Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jerry’s Kids

Now back in the early to mid 90’s something interesting was happening.  Those of us in Generation X were 20 somethings.  A good majority of us were children of the Baby Boomers and more specifically children of the Hippie generation.  One musical thread that was coming from our generation was grunge.  It was a response to the commercialization of Pop and Hard Rock.  We did not want the happy plastic crap.  Another movement was the Jam bands; they did not want to be pigeon holed into a genre or format.  Their influences were Prog Rock and experimental Hippie Jam bands.  Now the Kings of the Hippie Jam Bands were the Grateful Dead and interesting enough the Dead took many of these bands under their wing.  They toured with them.  When Jerry Garcia died and the Dead stopped touring, these bands filled in the niche left open.  So you had the Hippie folk following Phish and the H.O.R.D.E. Festival around.

Here is my rough approximation of the bands the fit this bill:

Phish- Phish are the kings of the Post 1960’s Jam band.  Their fans are many of the same folks that followed the Grateful Dead.  Musically they are a jam band with an eclectic sound.  Phish is very influenced by the Grateful Dead.  They are the first Second Generation Hippie band to get their own Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor.

Blues Traveler- Blues Traveler founded the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, which showcased most of these sorts of Acts.  Blues Traveler started as a College Radio band, they toured the various campuses across the U.S. in the late 80’s early 90’s.  Musically they are a fusion of Grateful Dead and the Blues Brothers.  They broke out in 1994 with their fourth album.

The Dave Matthews Band- In the Early days of their career, the Dave Matthews Band was a college radio staple. Their style was a Jazzy jam band, they toured on the H.OR.D.E. Festival a number of years.  They had a very improvisational style.

The Spin Doctors- They are a very noodley Jam band.  In the early 90’s they had a string of hits.  They have a sense of humor to their music, very light and fun.

Blind Melon- Definitely a Grateful Dead influenced band, many think of them as the beginning of the second generation hippie bands even though others started earlier.  Blind Melon was the first to gain mainstream attention.  They were only active for five years with their original line up.  Although they reformed after their original lead singer’s (Shannon Hoon) death, they never regained momentum.

Lenny Kravitz- King of the Second Generation Hippie Acts, his Music runs the gamut of Beatles, Hendrix, War, Motown, Sly Stone and funk.  Of these Acts, Lenny has had the best career in Mainstream longevity.  Even though accused of being derivative, he is extremely talented.

Rusted Root- Pennsylvania based band, they have a sound that was a fusion of folk, rock and world music.  They are heavy with percussion in their work, using African, Latin, Native American and Middle Eastern styles in their music. 

The Black Crowes- Black Crowes is a throwback to seventies Blues and R & B based Southern Rock. They are reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Band with a little Otis Redding thrown in.  They give you a slice of that down home gritty groove.

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians- Many of these bands did not get notice till the early 1990’s.  Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians and Lenny Kravitz first burst on the music scene in the late 1980’s.  They were the proto Alternative Rock Jam band.  After their second album they went on hiatus as their lead singer left.  She came back in 2006.

311- A Feel good mix of Hip Hop, Reggae, Funk, Punk and Metal.  311 at first seemed like a Red Hot Chili Peppers clone, but they proved otherwise.  They added more Hip Hop and Reggae to the mix.

Arrested Development- In the early to mid 1990’s Hip Hop was getting the reputation of being all about the gangster rap.  Arrested Development was a positive, socially conscience alternative to that.  Due to their different approach they started appearing on Alternative Rock Radio.  They wanted the African- American community to see a positive influence in the music scene.

That Is My Not So Humble Opinion. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comic Books & Me

My Journey with comics goes way back.  I remember as a little kid seeing them at the hospital Playroom or My Uncle Bob’s stash.  My Uncle Bob is eight years my senior and he loved horror comics.  My Aunt and her first husband had a decent collection of Legion of Superheroes.  These two influences got me interested in comics. In the Seventies Mr. Rogers agreed with a study that said Kids watching or reading Superheroes exploits reinforce violent solutions to conflict.  My Mom agreed so at the age of 8, I was forbidden from Superhero comics.  I was allowed Hanna-Barbera, Harvey, Archie and the like.  I was 8 and these were for babies to me.  I wanted the Superheroes I saw on TV, Batman, Superman, Hulk, Flash, Shazam, Hawkman, Spider-man and etc.  I would browse them every chance I could when I would find a spinner rack.

 I was still stuck with the funny books, until I was 10.  We had moved to Adak, Alaska.  My Dad was part of the base’s Public Works department and was assigned to refuse control.  In the military when you move you are only allowed a certain weight allowance.  So when folks would move they would leave large amounts of good stuff.  One day my dad came back with a Large Green Plastic Trash bag full of Comics.   Not just Funny books, there were horror, SciFi, and Superheroes books in there.  They were mostly DC, Marvel and Gold Key.  It was then that I discovered I preferred the DC characters to their Marvel Counterparts.  Thanks to copies of Adventure comics and the Death of Earth-2 Batman story starring the Justice Society of America, I loved the alternate worlds DC did.  They had their multiple earths.  As a 10 year old, I was able to keep up with everything and knew the differences between the various earths.  Those comics plus the Mirror, Mirror episode of Star Trek started me on my love of Alternate World/ History Literature.  When we moved they stayed.

