Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back in Black

I feel good after a much needed blog break. So what if I said I was gone forever? I suppose I am back because I found myself writing a buddy of mine an email at 5:00 AM and it turned into the following disertation. I am sure he thinks I am nuts. But most of you do to. I will share. And I will continue to post new stuff. There has been lots to reflect on in the past several weeks. Enjoy.

Popular Culture

You really need to hit the wild side soon for fear of never coming back and wake up someday walking fast in the malls before your time. I got an amp and an electronic tuning device and some clothes. My favorite was what Janie bought me while coming back from Florida. We stopped at Stuckey's in Chatanooga and she nabbed me a black Stuckey's t-shirt. Is that not precious? I love stuff like that, vintage attitude of our culture. I have one of the best t-shirt collections in the state and I find it funny the reaction I get from upper middle class America when I wear them. My second favorite is a shirt my sister got me: Black Flag, nuff said.

While I am on this, and because it is 5:00 am and I haven't slept well in a couple days because of the opening of Lone Wolf Coffee Company and Cafe in beautiful Ballwin MO, I will ramble a bit for your reading pleasure....

I started playing with a group on Monday evenings. I pretty much suck but have been enjoying getting better and I am the only one who can play a harmonica so they let me stand there and occasionally play rhythm guitar because I stand right next to the keyboard player and, if I start sucking, he can play louder and drown me out. But get this, the band leader, Peter, found this black chick on Craig's list and she is coming to play with us next Monday. Her name is Silky and can be described as a cross between Frenchy from American Idol and La-Fawn-Da from Napoleon Dynamite. Not even kidding. This chick has some form of a contract and wants a backing band for her CD, a blues genre collection. Pretty simple stuff from our perspective and she is actually pretty good based on her website, so I assume we are going to do it; our group of mostly bald middle aged men with cool equipment.

By the way, I am going to the AC/DC concert on Tuesday compliments of my boy Chris Lupo. What to wear....?

I have a friend of mine who is coming to see me on Friday who owns a restaurant. He wanted to sell it a while back but I talked him out of it because he owns the building and it was making money. I actually tried to get him to expand it because it is a really good place. It is called Shamus MCdaniels and it is a very popular bar and grill in two locations, a St. Louis original brand. He was burned out and so was his wife. He also found God and became a Christian, joined the Family Church down in the valley, one of those big box churches with cool music and lots of membership, youth groups and cool stuff. I am not all that in to that sort of thing but friends tell me the experience is really cool and it beats confessionals in a dark box on Friday afternoons with a priest. It wasn't all that long ago my mother stuffed me into the box at Sacred Heart in downtown Columbia. I remember her asking me if I felt better afterwards. Yes, because I wasn't in a dark box with the priest for Christsake!

Anyway. Danny is a musician and had a prior career as a recording artist. Long story short, he joins this church and becomes a huge music influence there, and after a while of being a Christian, off the booze now, he has re-invented and is one of the most inspirational guys I have met in a while. He then cuts a new CD and embarks as a new genre musician in the inspirational/christian culture. His original band was called Mama's Pride!

Danny Liston is an entrepreneur, and I know he can't get enough of the stuff. He and I (and a bunch of others) are a lot alike in our ability to visualize stuff as it relates to what consumers want, experiential things, unconventional trend spotting etc. I knew there was something about music heading our way (as it relates to our culture) but couldn't put my finger on it. I find myself drawn to it, to master it, to understand it, write it, all that stuff. Then it occurred to me, this music thing. Why does it seem that it is more popular, the acoustic sets especially? Why do kids listen to what we used to listen to? Why are there sold out shows for all of the old bands, still? Dude, look at Branson. I think there are some serious messages taking place in the "what to expect out of our guitar heroes" storybook.

I think it has a lot to do with our culture, how we grew up what was important to us back when we were in the 60's, 70's and 80's. As boomers, late boomers and about 10 years younger, there are things that definitely important to us, even though things change a bit. For example, I used to love to sit at a bar and drink and smoke. It was what I did for many reasons, mainly because I was in that business and so was my father. I don't even really like to admit a lot of the things that I used to do, the bad habits. But I grew up in that culture and for years that is what I did, bad things, crazy things, stupid, funny, dangerous things, stuff that I can squint and laugh about now. There were taverns and bars everywhere, after hours parties, fights, fast cars. You could smoke and drink and, not only was it acceptable, it was what a lot of us participated when we were younger. Even those who knew better subscribed to the culture in some way or another, in music or the occasional discreet indulgence. They know who they are.

Now, I changed all that, because I thought it wasn't all that healthy of a lifestyle. So did Danny Liston of Mamas Pride in his way. Apparently, so did modern culture because now all the bars and restaurants have disappeared to coffee houses and sandwich joints, smoking is gone in most public places and hopefully will continue that way. It wasn't something we could do forever, our culture of indulgence. I watched as my parents became ill, most of their friends, some family, a lot are dead now. Our culture eventually got hip to the fact that we can't do this any more and made adjustments. But our core likes and dislikes remain, the need for the loud music, the partying, the hemp, the sex, those ass kicking good times...well maybe not all that, but you get the picture. It's pretty much still there, the urge to experience the past, but squashed by a much needed smattering of rational thinking as most of us (who haven't perished from over indulgence) eventually evolved to middle aged adults. We also have children, and heaven forbid we allow them so much as a glimpse into what was the real nature of popular culture from our past.

My point is that music, good food and drink that is moderate and a rational reflection of our current culture is what is coming. And it should be casual enough to dawn our friggin T-shirt collections ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout. That is the trend that we can expect. Danny Liston fills the Pageant with his old fans from his album cutting days with Mamas Pride, he was the big time and made a hell of a career out of it. I am not kidding, I checked 5 cities trying to get a ticket to AC/DC in an effort to hear Back in Black live while Angus sleds down the stage. I am not sure that AC/DC will create an acoustic rock set anytime soon but more and more shows are becoming geared toward this, smaller venues, intimate settings providing reflections from our past by some of our favorite music purveyors. There is a good in all of us and them, we have evolved through the years. This is what will be sold. I like that concept and seek to pinpoint more of this idea in the future. Danny has already converted his restaurant/bar into just that and has interest in opening a chain of these, managing the talent, the restaurants the not-so-rowdy demographic of people relating to the same thing, young and...not so young anymore.




Stanley Crocker R.D.,L.D. said...

I'm glad you are back.

Dave Ploch said...

Wow Ralph, some great James Joyce writing. I believe your perspective is true for many but not sure how the "millenials" fit into this. I have been reading articles on how to attract and retain some of this young, intelligent talent. Unlike many of us chronologically gifted folks, they are focused very much on themselves and DEMAND work/life balance. Hooray !!! It's about friggin' time somebody does this. I believe this is a reason these large churches are attracting so many. They aren't really BIG churches, they are churches with MANY congregations based on activities and interests.

Anyway, great blog.

Lynchmob said...

Dude - You rock!!!! ....... acoustic of course.

Anonymous said...

I do know my tshirts.