this one: every day, Kenny Loggins wakes up, hops out of bed, sits down in his kitchen, and eats a big fat hairy gorilla weiner for breakfast. EVERY day. Where else is information like this supposed to come from? It might have taken me YEARS to figure that out on my own and I shudder to think what my record collection would look like today.

A quick study of irony and beyond-irony:

Your average drug addict spends all his money on dope, so when he needs new clothes, he grabs whatever is in the free box at the mission. This results in unshaven, sallow-eyed, smelly, scabby, creepy young men junkie-slouching around the Pacific Northwest in pink unicorn t-shirts. College kids see them and go, “Hey, look at that guy. Is he in a band? Wow, that shirt SUCKS! Wonder if they sell those at the mall?” And soon enough, they do.

This leads to legions of wannabe hipsters and amateur dickwads buying, in the words of Patton Oswalt, the douchiest t-shirts they can find, as if to say, “This shirt is lame, but I KNOW it’s lame. I’m being ironic, so my coolness obviously overrides the pure shittiness of what I’m wearing.”

For years, that is where it ended. Around 2007 or so, we hit the next stage: the hipsters and dickwads hand their smarmy t-shirts down to younger siblings who are too stupid to understand irony. They put the shirts on without being aware of how much they sucked in the first place, which was why they were in the free box at the mission.

“Hey, that’s a sweet pink unicorn shirt.”

“Thanks. My big bro gave it to me.”

“Lucky. Do they sell those at the mall?”

You can trace a similar path with those wolves-howling-at-the-moon shirts and the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

The internal filter that once allowed us to determine good art from bad has nearly eroded. Everything entertains us, no matter how idiotic. The phrase “Oh my God, this is stupid. Turn it off” has left our vocabulary. People just don’t have any idea what sucks anymore. Maybe nothing sucks to them, maybe they’re willing to give everyone and everything the benefit of the doubt. How frightening.

I have seen grown men defend the music of Phil Collins, Justin Timberlake, even George Michael. I suppose they’re afraid of saying, “Yeah, Phil Collins sucks!” only to be told, “No, Phil Collins is cool now. We all decided.”

Or they don’t want to be the unhip guy going, “Ugh, what’s THIS crap?” and be told, “That’s Nick Drake, you asshole! He’s a genius, we all decided!”

The phenomenon of Rickrolling was funny at first, seeing as how “Never Gonna Give You Up” was the epitome of 1980s emasculated synthesized shit-pop. It became less humorous when the trend resulted in a large boost in sales of Rick Astley’s CDs, followed by the dreaded comeback tour.

Let us reexamine this:

Rickrolling began when someone somewhere realized that “Never Gonna Give You Up” was one of the schlockiest, most vomitous and spineless pieces of pop dreck ever to disgrace the top 40, and that interrupting people’s web surfing with a video clip of Mr. Astley at his most effeminate and eunuch-like was somehow highly amusing. And it was.

Then, people who were too young to remember the agony of when the song was in heavy rotation (and too stupid to understand irony) said, “Hey, that’s a snappy little tune!” and went out and bought Rick Astley’s Greatest Hits. They currently drive around your neighborhood cranking Rick’s big ones dead unironically. And now “Never Gonna Give You Up” is stuck in my head. God damn it.

We have a friendly neighborhood pirate radio station to which I contribute much time and music. I was idly cruising through our iTunes library recently when I came across “Girl, You Know It’s True” by Milli Vanilli. The whole LP. I immediately knew who had stuck it in there and asked him upon our next meeting what his motives could possibly be. He smiled weakly.

“C’mon, dude … you know, Milli Vanilli. It’s funny.”

Yes, the entire album. Hilarious.

I once had a lady friend who was the type of person who should never be allowed near a jukebox with money. We were shooting pool one time and she returned from her sojurn with a big smile on her face as her first selection played: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I looked at her inquisitively.

“C’mon dude … you know, Free Bird. It’s funny.”