It was not until 1982, when I was 14 that I came back to comics.  This time it went big.  It started with two books, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Who’s Who in the DC Universe.  They were Encyclopedias of Superheroes.  Much of my geeky comic book knowledge can be blamed on those two books.  I had various jobs I did, so I had spending money.  If I had money I wanted comics.  After those I got into Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans.  A friend of a friend lent a friend mine a run of X-men starting with Giant-Size Uncanny X-Men #1. I then found Ralph’s Comics Corner in Ventura, California and bought my run of New Teen Titans.  These two series were great and I loved them.  Ralph’s was my first comic shop.  Originally he was located in a corner of a Thrift Shop.  In 1984, Ralph had his own location.  Then the first two Big Event series came out Crisis on Infinite Earths and Secret Wars.  All bets were off.  I discovered Artists and writers: John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway, Paul Smith, Bernie Wrightson, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Mark Bright, Roger Stern, the Romitas and more.

At Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, my closest comic shop was Pegasus Fantasy in Beaverton.  That is the Predecessor to Things from Another World.  I watched the Richardson Brothers launch Dark Horse Comics.  I still was stuck in Superhero comics during this time.  However this is when things got interesting with Marvelman/ Miracleman, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns.  This also was the DC post-Crisis relaunch.  During this time the Mutants books started to multiply from just one title to many.  I started noticing other comics companies although I was still not buying them.

That all Changed in 1988.  I moved to Eugene, Oregon to study at University of Oregon.  There is one of the best comic shops, at least back then, in back stock I had ever found, Emerald City Comics.  There I started helping out and was allowed to read some of the back stock I would never have read before.  I broadened my horizons, with stuff that was not the big two: First Comics, Heavy Metal, Eclipse Comics, Fantigraphic Books, Kitchen Sink Press, Comico, WaRP Graphics, Caliber Comics, Slave Labor Graphics/ Amaze Ink and more I cannot think of.  During this time new creators that blew my mind were Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Mike Mignola, Mike Grell, Howard Chaykin and Chuck Dixon. With titles like Sandman, Mage, and Baker Street, I began to see beyond the Superhero genre and the possibilities.  In 1991, I left Eugene and moved back to Dundee, Oregon.  I started buying more from non Big two publishers at this time with Valiant Comics, Image Comics and Malibu Comics.  Marvel and DC tried to expand their readership with imprints like Vertigo and Epic.  Both of those imprints were trying to step away from superheroes.  Marvel started reprinting work from Moebius and the Magna Series Akira.  After the Age of Apocalypse and Zero Hour Events I had enough of comics.  I got out in 1995.  I then got rid all but a few treasured titles.  I made a colossal mistake in 1997; I sent those few titles to an online friend in Florida.  Yes, folks I know, I was very stupid. 

In 1999 I started to get back into comics, mostly thanks to one creator: Warren Ellis.  His Run on StormWatch and Planetary made me think I could get back into comics.  I dabbled before 1999, but I started regularly reading again that year. I also found DC Comics Elseworlds Imprint.  It is an imprint of DC Comics that does Alternate Reality tales of its classic superhero characters.  It started back in the mid Nineties; I came back after Elseworlds Finest.  I became a member of the WEF (Warren Ellis Forum).  Everything changed, I still read some Superhero book, but I wanted the more interesting stuff.  Image Comics, CrossGen, Avatar Press, IDW, Oni Press, Top Shelf Productions, and Humanoids Publishing were among publishers recommended on WEF.  I discovered great creators during this period: Garth Ennis, Larry Young, Greg Rucka, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Ian Edginton, Matt Fraction, Alejandro Jodorowsky and so many more. I was sad when WEF went offline in 2002.  The experience gave me a whole new way at looking at comics.  Superheroes were no longer the end all be all.  Even though I was getting there on my own, The WEF gave me ideas where else to look.

I had been in a long term relationship during this period.  In 2009, I was having trouble with keeping up with my reading versus my buying.  Barbara, my partner at the time, allowed my to buy my comics, but never gave me the chance to read them.   In December of 2011 I left that relationship.  I still had over 10 Diamond Distributing (the comics distributing company) boxes full I had not read.  I was overwhelmed.  I had already at this point begun buying comics digitally on Comixology.  I decided to get rid of all my Floppies (individual single comic issues) and kept my Graphic Novels, Trade Paperbacks, Book Shelf Comics, Hardcover and Collections.  I have streamlined my life and the way I buy my comics.  I am still trying to get caught up with books I own that I have yet to read.  The number is not as overwhelming as it once was.  That is My Not So Humble Opinion.