Yes, eight minutes long as well. A real gutbuster.

Her next song was “Three Little Pigs” by Green Jello. Ever heard a drunk person tell a really long joke badly that you already know the punchline to?

A few years ago, there was a TV commercial where the scenario was: square dad tries to teach hipster son about “real” rock & roll. The kid is rolling his eyes while dad is rocking out to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” I immediately sprang to my feet and began yelling at the set:

“Good God, man! In the name of all that is holy, just what do you think you are doing? That’s a CHILD with a developing brain, he’s VERY impressionable! Listen buddy, if you have an ounce of love for your offspring, if you wish to impart any fatherly knowledge that will affect his life positively, for Pete’s sake TEACH HIM THAT PAT BENATAR SUCKS! AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! What happens when that kid hears the Velvet Underground for the first time? Huh? Did you even THINK about that? He’s not going to be able to PROCESS it! He won’t have any frame of reference because YOU taught him that “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Don’t Stop Believing” are what rock and roll sounds like! I know parenting is hard but JESUS, man! Steer that boy in the right direction, the future of our species depends on it!”

Those of you who already know what Yacht Rock is, bear with the next few paragraphs:

For the uninitiated, Yacht Rock is an internet comedy show consisting of a dozen 5-10 minute episodes, all of which are posted on YouTube. It’s basically an irony-soaked parody of those VH-1 Behind The Music strokefests, set in the late 1970s/early 1980s, the golden age of smooth music: Loggins And Messina, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald-era Doobies, Steely Dan, The Eagles, Toto, Fleetwood Mac … Yacht Rock. Punk and all underground culture were basically invented as a reaction to this era.

Yacht Rock’s dialogue is cheesy, the acting is bad, and each episode looks like it was shot with a handheld video camera and edited on a computer during the hour allotted at the library. It shouldn’t work at all but the show is pretty goddamned hysterical, near genius. Steve Perry from Journey appears out of the sky like a superhero; Nate Dogg runs over Michael McDonald while Warren G is making banana bread; one guy in Steely Dan has to translate what the other guy is saying; Hall and Oates fight Loggins and McDonald in a karate/songwriting battle that ends in horrible tragedy involving a harpoon…you get the idea.

The actors involved (as well as host Steve Huey, one of the geeks-in-residence at are around my age, old enough to remember when the radio was filled with this lame plop. Their love/hate for the music shines through. They take obvious joy in portraying these rich white “rock” stars of this wretched period as complete jerkoffs and buffoons. Except for Steely Dan, they were OK. But Christopher Cross … wow, what a dick. Fuck that guy.

A fellow music head turned me on to Yacht Rock a few years ago, knowing it would be right up my alley. All the episodes were on heavy rotation at my place that summer. My roommate and his crew were nearly ten years behind me, too young to remember the music, but they dug the show anyway.

One day I came home from work and headed in back to the opium den. Everyone was sitting around grooving on “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers. These were folks whose regular musical tastes ran the gamut from White Zombie to Korn and everything in between. I gaped at them in disbelief.

“Are you kidding me? Turn that shit off! What are you thinking?”

“C’mon dude…you know, Yacht Rock. It’s funny.”

Back to school, kids.

A-Crock-O-Shit Now

Tony Ballz

What the hell happened? NOTHING happened, that’s what happened. Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, what a boring apocalypse. With all the hype that’s been building up, you’d think the show would be a little better. But no, it was just another Friday night in Flagstaff. There weren’t even any good bands downtown!

Someone dropped the ball on Armageddon, and I think you all know who I’m talking about. Hmm? Three letters, starts with a G? Ends with a D? Hmm? Yes, I know the Big Guy is getting up there in millennia, but COME ON! Not even one horseman? Maybe half a pestilence? How about an annoyance of locusts? Mosquitos? Crickets? Grubs? Not ONE THING on fire? We got hosed.

I mean, why did he even bother with the prophecies and whatnot? You know, the Mayan calendar and all that flapdoodle? When you spend thousands of years plugging a single event, you have to put SOME kind of act together. Doesn’t The Almighty know any decent marketing guys? Oh wait, they all go straight to hell. Never mind.

What about divinely inspiring the Neanderthals who wrote the Bible? That stuff takes a lot of effort. You basically have to starve them into eating psilocybin mushrooms and peyote and moldy bread until those lazy blockheads churn out some good copy.

Let’s be honest, the Book Of Revelations was written by the first century’s version of your average metalhead in Muncie Indiana, driving through a cornfield on a Saturday night waxed to the gills on whatever hallucinogens they sell at Ace Hardware for under $20.

“Hell yeah, the APOCALYPSE, brah! It’s gonna be AWESOME! Like, California’s gonna fall in the ocean while Tool is playing, and we’re all gonna be rockin’ out … and then the locusts descend while Black Sabbath is doing ‘War Pigs’ and all the assholes, like all the frat guys and record executives are gonna be drowning in huge cauldrons of boiling gravy, and they’ll be like, ‘Help! It burns! Save us!” and Ozzy will give them the finger and say, “Ha Ha, too late, douchebags! You had your chance to be cool and you blew it! Now SUFFER!!!” … and then Motorhead will come out and right when they play ‘Ace Of Spades’ the Four Horsemen will be riding across the sky and Lemmy will high five all of them like, ‘Alright, brothers!’ Man, it’s gonna RULE!”

Now THERE’S an apocalypse I can get excited about. I might even buy a t-shirt or a commemorative CD:

Black Sabbath – LIVE at Armageddon

Motorhead – High Fiving The Four Horsemen (Deluxe End-Of-The-World Edition with bonus DVD)

Someone should have contacted the people at Sony about this shit last year. Now it’s too late and what are we stuck with? Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl. Big deal.

Opinions on Politics by a Non-Voter

Tony Ballz

Well, finally this election bullshit is over. You people give me a goddamn headache. As if it remotely matters which puppet we elect. Remember: Whoever you vote for, a politician wins. Pleasant dreams.

“‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs!’ ‘I think the puppet on the left  is more to my liking!’ Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding up both puppets … ‘Shut up! Go back to bed America, your government is in control. Here’s Love Connection, watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way … keep drinking beer, you fucking morons!'”

—Bill Hicks

If Barack Obama were white, the Tea Party would not exist.

Can someone out there admit that “conservative” just means “polite racist”? Hmm? If it doesn’t, then how come the majority of them are rich white assholes? And the remainder are poor dumb uneducated yokels, superstitious and easily led and coincidentally also white?

Just once I want to hear a conservative say: “You know what? I don’t like Mexicans. Just don’t like ’em. Don’t like the way they talk, smell or walk. Don’t like the food they eat, the music they listen to or the clothes they wear. Don’t want ’em in my neighborhood or going to school with my kids. Black people neither.”

Wouldn’t that be refreshing? It’s what they’re thinking anyway, so couldn’t they just be honest? “Immigration is an economic issue!” Horse puckey. Just say it: “Even though our ancestors killed their ancestors and stole their land, I still don’t like ’em and I don’t want one of ’em screwing my daughter!” There, don’t you feel better?

And before you Republicans get your money clips in a ruffle, let’s not forget about Democrats: the most ineffectual, wishy-washy, limp-dicked nimrods in America. Hey, you guys know why conservatives end up in control most of the time? Because they make a decision and then put up a unified front to support it. Even if what they are supporting is completely misguided and wrong. Which, in the case of Republicans, it usually is. Learn.

Anyone who gets excited about a politician is an idiot, unless he/she is going to give you a blowjob or a million bucks or both. These people do not have your best interests at heart, unless you’re sitting on an ass-ton of money. If you are not, THEY HATE YOU. Even if you voted for them. Then they’re laughing at you, too.

America is the only developed country on Earth that deifies politicians as we do. Europeans are fully aware that their elected officials are pusbags, and they treat them as such, lower than janitors. You know what the French used to do? If they didn’t like what their rulers were up to, they chopped their fucking heads off. That wasn’t very long ago, either. It gives their modern politicians a little perspective.

Here in the U.S., both sides are so extreme: “Obama is our SAVIOR! He’s going to make EVERYTHING all right again! We will live in peace and harmony with all our brothers, even the rich white assholes! Free money! Free dope! …I think I just came!”

Versus: “Obama’s not just a politician … He’s the Antichrist! Aaagh! Armageddon! 12-12-12! Where’s my Bible? I think I just saw a locust! We’re sorry, Jesus! Buddha! Allah! Krishna! Yahweh! Whatever God gay people and Mexicans pray to! Eeaagggh! Spiderman, HELP US!”

Can y’all just calm down, please?

I would hope that if the antichrist shows up, he would be a creature worthy of my fear and respect. Like I would take one look at him and scream HOLY FUCK! and shit my pants on the spot and collapse in a quivering heap pleading for my eternal soul. Strangely enough, Barack Obama doesn’t inspire that in me. He’s just kind of a lame ineffectual doofus. Seriously, if he’s the antichrist, this apocalypse thing is going to be a breeze. We may not even have to put our shoes on.

Then there’s this happy horseshit: “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!”

Nope, it’s the other way around. I’m with George Carlin on this one: If you vote, you have no right to complain about the government because YOU put these people in power. If you don’t vote, you have EVERY right to complain. Makes sense, no? As if your vote actually counts. That would mean we live in a democracy. AH-HAHAHAHAHA! We don’t.

Or this: “It’s the only system we have! We MUST support it!”

Suck my left one. It’s a deeply corrupt system that does not work, and your participation pretty much guarantees it will stay that way forever. We’re supposed to have the power to change these things if we don’t like them, right?

“Obama’s a Muslim!”

OK, let me get this straight: On September 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent lives … and then a scant seven years later, the American public elects a Muslim as president? (Buzzer sound.)

I’m sorry, WRONG ANSWER! Dumbasses.

Politicians like things in black and white so they can tell who the enemy is and the location of the home team. This is important: they want you to choose a side. Don’t do it. Yes/No. Black/White. Liberal/Conservative. You’re for George Bush/You hate America. As if every question has only two answers: affirmative or negative. They need us polarized so we can fight over meaningless details and kill each other so they don’t have to. Come on, just play along!

If anyone out there is mad that Obama is in office, you have one man to blame: George W. Bush. In 2008, the Republican party ran their best guy for president: John McCain, a conservative who makes liberals all gooey inside, the only Republican presidential candidate since Eisenhower without that little whiff of Satan about him, a man who said “Fuck you” to a fellow Republican senator ON THE SENATE FLOOR WHILE IN SESSION, a prisoner of war who was tortured for seven years and never opened his mouth, that rarest of specimens: a politician with integrity, someone who ordinarily would have swept any election…

Except the one he was in. The American public looked at their two choices in 2008 and said, “Yeah, sorry John. You’re probably the most honest politician we’ll ever see in our lifetime, but ol’ Dubya was such a piece of shit for the last eight years that we have to go with the black guy whose middle name is hussein and whose last name is one letter away from Osama, our two worst enemies. Better luck next time, bub. If you’re still alive.”

I can picture the big cheese Republicans begging McCain to run, appealing to his patriotism: “Please John, please John, please John, please please please PLEASE, JOHN! WE CAN’T LET THE NIGGER WIN! PLEEEEEEEEASE!”

Fuck Obama. Fuck Dubya. Fuck Clinton. Fuck Bush. Fuck Reagan. Fuck Carter. Fuck Ford. Fuck Nixon. Fuck ’em all. You voted for these shitheads, not me. Has your life gotten measurably better under any of them?

If you happen to be a rich white asshole, please ignore that last question.